February 17, 1998


Nail Salon Nightmares

A CBS 2 News Special Assignment

kyra on setThey are everywhere: nail salons, many offering bargain prices. But are they safe?

It's a booming business. But did you know you could not only get sick at one of these nail parlors, but also seriously hurt?

CBS 2 News' Kyra Phillips obtained state inspection reports from Southern California's nail salons -- and those reports revealed why you're protection is not a priority. The I-Team has the undercover video to prove it.

CBS 2 News' Special Assignment: Nail Salon Nightmares aired Monday, February 16, 1998 at 11 p.m.

nails getting paintedThere are more than 15,000 licensed nail salons in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. It's an industry where thousands of women and men go to get pampered. But is your health in jeopardy while you are there?

CBS 2 News' I-Team went undercover to find out.

During their investigation, the I-Team learned that more than half of those salons had not been inspected in at least three years. And if they were, the violations they were cited for were never fixed, said CBS 2 News' Kyra Phillips.

The I-Team began their investigation by sending an undercover agent to L.A. Nails in West Los Angeles.

Manicurists are supposed to soak tools in sanitation fluid but at first glance, the agent noticed that the soaking containers at L.A. Nails were empty.

CBS 2 News' hidden cameras also caught an L.A. Nails' manicurist eating with her fingers. Without washing her hands, she began working on the agent's hands while still chewing her dinner. The I-Team learned that that same manicurist was also not licensed to do nails.

wax jobLater, another L.A. Nails employee was seen using a microwave oven to heat up chemicals for a waxing job -- the same oven used to heat the first manicurist's food, said Phillips.

The I-Team took their undercover video to nail educators and teachers at Y-Gloria Nails in Montebello.

"You don't mix food with chemicals," nail expert Alma Blanco told Phillips.

The I-Team also checked state inspection records to find out if L.A. Nails had ever been inspected -- it hadn't.

"The business has skyrocketed," nail expert Gloria Dolbachian told Phillips. "(Nail salons) are popping up everywhere, and because we have not had the law enforcement of our state board, not enough people are checking on salons."

tools with no disinfectantOut of the 16 nail salons that CBS 2 News' visited undercover, only five of them had been inspected within the last three years. But even if the salons were inspected, it doesn't mean that the salon has changed its habits, said Phillips.

A good example of this is Lee's Nails in South Los Angeles. In 1995, Lee's Nails was cited for having no disinfectant available. CBS 2 News found the salon making that same violation when they went there last month. They also found filthy paper towels and worktables, and ashtrays with cigarette butts next to containers of nail chemicals.

Aida Grey in Beverly Hills didn't come away any cleaner, said Phillips. In 1997, Aida Grey was cited for not storing non-electrical items properly and failing to have poisonous containers properly labeled. These violations still existed at the salon when CBS 2 News stopped by for a visit.

Those violations may sound minor, but what about these other unhealthy practices that CBS 2 News found?

ditry towel being usedAt City Nail in La Habra, manicurists were using illegal blades during pedicures. Dead skin particles were found floating in dirty sanitation containers at Woodland Hills' Carnation Nails. And a manicurist at Nails by Kay in Tarzana used dirty paper towels out of the trash to wipe down her worktable. (See these unsanitary practices)

These are all unsanitary conditions that can infect you, said Phillips.

"Hepatitis! AIDS!" said Blanco. "I mean, that should be enough right there to scare anybody."

So why doesn't a nail salon, even after being cited, clean up its act to ensure health and safety to its customers?

CBS 2 News' I-Team learned that inspections are so few and far between that chances are, the salon won't be re-inspected for at least several more years. Salons can also afford to pay the fine without suffering too much financial strain because the average cost for a state violation is only $25, said Phillips.

Health inspectors say the fine fees are low because it would make no sense to cite salon owners a price they could not afford.

betsy dyksuelIf these low inspection standards don't scare you, meet 70-year-old Betsy Dyksuel.

"She opened a razor and put it in a holder and cut the calluses off and took the top off," Dyksuel told Phillips.

But what Dyksuel didn't know was that any type of razor blade used for a pedicure is illegal, said Phillips.

Along with that pedicure, Dyksuel also got a foot infection that spread all the way to the bone. She was hospitalized for surgery and is now in a wheelchair.

"Because of all the antibiotics I am still so unbalanced and I get dizzy (now)," Dyksuel said. "I'm afraid to walk."

If nail salons can create such horrors, why aren't they inspected more often, or shut down?

"There are a lot of shops and like a lot of state agencies, there are a limited number of resources," state inspector manager Lisa Whitney told Phillips. "We (also) don't have the authority (to shut shops down).

"Everybody is (also) entitled to due process and we can't just pull a license when they haven't had due process, they get to appeal. They are entitled to that. Having a hearing is a lengthy process," said Whitney.

pedicureCBS 2 News learned that time and people-power is apparently what the state has little of.

According to Phillips, there are supposed to be 15 inspectors in California but there are currently six vacancies in this department. Four of those vacancies are within Southern California.

CBS 2 News took Whitney and inspector Jim Jacobs to some of the nail salons the I-Team had already visited undercover.

"What are you hiding under that cup?" Jacobs asked a nail salon employee. "That should have been thrown away a long time ago."

Jacobs also found dirty pedicure tubs and illegal razor blades at that same salon in Woodland Hills.

Shop after shop, inspectors found the same type of illegal tools and similar dirty conditions.

nail salonIt was obvious that necessary and long-overdue inspections weren't being made, said Phillips. But again, inspectors reminded the I-Team that their hands are tied. Inspectors say there is little they can do because they are understaffed and short on time.

And until the state's shortfalls can be solved, your health will remain in your hands.

Tips to protect yourself:

 If you want to check when your nail salon was last inspected, you can call the consumer hotline at (800) 952-5210.

  • According to Phillips, it's also a good idea to ask to see your manicurist's license and find out how they disinfect their tools, or bring in your own clean manicure tools for them to use.

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