Germs: Keep Out! (page 2)

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Protection and Prevention

With infectious germs ready and willing to strike in the salon, one of the best ways to fight them is through hand washing. It's imperative that you have your clients wash their hands before you begin any services. "One of the problems is that state boards don't require clients to wash their hands when they enter the salon," says Schoon. "But when they enter the salon, they bring with them every kind of bacteria they've been in contact with that's colonized in their skin."
Unfortunately, there is no way to detect if bacteria are present on skin before doing services. You simply have to assume that it is there. "To assume they're not there is foolishness," states Schoon. "You have to assume that they are there all the time, ever present and ever capable of causing an infection. That's why hand washing is so important." As a rule of thumb, you should never touch your clients' hands until they've washed their hands.
In preparation for a service, instruct clients to scrub hands with liquid hand soap in warm water for about 30 seconds, then rinse thoroughly. "They should properly clean their nails with a brush that's been cleaned and disinfected and used only on them," says Schoon. Nail techs must have a container for clients to place the dirty brushes after use, which can then be cleaned and disinfected for the next client.
Pedicures are somewhat easier to monitor in terms of cleanliness since clients take their shoes off and soak their feet prior to the nail service. Also, remember that you should never put disinfectant into the pedicure water with your clients' feet. Disinfectants are not designed for skin contact. "What should go into [the pedicure tub] is a cleansing agent that will wash the feet," says Schoon.
Keeping clients safe from infection is bar none the most important part of your job. To combat the spread of bacteria, tools, implements and equipment must be properly cleaned and disinfected according to the manufacturer's instructions for the correct amount of time. Further, to prevent the spread of germs, hand washing should be a priority in your salon. Pride yourself and your salon in being the best at keeping germs out and you'll discover that clients will appreciate it and tell their friends.

It's the Law

If a client arrives for her appointment with a nail infection or an open wound or sore on her hands or feet, you cannot provide your services. Federal law prohibits nail technicians to work with clients with an infected nail or nails that show any sign of infection on their hands or feet. This law is a preventative measure to protect both you and your clients from spreading an infection or making a condition worse. State board regulations are designed to prevent infections from occurring.
"Unfortunately, some nail technicians fancy themselves as doctors and think that they can prescribe treatments and even, in some cases, diagnose conditions, which is also against federal regulation," says Schoon. "Nail technicians are only allowed to provide their licensed services on healthy nails and intact skin. If there is any kind of abnormal medical condition going on, especially an open wound or infection, [nail techs are] forbidden to work on those and have to refer those clients to a doctor. I don't know how many times I've seen or heard of nail technicians telling me 'my client has got a greenie, so I told her to disinfect it in white vinegar.' That's called diagnosis and prescribing, and that's against federal regulations. It's a felony."
Schoon frequently serves as an expert witness in lawsuits regarding proper salon disinfection and sanitation. He's constantly contacted by attorneys who ask him to testify about the proper and legal procedures that nail technicians are allowed to do in salons.
For example, "a nail technician cut the client with an abrasive board and then did nothing afterward, didn't follow the proper precautions for preventing an infection, or give that client any proper advice. She and her salon will be sued," Schoon says. "It really is a reality that nail technicians need to wake up and understand that they're required to follow state board regulations each and every time, and to the letter."

Ilona French is a licensed cosmetologist with more than 17 years of industry experience. She currently owns Archmedia Productions in Southern California, where she specializes in writing about business and beauty topics.