Health Risks at Nail Salons


I wanted to post this well before lunch because it is likely to make you lose your appetite.

WRAL reporter Monica Laliberte followed a health inspector into nail salons and was grossed out by what she saw. Apparently grossness–and health problems–are nothing new.

According to Connie Wilder, chief of enforcement with the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners:

“It’s not just gross, it’s a health problem,” Wilder said, adding that dirty equipment and questionable procedures can lead to clients getting fungal and bacterial infections, MRSA and hepatitis C.

No one wants a fungal infection, but that’s relatively simple to treat. But MRSA and Hep C? Are you as surprised and disgusted as I am to read about that?

The North Carolina Board of Cosmetics lists a number of rules salons must follow when doing nail services:

  • Callus shavers and MMA (Methyl Methacrylate, an acrylic ingredient) are prohibited for use or posession in North Carolina salons.
  • Licensees must wash their hands between client services.
  • Hot wax containers should never be left uncovered.
  • Any disposable implement such as orange sticks, emory boards, facial sponges, toe separators, wax applicators should be discarded after use, never reused. A good rule of thumb is “disinfect or discard.” Absolutely every item of equipment must be disinfected or discarded. Only non-porous items are capable of meeting the EPA standard of disinfection.
  • Dry storage of disinfected tools requires isolation from contaminated items.
  • Clippers must be cleaned, disinfected and stored in a closed container between uses.
  • Disinfectants should never come in contact with a client’s skin, all tools and implements must be thoroughly rinsed and dried.
  • North Carolina issues a sanitation grade to each salon and the grade card must be displayed at all times.
  • Only licensed estheticians and cosmetologists are permitted to perform waxing services.
  • Ear stapling is outside the scope of practice of all cosmetic art licensees. Individuals licensed to perform ear stapling are medical doctors, chiropractors and acupuncturists.
  • Permanent makeup, defined as beautifying the face by inserting or implanting facial cosmetic pigment under the surface of the skin or mucosa is prohibited in licensed cosmetic art salons.

The North Carolina Board of Cosmetics also recommends that consumers watch for general cleanliness in salons such as any hair, nail clippings, dust, or debris on the floor, personal items in drawers or on tables or other furniture, keeping clean and dirty implements in the same container, failure to keep clean implements covered and dirty restroom facilities.

In the WRAL article, Wilder also says consumers should take their own precautions to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Before getting a manicure or pedicure, search nail salon ratings in your area. All nail salons are required to post their sanitation grade where customers can see it. WRAL lists the grades for all NC salons, searchable by city: SALON GRADES
  • If you have a skin or nail infection or any kind of open wound, don’t get a manicure or pedicure. Doing so puts yourself and others at risk.
  • Schedule your pedicure appointments first thing in the morning when foot baths are typically cleanest.
  • Don’t shave your legs right before getting a pedicure. Tiny nicks in the skin can be easily infected.
  • Check with the salon to make sure nail technicians are using brand new files, buffers, toe separators and flip flops.
  • If you feel comfortable enough, ask about sanitizing procedures: Are the trimming tools heat sterilized between each use? Are foot spas sanitized 10 minutes between each use?

North Carolina salons are typically inspected once a year. However, if you spot some disgusting conditions in your favorite salon or spa, you can file a sanitation complaint consumers can file a sanitation complaint with the Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners any time by email, mail or fax. Complaints cannot be accepted over the phone. And please note: all complaints are public record, so the salon will know about your complaint.

By Snail Mail:

Attn: Complaints

1207 Front Street, Suite 110

Raleigh, NC 27609

By Fax:  919-733-4127

By Email:


To read the full article on  It’s Not Just Gross, It’s a Health Problem

And if you believe you were infected or injured at your nail salon or spa and would like to discuss your legal options, HensonFuerst is here to help. We are available by phone at 1-800-4-LAWMED, or online at

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