5 On Your Side

NC nail salon inspector: 'It's not just gross, it's a health problem'

Posted July 1, 2013

— Leftover nail clippings and residue in the foot spa are not what clients want to see when they get their nails done, but those are some of the problems state inspectors say they commonly find at salons.

Connie Wilder, chief of enforcement with the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners, is one of 13 inspectors responsible for checking and grading the state’s 14,000 hair and nail salons.

"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.

The 5 on Your Side team recently followed Wilder as she visited two Raleigh nail salons for surprise inspections. At Elite Nail, at 3219 Avent Ferry Road, she found dirty foot spas, nail clippings and piles of nail dust.

“In almost every station, there were used files and buffers,” she said.

Wilder gave Elite Nail a score of 83, a B, and fined the business $200 for not keeping records of when they cleaned the foot spas. Salons can score an A, B or C and be fined up to $1,000 per violation.

Nail World, at 2233 Avent Ferry Road, fared better with a score of 92, an A. However, Wilder fined the business $150 – $25 per spa – because an employee forgot to record when the pedicure bowls were cleaned.

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

Fingernails, nail salon, nail polish NC nail salon inspector: 'It's a health problem'

  • Nail technicians must wash their hands between client services.
  • North Carolina salons are prohibited from using or possessing callus shavers.
  • Disinfected tools stored in a dry location must be isolated from contaminated items.
  • Any disposable instruments – such as orange sticks, emory boards, facial sponges, toe separators and wax applicators – should be discarded after use and never reused. Every item of equipment must be disinfected or discarded.

Nail salons are supposed to ensure their clients’ safety, but Wilder 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.
  • 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. Also, make sure the trimming tools are heat sterilized between each use and foot spas are sanitized 10 minutes between each use.
  • 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 instruments in the same container, failure to keep clean instruments covered and dirty restroom facilities.

North Carolina salons are typically inspected once a year. However, 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.

Email: complaints@nccosmeticarts.com

Mail: Attn: Complaints
1207 Front Street, Suite 110
Raleigh, N.C. 27609

Fax: 919-733-4127

The cosmetics board licenses more than 80,000 people and businesses in the cosmetic art industry, including cosmetology, manicuring, esthetics, natural hair care, salons and public and private cosmetic art schools and programs.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • TeresaBee Jul 3, 2013

    For health reasons you should get your mani/pedis in a hair salon that provides that service. They are inspected more frequently.

  • admyank Jul 2, 2013

    "considering de-regulation of the financial industry and the resulting greed almost caused a second great depression worldwide"

    Yes, taking into consideration the democrats need for those areas to implode to take on new and socialistic methodology - I believe it.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jul 2, 2013

    Sorry. For those who don't know me, my comments that health inspectors are un-necessary and that business and self-regulate...were complete sarcasm.

    I don't trust businesses to do anything except make profit...at all costs. IMO, they almost never care what is "correct" or "good" for society just what's good for their bottom line.

  • admyank Jul 2, 2013

    What a government official calls a health concern is not.

    Room temperature eggs give you a 80 in their eyes, but as far as baking and cooking concerned are a requirement.

  • superman Jul 2, 2013

    People would have to be pretty desperate to go to a nasty place and then have them do work. Cutting corners is one thing but there is no excuse for being nasty. We cut corners at our house but our house is clean.

  • silkesmom Jul 2, 2013

    This article is the reason I refuse to go to nail salons.

  • kdawg Jul 2, 2013

    "Big Government needs to stay out the private affairs of private companies. ... Same with restaurant health inspections"

    This is not a very intelligent statement, considering de-regulation of the financial industry and the resulting greed almost caused a second great depression worldwide, and the economy has yet to recover. The cost of a few government-paid inspectors is far less than the results of letting businesses "self-regulate." Take an economics course and study the principle of self-interest. Businesses and private individuals will ALWAYS look after their own economic self-interest which can lead to serious greed-based and health risks if unchecked by a realistic amount of regulation. Regulation is our friend, despite what the Republican smoke and mirrors will try to tell you--that self-interest thing again.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jul 2, 2013

    Big Government needs to stay out the private affairs of private companies. Businesses will self-regulate and customers will decide for themselves. People getting sick from this have only themselves to blame. Same with restaurant health inspections...

    Say it with me "Free Dom! Free Dom!"

  • carelesswhisper Jul 2, 2013

    I now do my own toes after a bad experience. Safer and cheaper!

  • perseusomega9 Jul 2, 2013

    "Source: I do nails and yes, every nail shop takes short cuts to maximize profit."

    Now, now, our good Republican super majority assures us businesses have our best interest at heart and shouldn't be stifled by regulations