Friday August 25, 2000

The Daily Journal, Bourbonnais, IL


By Tracy Ahrens Health Editor

Customers complain that their nails burn; turn brown, green or white, sometimes even start to disintegrate. 

It is happening because of acrylic fingernails received at nail or beauty salons across the country, often by unlicensed workers in unlicensed salons. 

Some nail technicians are using an acrylic nail sealant called Methyl Methacrylate (MMA), the same type of sealant that is used to seal teeth. 

MMA makes nails virtually unbreakable and the underlying nailbed disintegrate.

 Several local nail technicians have seen customers who received inadequately applied acrylic nails. 

"Nail enhancements should `enhance,' not ruin your natural nailbed," said Cathy Prusinski, a nail technician at Creative Designs in Bourbonnais. She has helped victims of poor acrylic nail applications heal their ailing nailbeds. 

She supplies written information to clients on identifying a bad salon, or manicure and nail application. 

"One of the worst cases I ever saw was one year ago," Prusinski said. "A woman had nail fungus and the nails were green. Water had entered through the nails and mold developed under them." 

When an acrylic nail cracks and water enters the nail down to the nailbed, fungus starts. 

"This client was told by the salon she went to that her nails were just bruised. They proceeded to soak her nails in acetone to remove the acrylic nails. This caused her nailbeds to burn intensely." 

That client was diagnosed with nail fungus at a local hospital emergency room. It took months for Prusinski to help this client's nails heal. 

Prusinski recalled another case where a client's fingers burned intensely while soaking her acrylic nails off with acetone. Glues used from other salons had disintegrated her nail beds underneath. 

Another nail technician, Stacey Shelton with JC & Company in Bradley, has heard clients note that some technicians make their cuticles bleed, and use files from a bleeding customer on another without sterilizing them first. 


Though clients are developing nail fungus from poor applications of acrylic nails, and poor manicures could pass hepatitis and other blood-borne viruses, the Kankakee County Health Department's Environmental Health Division is not required to inspect nail/beauty salons. 

"We don't have enough people or resources to go into all of these facilities," said John Bevis, director of the environmental health division. Four KCHD inspectors routinely visit 600 food establishments a year, beside inspecting septic tanks, wells and more.

No reports about nail salons are on file at area city building inspector or code enforcement divisions,

 Calls from disgruntled consumers are usually referred to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, Springfield. They hold Sanitary Standards guidelines for nail salons (see information below), and have a record of licensed cosmetologists and salons.

 When a salon that is not licensed is reported to the IDPR, license application paperwork is given. There isn't enough IDPR manpower to find every nail salon in the state and pass along paperwork.


All cosmetologists must be licensed, the salons must be licensed, and licenses must be displayed or immediately available upon request.
In mass production shops, there are usually 6-10 tables and only three people working. Those three people are usually the only ones licensed, said Prusinski who has visited other shops to see their techniques and ask questions.

During Prusinski's research she learned that MMA used in many shops costs only $20 a gallon, while a gallon of required adhesive costs $200.
 When you enter a salon using MMA, you will receive an instant headache from the odor.

Find out the name of products being used. Make sure it is a brand-name.

Some nail technicians do not soak acrylic nails off, they peel them off with a knife or another acrylic nail. This is improper.
Since it takes 3-4 hours to remove nails applied with MMA, peeling the nail off saves them time.
Nails adhered with normal sealant usually take about one hour to remove with acetone.

Quite often techs in mass production salons use the same files multiple times on different clients.
"You have to sanitize files and other equipment," said Prusinski. "If a client has nail fungus, you must throw out any equipment used on that client, except for instruments you can sanitize." 
Without proper sanitization, blood-borne diseases can be passed, such as hepatitis. 
Make sure the tech has a brand-name sanitizer at the table, not just one that says "sanitizer."
They must also spray the table and equipment between clients.
Other instruments should be stored in a bottle of sterile liquid in the client's view; don't trust instruments that are simply pulled out of a drawer. 

In mass production shops nail techs often drill the natural nail bed down to the skin, which causes permanent damage by creating ridges in the nail bed. It takes months to a year to grow out these ridges. 
"These nail techs are trying to ruin your nail bed so you have to come back," Prusinski said. 
It is illegal to use a "drill" on the natural nail. It can only be used on the tips, or acrylics. 

