Love dirty talk? A study from  Rutgers University in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, found that 52% of people who visited a nail salon three times in a year had suffered from a skin infection.

Over 50% of guests leave nail salons with a bacterial or fungal infection. Yikes. When we first heard about this statistic, we knew we’d never put our feet into a tub with jets again! And we wanted to make sure you didn’t either. That’s why The W Nail Bar uses copper pots for our pedicures. Aesthetically beautiful? No doubt! Natural antiseptic? You bet. Unfortunately, The W’s sanitation standards aren’t exactly universal. In other words, nail salons across the country are still using unsafe practices and procedures—and they may be doing so without you even knowing. Poorly run salons prey on the public’s ignorance to take shortcuts, not only to do more services (aka, make more money), but on sanitation practices, as well. In other words, they rely on the fact that the general public doesn’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Which is exactly why we’re here to pull back the veil. But before we jump in, let’s do a quick run-down of the three different phrases often used in the nail tech business, according to the Stateboard of Ohio/Barbicide: sanitation, disinfection and sterilization. Fact: while often used interchangeably, these terms are actually vastly different on effectiveness. Take a look...

  1. The words sanitize, clean and hygiene all refer to the broad category that means you have done something to remove visible debris. Examples of this would be wiping down a counter, holding something under running water, using soap and water on an item or using a cleaning solution like Ship-Shape® Cleaner.
  2. Disinfecting is the killing of most microbial life that can lead to infection in humans—such as Influenza, Staphylococcus, HIV/AIDS, Herpes, Salmonella and Hepatitis. This step is done following a cleaning (see definition above) and requires the use of a disinfectant such as Barbicide®, Barbicide® Plus or Barbicide® Wipes.
  3. Sterilization is the killing of all microbial life, and requires an autoclave or cold sterilizer. This method is mainly used in healthcare.
Psst...for the record, most salons rarely even do #1, which is the weakest form of cleaning. The good news? The W does all three (because we’re badass like that). Okay, time to get down to business. Without further ado, keep an eye out for these three warning signs the next time you stop by your nail salon:

1. Is your pedicure tub cleaned correctly?

The Red Flag: The next time you book a pedicure appointment, see if you can arrive a few minutes early to observe your nail salon’s practices, paying close attention to the tubs. If a nail tech quickly wipes down the tub before the next guest’s appointment, run away fast. Run even faster if the nail tech simply drains the water and immediately fills it up for the next client. The Consequences: If they’re not cleaned properly, pedicure tubs—especially whirlpool tubs—are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria (no fun). Think: bacteria, viruses, infections and fungus. The Sigh of Relief: Still unsure if your nail salon’s cleanliness is up to par? Here are a few good signs to look out for: After every pedicure client, see if the nail tech first uses soap and water for both the basin and the attached parts. Then, check if they are spraying the entire pedi station (basin included!) with a medical grade disinfectant. After that, they should then soak the tub in a disinfectant for at least ten minutes. If jets are involved, they should be turned on while using the disinfectant for ten minutes, as well! Side note: At the very beginning of your pedicure appointment—when your feet begin to soak—your nail tech should be using a disinfectant tab (it’s the blue tab you see us add at The W!). For us, this is an extra layer of security we use to protect your health and happiness.

2. Are the tools sanitized properly?

The Red Flag: Take a look at the tools your nail tech is using. Are they soaking in a blue-hued solution? If so, that’s a great sign. But if you find the solution is cloudy or has floating debris, it’s time to ask your nail tech some questions, stat. On the other hand, tools like nail files, pumice stones and buffers are considered porous, which cannot be disinfected. That means they should be disposed after EVERY service, aka never reused on anyone else! Therefore, your nail tech should be using brand new porous implements for every client. Look for scratch marks, stains or skin—these are big red flags of poor practices. Speaking of tools, cheese graters are illegal in the state of Ohio. Cheese graters belong in the kitchen, not on your feet. So, if your nail salon is still using those on you, it’s time to head for the hills. There’s a common misconception that people have to use cheese graters since their calluses are “so bad.” Myth, busted: Actually, your calluses are so bad because you use the cheese grater. Eliminating 100% of the callus in one sitting is dangerous for the body. In fact, it makes your calluses grow back twice as fast (and twice as hard). Which means you have to come back again and again—which puts you in danger, and money in their pockets. The Consequences: Unclean or used tools can cause athlete’s foot, staph infections, herpes, HIV-1 and Hepatitis B and C (I know, we’re grossed out, too). The Sigh of Relief: Make sure all tools, we’re talking nail clippers, nippers, & pushers, (porous implements excluded) soak for 10 minutes between each client in an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant, like Barbicide (aka, that blue solution we mentioned earlier). If using nail files, buffers or pumice stones, make sure they’re brand new for some good, clean fun. Side note: Here at The W, we always place our implements in surgical packages and open them in front of the clients. This act alone (non-verbally) tells our clients that we have nothing to hide. It also assures them they’re getting fresh new tools every. single. time. Moral of the story? It’s never okay for a salon to pull tools out of anonymous drawers.

3. Does your nail salon smell like chemicals?

The Red Flag: Do you often leave your nail salon with a headache from all the fumes? This is a huge bummer—especially after what was supposed to be a relaxing moment for self-care! Acetone, found in nail polish remover, and artificial nails are the biggest culprits. Unfortunately, these chemicals are largely unregulated, affecting the health of both the clients and the nail techs. The Consequences: Chemical fumes found in artificial nails and nail polish remover are dangerous for your respiratory system, and can cause immediate headaches, sore throat, itchy eyes or allergy symptoms. The Sigh of Relief: A little chemical smell shouldn’t cause much of an alarm. With proper ventilation, your nail salon can significantly reduce the toxins in the air. However, if the smell is unbearable, it’s probably best to move on to another salon. Supporting one that doesn’t value the safety and health of its nail techs or customers isn’t the best place to be. Also, be sure to check if your salon has Safety Data Sheets (SDS) on hand (which they totally should). These help protect anyone coming into contact with the chemicals used. Bottom line? Your health should always be a priority. And while it may be heart-wrenching to say goodbye to your go-to nail salon due to poor practices, clean salons are always worth the hunt. If you have any questions about The W Nail Bar’s practices, leave a comment below, or contact us directly.

Your Weekly Nail Prescription: How to Grow Out Your Nails

We sat down with one of our very own W Nail Techs to get the scoop on growing out your nails. Here’s what she said: “My most common question is ‘How do I grow my nails out?’ A lot of my clients have very strong nails, but they don’t know it because they haven’t been going to a nail tech that actually cares about the health of their nails. That’s where I come in! Be sure to supplement with collagen, stay completely hydrated, and don’t peel your gel off. It is my responsibility to take care of your nails. And I always will, 100%.” Have a nail issue on your mind? Need a little mani/pedi insight? We’ve got your back! Leave us a comment below, and we’ll highlight it in our Weekly Nail Prescription!