Many of us visit barbershops and salons for pampering and grooming services without realizing there could be risks. In reality, our health depends on the safety and infection control procedures used by the barbers, cosmetologists and other salon service professionals to whom we entrust the care of our hair, skin and nails.
The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology’s mission is to ensure the health and safety of California consumers by promoting ethical standards and by enforcing the laws of the barbering and beauty industry, which includes licensing and regulating establishments and the technicians working in them. That’s why the board conducts an annual public education campaign called “CASafeSalon” (#CASafeSalon) to reemphasize the importance of salon safety and infection control with customers and salon employees.
What are the health risks posed by salons and barber shops?
Risks associated with the transmission of dangerous bacteria or viruses within the establishment could present a very real and dangerous threat to an unaware consumer. Diseases and health problems such as cellulitis, fungal and viral infections, hepatitis C, and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be transmitted through client contact, contaminated utensils or improper disinfection procedures. For example, pedicure foot spas – by law – must be disinfected properly between clients. The board has dealt in the past with outbreaks of bacterial infections spread by dirty foot spas.
How can you protect yourself?
The board offers the following tips for consumers:
- Before your visit, verify the establishment’s license at barbercosmo.ca.gov by using the “License Search” button. You can check if it is current and if it has any disciplinary actions against it. Unlicensed shops tend to avoid the costs in both supplies and time that proper disinfection takes.
- When you arrive for your service, look for the establishment’s current license – it should be plainly visible in the reception area.
- Make sure each person working on you also has a current license displayed at his or her workstation. This includes barbers, cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, manicurists and apprentices.
- Each tool must first be washed with soap and water, then immersed for a specified period of time in a disinfectant registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, then stored in a clean, closed container labeled “clean.”
- Tools that can’t be disinfected such as buffers, nail files or cotton balls must be tossed after each use.
- Before a pedicure, ask to see the foot spa cleaning log. It should note when the basin you’re about to put your feet in was last cleaned and disinfected.
- Make sure your technician washes his or her hands before the service.
Consumers with pre-existing health conditions should exercise additional care when receiving services in any salon. Compromised immune systems make easy targets for infection. For more information, visit the board’s CASafeSalon page.
The board works to ensure all licensees and consumers have a safe salon or shop experience, and actively promotes workers’ rights education as part of its CASafeSalon campaign.
Workers in every state have certain defined rights that cannot be violated, including the right to a minimum wage, safe working conditions, and reasonable breaks. The board’s publication, “Know Your Worker’s Rights,” highlights some basic workers’ rights as well as what to do and whom to contact if you are not receiving those rights.
See more licensee and consumer tips in the board’s CASafeSalon collection of short videos at www.barbercosmo.ca.gov/consumers/bbc_videos.shtml.