|Written by Ana Vila-Cha|
In October 2003, the beauty industry in British Columbia was deregulated by the provincial government. What does this mean for you, the consumer? Your hair stylist, esthetician or laser technician no longer has to complete their education at an accredited school or pass any certification exams. While the industry does have organizations that support their members by providing continued education, belonging to these organizations is not mandatory. Without licensing, the beauty industry has become a free-for-all, and therefore it is up to the consumer to become their own advocate for safety and sanitation standards.
Do you know how your pedicure tub is disinfected? Are the sheets on your massage table clean? Did your esthetician double-dip in the wax pot? Have you recently contracted a fungal toe nail infection? All of these are scary scenarios, but they happen more often than you might think.
Maintaining high sanitation and disinfection standards begins with proper education. Do not be afraid to ask your technician whether she went to school to learn her trade or if she was trained “in house”. In an industry that is unlicensed, anyone can open a school without qualifications or hire someone off the street to train them in their salon. This, in turn, means that technicians who have studied at a reputable school are lumped into the same category as the unqualified.
Laser hair removal and laser skin rejuvenation are more popular than ever, yet in untrained hands, a laser machine is extremely dangerous and can result in third degree burns, permanent scarring and disfigurement. You don’t have to be an esthetician or have any knowledge of skincare to perform laser treatments in British Columbia. Be aware of cheap specials for laser treatments—sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Always do research on the laser clinic, spa or medical office that you intend to visit for laser treatments. Ask what training the laser technicians have had and how long they’ve been providing treatments.
Sanitation and disinfection procedures are very important for you to be aware of when visiting your favourite spa or salon. When asked, your technician should be able to explain how the work area and tools were sanitized and disinfected. An effective disinfectant will destroy all bacteria, fungi and viruses on surfaces. Typically these disinfectants are of hospital grade. Often spas will throw words around like alcohol or bleach when describing sanitation procedures, but it is important to note that alcohol is not an adequate disinfectant. Likewise, bleach must contain 5.25% sodium hypochlorite to be an effective disinfectant. Another word used often is sterilization. Most of the time it is used in an incorrect context. Sterilization completely kills all microorganisms. A lot of people think that by exposing implements to high heat or steam, they can claim an element of sterilization, but it’s not enough. Sterilization is a lengthy process and, therefore, simply can’t realistically be used in salons and spas.
In North America, consumers pay a lot of money for the luxury of relaxation, the smell of essential oils, lotions and candles. A warm cup of tea or coffee to cradle in your hands while flipping through a magazine. This is what a visit to your favourite spa should be: pampering, relaxing and tranquil. You should leave with meticulously polished toes, soft and hydrated skin and a feeling that all your stresses have melted away, if only for a while. You should not have think about whether you have picked up an infection due to poor sanitation and disinfection procedures. Bear this in mind when you make your next appointment.