Some nail salons take shortcuts in safety

FOX23 looks into nail salon safety.

TULSA, Okla. — Quick Facts:

  • Nail salon inspections designed to keep customers safe
  • Some salons take shortcuts that could lead to dangerous infections
  • FOX23's Michelle Linn went with state inspectors to see how its regulated

Manicures and pedicures are popular, but how safe are the salons you go to?
"So everything is required to be in a covered container, so the rule is if it touches the skin it has to be kept closed up," said Krissy Straub.
She is one of five nail salon inspectors for the state together they inspect close to 2,000 nail shops across the state once every six months.
Straub let FOX23 go along while she checked out Pur Lux, in south Tulsa.
She admits they go above and beyond, even using an autoclave to sterilize instruments, like a medical facility.
"We don't require this by law, we just require cleaning and disinfection," Straub.
Owner Elizabeth Guse knows what can happen when salons don't properly clean and disinfect.
"We've had a lot of women and men come in that have contracted infections," said Guse.
Guse sterilizes all tools and uses copper pedicure bowls, with no pipes, where bacteria can hide.
"Copper is very easy to clean, we scrub them with an antibacterial soap after every use then we use a hospital grade sterilizer and then the very fact that it is antimicrobial it won't grow fungus or bacteria," she said.
 "The nail files are supposed to be thrown away," said Straub.
Pur Lux uses a new file and buffer on each client, it's required, but FOX23 learned it's a rule many salons don't follow and this is what can happen.
"My fingers starting blistering. They think that the only thing the logical explanation was the nail salon because it's on every finger only around the cuticles," said Cheryl Butcher.
Butcher has had to endure excruciating treatments.
"They use a razor to kind of shave it off, then they use a cauterizer which burns off the skin and the lidocaine doesn't work so I feel everything," she said.
All of this pain, from her first set of acrylic nails, now the 15-year-old dancer is always hiding her hands.
"I'm really self-conscious about people like seeing my hands or holding hands with people I really try not to, like I try to distract them away from staring," she said.
Butcher doesn't know if it was the cuticle pusher, the nippers, the file or the buffer.
"They'd already been sitting there so I figured that they'd been cleaned. I think someone out there might have a similar infection and it just got on me," she said. 
"Yes, but they're not supposed to be? They should not, they are not, because they're made of a porous material they cannot be sanitized," said Sherry Lewelling.
FOX23 took our questions about nail salon safety straight to the director of the Oklahoma State Board of Cosmetology, in Oklahoma City. Sherry Lewelling's agency licenses all nail shops in the state.
"As far as giving you numbers I couldn't do that, we don't keep track of complaints. We get a complaint we address it as soon as we can.  I really train inspectors to resolve as many issues as they can when they're out in the field," she said.
Even owners say some nail salons are taking dangerous shortcuts.
"There's very specific cleaning process that's to happen with piped chairs. I've had pedicures in piped chairs before, I have never once seen someone properly clean a piped pedicure chair," said Guse.
"Make sure the tools, that you see them cleanse the tools; be very careful on it," said Butcher.
Butcher said because the last two procedures have been so painful, doctors are going to try an outpatient surgery, under sedation, to clear out her infection.
The Oklahoma Board of Cosmetology investigates all complaints from the public. If you've had a bad salon experience, report it:

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