Cuticles should never be cut. It is against the law, according to a web site called Cuticles are "live skin" and "live skin" can only be cut by licensed doctors with sterilized implements.


"When clients can go to a mass production shop and receive a full set of nails for $25, they will continue to go back," said Prusinski. 

Compare that price to $45 for a full set of nails at a licensed salon. 

Also, a full set of nails in a mass production shop will take a half hour to apply, while it takes one hour in a licensed salon. 

The technique is faster, she said, "but you get health risks" along with it. 

"More clients are now realizing what is going on," said Shelton.

Finding out who's licensed and how to file complaints 

Only four of 24 local nail salons listed in phone books have a license through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. 

Mandatory licensing was Implemented In July of 1997. "They should know that this is the law -- certainly we correspond with them frequently (every two years) about license renewals," said Tony Sanders, spokesman for the IDPR. 

When a cosmetologist, or nail technician receives a personal license, paperwork received states that If they open a salon, it also must have a license. 

As of August 9, there were 5,451 nail salons across the state with licenses. 

A fee for a license Is $40 and a one-page application must be filled out. That application can be downloaded off of the IDPR web site --

Barbers have needed licenses since 1917. In the 1960s, cosmetologists were required to have licenses, said Sanders. 

You can find out if a salon is licensed by calling the IDPR or see their web site, then click on license lookup, name search, and cosmetology registered salon/shop. Enter the salon name and see if it is licensed. 

See their site also for monthly reports, to file for license paperwork, to see if a cosmetologist is licensed, and to file complaints. 

When a complaint is filed with the IDPR, the department sends an investigator to the site to see if the salon, or nail technician/ cosmetologist is licensed. If they do not have a license, a hearing process is held. A fine could be given. 

The IDPR phone number is 217-785-0800.

Salon sanitary standards set by the Department of Professional Regulation

The sanitary standards noted below by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (1175.115/ Sanitary Standards) are to be followed by all licensees as appropriate to their practice. Failure to comply with these standards shall be considered unprofessional conduct and may be determined to be a violation. 

The following is printed directly from IDPR information: 

  • Definitions
    • "Hospital Grade Disinfectant" is defined as a disinfectant that is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as a hospital-level disinfectant and that performs the functions of bactericides (kill harmful bacteria), virucides (kill pathogenic viruses), and fungicides (destroy fungus). 
    • "Disinfect" means to clean with an agent that eliminates microbacteria growth. 
    • "Sanitize" means to clean with hot water and soap. 
  • Sanitary Requirements 
    • All instruments and tools shall be sanitized before and after each patron and kept in an air tight container until used. 
    • All nondisposable manicure implements shall be cleaned with a hospital grade disinfectant. 
    • Manicure tables shall be cleaned with an antibacterial disinfectant. 
    • Clean towels shall be used for each patron. 
    • Wood sticks and files (except sanitizable file and buffing block) shall be discarded after each use. 
    • Shampoo bowls must be sanitized after each use. 
    • Hands must be cleaned before and after serving each patron. 
    • Head rests of any chair shall be protected with a disposable cover and changed after each use, or a clean washable towel may also be used. 
    • All cosmetics shall be applied with sanitized or disposable applicators and removed from the container with a sanitary spatula. 
    • Clean nondisposable esthetics sheets, gowns and head coverings shall be used for each patron. 
    • Animals, such as birds and cats, are not permitted (with the exception of seeing eye animals for the physically impaired). 
    • All floors, walls and furniture shall be kept clean at all times. 
    • All soiled towels shall be kept in a covered container. 
    • All clean towels shall be kept in a closed or covered space. 
    • All hair that is swept up from the floor shall be kept in a covered container. 
    • Proper disposal of unused products and packaging is required. 
    • Proper disposal and handling of hazardous materials is required. 
    • The use of nail products or the distribution of nail products containing monomer Methyl Methactylate (MMA) is prohibited. 
    • No owner or manager of a salon or shop shall knowingly permit any person suffering from a serious communicable disease, as defined in public health regulations, to work on the premises. 
    • All owners or managers of salons or shops shall provide adequate ventilation as required by the city, county or municipality and insure that an adequate supply of hot and cold running water is available.

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