March 2012

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp


Speaking Out: Rules and Regs REALLY ARE for Everyone…

In every industry there are a percentage of folks that think they know better than the regulators, or that it's "cool" to be a "bad boy (or girl)."

This practitioner likes to be the person that ignores or flaunts rules. What they don't get is they put their clients (also known as their income) at risk… and also the rest of us in the industry.

In many industries such as the food industry, laxity of regulations tends to result in customers getting sick. This is tough on business and brings quick action by regulators.

In the beauty industry we don't get much hepatitis A so this isn't a problem, but there are other obvious problems out there that are daily ignored.

Did those folks who don't follow the requirements forget that rules are made due to a health risk or safety factor for the consumer?

Your state regulatory agency likes you, but their job is to protect the public and this is done via enforcing those rules and regulations. Let's take a look at just a few of the common offences and the risks and consequences to the industry.

Keeping a clinic/salon clean is repeated over and over in the rules and regulations. Workstations must be kept clean; hair cannot accumulate in drawers; hair cannot accumulate on the floor. What is the connection between clean and hair that has been cut off?

If a facility is not keeping clippings up they may not be doing other basic infection control steps like disinfecting tools between clients. This can lead to transmission of obvious things like CA-MRSA, a form of staph infection, but also parasites, viruses and infections. As hair clippings can also contain dander they are a potential allergen to a group of people. No one wants to drive their customers away, but cleanliness is a frequently reported reason for clients changing salons.

Nail technicians must also adhere to the clean standard. The very nature of their work creates nuisance dust that can be irritating to their clients and themselves as well as leave an unsightly mess but must be maintained.

Estheticians have an equal concern. I heard directly from an enforcement officer the horrors of wax pots they have seen with clumps of debris in the pot and dirty implements waiting to be used. Concerns about drifting hair and other salon particulate is why they want some sort of cover over a wax pot. It does not have to always be a lid. Foil tented over it will protect from particulate and keep the wax at a good working temperature.

Wax pots are not supposed to be kept covered in a tent of wax threads. That is a sign of a technician that doesn't seriously care about hygiene and a safe clean experience for her clients. If the esthetician is so busy during the day that it is messy at night, then it is time to block out time to clean before starting the next day.

As with every other salon service all metal implements, including tweezers or scissors, are required to be disinfected between clients. This rule does not vary with field of practice. It is true for every field.

Some people seem shocked that estheticians must have hard surface water resistant floors. This is true for nail technicians and hairstylists, so it only makes sense it is true for every field of practice.

There is no way to completely remove wax if it hits carpet. The next client will be walking in the germs of the previous one. Wax heaters are maintained from 120° F to about 140° F. Wax cools rather quickly but is applied to the body just above body temperature to well over 100° F depending on manufacturer's guidelines.

This is not a high enough temperature to kill any microorganisms that may be introduced into the wax by re-dipping the stick back into the pot, a process called double-dipping. State codes prohibit any process that carries the risk of cross-contamination from client to client and double-dipping would fall into this category.

Another issue where we must follow the rules to protect our clients is knowing what products are legal for use. Not knowing is not considered an excuse for penalties. For more than 30 years there have been regulations on what products can be used for brow and lash tinting. The FDA has a list of products that are not acceptable on their website. However, some of these are still shipped across borders or imported into the US. It has been determined by the FDA that these contain coal tar derivatives or are in the aniline dyes category which have caused blindness. The FDA does not approve these products, but they do ban ones they consider of risk to the consumer. It is our job to find out if the product we are using is acceptable to use. Your state agency can be your assistant to finding the answer.

This same product identification issue comes into play with esthetic exfoliates. We need to determine before we purchase whether a product meets the state guidelines. Occasionally I hear via the grapevine of some technician who was told by their new boss that the legal stuff was kept on the shelf and the good stuff hidden. It is no surprise that generally the boss was not a well trained esthetician so they had missing information.

Recently new clinical studies offer documentation that it is the pH of an AHA that determines the level of irritation on the skin. Once these new studies have been reviewed perhaps there will be changes, but these should also be tied to adequate training, not purchasing a bottle and practicing on clients. Acids themselves are quite safe, in the hands of someone who has been properly trained to use them.

Changes will come but the standards will remain. Following state guidelines is the safest pathway to protecting clients and your income.

Judith Culp, has been in the esthetics industry since 1980. She is the owner of NW Institute of Esthetics, Inc. and contributing editor for Miladys Standard Esthetics: Advanced and lead author of Esthetician's Guide to Client Safety & Wellness. For more information visit