April 2013

Lisa Kind - Editor

Esthetic Endeavors | by Judith Culp

Cutting Edge Alternatives for Infection Control

In the beauty industry preventing cross-contamination is important to our successful operations. It is mandated by state rules and CDC guidelines.

This is a good thing because it serves to keep us and our clients healthy. It is something that every client has a right to expect.

The downside of infection control is that the majority of products available are corrosive, toxic and dangerous to skin, eyes, and clothing to say nothing about environmental impact. Usage directions require personal protective equipment be used when mixing and handling, but this may be overlooked.

The manufacturer's directions typically require the surface be kept wet for 10 minutes and then to rinse thoroughly. With some surfaces this can be a challenge and 10 minutes can be a long time when you have another client waiting for their service. It's something we don't like to think about, but we have all seen situations where corners are cut. If you find a disinfectant that works faster, it is generally more corrosive.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was something less toxic? Something better for the environment? Ideally it wouldn't be harmful to touch or hazardous to use, but at the same time it must be EPA registered. Well, such products do exist and meet these "ideals" and more.

The discovery started well over half a century ago in a joint venture by Dow Corning to provide a new class of materials for the military. Over time this technology has evolved to address ever changing needs. The researchers turned to "organo functional silanes" which are a result of combining organic and silicon chemistry.

There are many research documents out there including the Dow Corning research paper on the topic, organosilanes. Their research led to multiple ways these organosilanes could be developed and used in many different types of manufacturing and product development. They facilitate bonding so can be used as protectants in diverse applications.

If your eyes are starting to glaze over, let's look at in easier to understand terms. This technology is using positive ionic bonding to adhere to a surface, or for components to adhere more tightly together.

The science has been well researched, documented and applied for over 50 years. It has been used extensively in the semi-conductor industry and is a key reason our microchips work so well. It is used in the garment industry to repel microbes and keep the garment fresh. In fact, it is in many industries and manufactured products from rubber to glass. Its applications seem endless.

So how does it work for our service based industry? It is sprayed, or wiped on and allowed to dry which happens very quickly. Once dry it has bonded to the surface it was applied to. Now it is like a barrier of positive ionic swords, or an electro-magnetic field, that attracts microbes and destroys them upon contact. Because this is a physical destruction there is no risk of microbial mutation. The process doesn't dilute the barrier in any way so it continues protection undiminished. This is completely different from spraying a surface with a disinfectant that as soon as it is dry can be immediately contaminated again.

With issues like MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant staph infection and other super bugs mutating, the need is there to use disinfecting processes that eliminate microbe mutation and last for more than a few seconds. Employing already existing protection technology that had demonstrated it worked for NASA, the military and the garment industry, developers realized they could provide products to disinfect and protect with no harsh chemicals.

There are a number of formulators out there that utilize the same core technology but there are many variations between them. This technology puts down a barrier that can effectively continue its protection and destruction capabilities for a month or more. A single surface can be treated, or an entire facility. Whatever is treated acts like an air filter attracting and destroying microbes.

Variations on products have been created to meet diverse needs of the various industries wanting to use the technology. Some products are specific for sensitive areas like where raw food is being prepared. There are cleaning/disinfecting products and there are products designed to be used on a pre-cleaned surface to form a long term result.

There are products for use around electronics like telephones, computer keyboards and mice that also could be used to protect equipment, or disinfect tools and sharps. Some of the products can safely be applied to all color fast surfaces.

When I got these products into my clinic I started at the front door and disinfected and protected all the surfaces clients might touch. Door knobs, the reception counter, telephones, computers, desk tops. After vacuuming I lightly misted the reception area including the seating and armrests – all the places clients touch with their hands. I moved on to the restrooms. After cleaning, the sinks, counters, faucets, toilet levers and seats all got a coat of antimicrobial spray. Facial rooms got beds stripped and then sprayed along with counters and all commonly touched surfaces.

The dispensary area got the same treatment. While daily cleaning will still occur, I now have the peace of mind knowing I have made my spa area safer for clients and my staff. One step more intense would be to have the facility professionally sprayed. This is being done in some medical facilities, fitness centers, hot yoga centers and spas. Because of the attraction of microbes to the antimicrobial, it actually acts as an air filter system so there is minimal buildup of unpleasant odors.

As I was working I kept thinking how nice it would have been to have these products when I had kids at home, especially the hand sanitizer since kids are such germ magnets. The hand sanitizer is sprayed on clean hands and continues to work through 10 hand washings. Since the hand sanitizer is not alcohol based, nor contains harsh chemicals it is far kinder and safer to hands than those containing alcohol (which is flammable) or Triclosan which has come under scrutiny and is under review by the FDA.

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. If you have questions about this or other Esthetic Endeavor columns please contact judy@estheticsnw.com. For more information visit www.estheticsnw.com.