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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 will be.

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
2) disinfected.
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 pre-cleaned surface.

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 client.

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 disinfected.
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 disinfectant.

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.

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