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Tell me about sterilization in the beauty industry
Generally speaking sterilization is NOT required for nail or hair services.
Neither of these services should include any procedure that is "invasive" to the
body. All metal and reusable instruments MUST, by law, be sanitized and
disinfected with a hospital grade disinfectant. Esthetic (skin care) procedures
can be invasive and therefore would require sterilization of implements.
The only exception to this would be Texas:
Effective June 15, 2007, all Texas barber and cosmetology shops, salons and
schools that provide manicure/pedicure services are required to sterilize all
metal instruments with an autoclave, dry heat, or ultraviolet light sterilizer
that is listed with the FDA.
Several news and "Dr. Shows" have done pieces on the dangers of salon
services. Almost every one of these reports state implements should be
sterilized. This thought is preposterous - we do not do invasive procedures and
it would be overkill for the salon in most cases (esthetic services is the
exception). The salon is not a sterile environment, it can not be, and never
As long as your professional is following state regulations (which vary
slightly from state to state), you are safe from bacterial harm. It is
absolutely OK to ask your beauty professional what products and what procedures
they use to sanitize and disinfect in their salon.
There seems to be quite a lot of confusion concerning sanitation and
disinfection in the salon setting.
Lets start with the terms- Sanitation, Disinfection, and Sterilization.
Sanitation is the process of making something clean, to make it healthy. When we
sanitize we are killing the one-celled vegetable micro-organism we call
bacteria. There are hundreds of different types of bacteria, they are divided
into two groups: Pathogenic (harmful) bacteria and Non-pathogenic (beneficial or
harmless) bacteria. We sanitize things most commonly by washing them. But keep
in mind that sanitation will not destroy some spores and viruses.
To make our hands sanitary we need to wash them for 20 seconds with soap
(preferably antibacterial) and water as hot as can be comfortably tolerated. How
long is 20 seconds? Remember the ABC song from your childhood? Sing it while you
wash, it lasts about 20 seconds. (Of course is you do it out loud, people will
look at you funny when you come out of the bathroom!)
To disinfect something is to render it free from pathogenic organisms or to make
them inert. That is, to kill the germs and bacteria or to render them harmless.
In the salon this is most commonly done by immersion in a liquid solution.
Some of these solutions include: Alcohol, Quats, or a Phenol compound. To be
effective these solutions must be prepared according to instructions and the
items to be disinfected should remain in the solution at least 10 minutes. Most
disinfection solutions are weakened or rendered inactive by contamination by
organic material such as skin or nail dust, they should be replaced daily or
according to manufacturers directions.
Sterilization is to completely eliminate microbial viability. This process
kills all non-pathogenic and pathogenic spores, fungi, and viruses.
In the salon, sterilization is not really necessary, this process is only
required on instruments entering the body cavity. This procedure is normally
used in the medical and dental field. Some salons, however, do use heat to
sterilize metal instruments.
(Quoted from an article by the Nail Manufacturers Council)
Just about everything in the salon has a hard or soft surface of some type.
Some examples are manicuring tabletops and arm cushions, finger bowls, towels,
files/buffers, implements, etc. Any of these surfaces coming into direct contact
with a client’s skin is considered “contaminated”.
All contaminated surfaces must be thoroughly and properly:
1) cleaned and then
To be considered properly clean, a surface must first be thoroughly scrubbed
free of all visible signs of debris or residue (contamination). Proper cleaning
is the total removal of all visible residue from every surface of tables, tools
and equipment, followed by a complete and thorough rinsing with clean water.
Proper cleaning (also called sanitizing) must be performed before continuing
with the disinfection step. Proper disinfection is the destruction of
potentially harmful or infection-causing microorganisms (pathogens) on a
Items that the manufacturer designs to be disposed of after one use are
called “disposable” or “single-use”. These items must be properly disposed of
after one use on a single client. Reusing these items is considered an
unsanitary, improper and unprofessional practice. Some examples of disposable
items are: cotton balls, gauze pads, wooden implements, disposable towels, toe
separators, tissues, wooden sticks, arbor bands/sleeves for electric files and
certain abrasive files and buffers. Items damaged during the cleaning and
disinfecting process are considered single-use and must be discarded after every
Some types of products can become contaminated if improperly used. Some
examples are: creams, lotions, scrubs, paraffin wax, masks, and oils. These
products must always be used in a sanitary manner that prevents contamination.
For example, paraffin and nail oils should not be applied with a brush (or
spatula) that has touched the skin. These practices may introduce bacteria into
the product and cause contamination that can render products unsafe for use.
Some items are designed to be used more than once and are considered to be
“multi-use”. Multi-use items are sometimes referred to as “disinfectable”, which
means that the implement can be properly cleaned and disinfected while retaining
its usefulness and quality. Multi-use items are designed for use on more than
one client, but require proper cleaning and disinfection between each use.
Examples of multi-use items include cloth towels, manicure bowls, nippers,
pushers and certain abrasive files and buffers.
Multi-use items come in three varieties;
1) Hard and non-absorbent items constructed of hard materials that do not absorb
liquid, i.e. metal, glass, fiberglass or plastic. These should be cleaned and
2) Porous and/or absorbent items constructed of materials such as cloth or wood
with surfaces that may absorb or are penetrated by liquids, i.e. scrub brushes
for nails, cushioned abrasive buffers, cloth towels and chamois. They should be
cleaned and disinfected as described below.
3) Self-disinfecting items that will not support the growth of bacteria, viruses
or fungi. Examples are application brushes used for nail polish, primers along
with artificial enhancement application brushes. Due to the nature of these
products, the brushes do not require disinfection and should be cleaned, used
and stored only as recommended by the product manufacturer.
Proper cleaning requires liquid soap/detergent, water and the use of a clean
and disinfected scrub brush to remove all visible debris and residue. All items
should be scrubbed with a clean and disinfected scrub brush under running water.
Cleaning is not disinfection; disinfection is an entirely separate step.
Different items are cleaned in different ways. This often depends on what the
item is made of and how it was used. NOTE: the cleaning step must be properly
performed before an item can be disinfected. All items must be thoroughly rinsed
and dried with clean cloth or paper towels prior to putting them into a
If blood or body fluid comes in contact with any salon surface, the nail
professional should put on a pair of clean protective, disposable gloves and use
an EPA-registered Hospital liquid disinfectant or a 10% bleach solution to clean
up all visible blood or body fluid. In case of an accidental cut, clean with an
antiseptic and bandage the cut. Disposable items, such as a cotton-tipped wood
stick must be immediately double-bagged and discarded after use, as described at
the end of this section. Any non-porous instrument or implement that comes in
contact with an unhealthy condition of the nail or skin, blood or body fluid,
must be immediately and properly cleaned, then disinfected using an
EPA-registered Hospital disinfectant as directed or a 10% bleach solution for 5
minutes. Any porous/absorbent instrument that comes in contact with an unhealthy
condition of the nail or skin, blood or body fluid must be immediately
double-bagged and discarded in a closed trash container or biohazard box.