Sanitation and Infection Control for Spa/Salon Workers

Sanitation and Infection Control for Spa/Salon Workers

Sanitation and infection-control are some of the first things we all learn in beauty school, and for good reason! It is crucial to have an understanding of the different kinds of infections you may come across, in order to protect yourself and the client. Clients rely on our knowledge and professionalism, and trust us with their health, so we must abide the law, and give them the best treatment without taking any shortcuts.

With that said, spa and salon workers must be aware of contagious bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses that can be contracted through broken skin, and pose serious health risks. Not only should we treat all clients with care to avoid getting them sick, but we must also protect ourselves in the workplace. Since the body’s first line of defense is unbroken skin, take care of your hands – they are your tools, so don’t bite your fingers, or pull on your cuticles. Keep your nails short, to avoid scratching the clients face, or breaking and snagging a nail by accident.

Keeping your room ventilated and clean is extremely important, especially having clean sheets and towels, wiping down all surfaces, as well as keeping all equipment, and implements that come into direct contact with the client immaculate. Have a habit of doing laundry daily, because mold and fungus may grown on unwashed laundry that had been left in a laundry hamper.

I’d like to reinforce the difference between sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilizing. Understanding the basics of disinfecting, and following state laws will ensure that you’re protected.

Sanitation (cleaning) is removing all visible dirt with soap and warm water, and using a brush to scrub grooved or hinged portions of implements.
Disinfection destroys most harmful organisms, but isn’t effective against bacterial spores.
Sterilization completely destroys all microbial life, including spores. When disinfecting and sterilizing, make sure to take proper precautions, such as wearing gloves when touching the disinfectant solution, and to follow the instructions on the label. Disinfectant solution should be changed daily, or changed right away if it becomes contaminated.

For Skin Care Professionals
As estheticians, we see many different clients daily, some with serious cystic acne. Over the years, I have noticed that treating acne is a passion of mine, and I can proudly say that I specialize in working with acne-prone skin. Personally, I don’t use any tools other than my fingers wrapped in tissues to perform [manual] extractions, and I always wear gloves when working on acneic skin.

Gloves are important every time you may come in contact with a client’s blood, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, non-intact skin, and mucous membrane. This is a standard precaution, where you must assume that all blood and bodily fluids are potential sources of infection, such as staph infection, MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections), Hepatitis, and even HIV. I also use a magnifying lamp when performing extractions, so any excretions or puss which may accidentally spew out during the extraction process will not get on my face, or in my eye. If accidental exposure to blood or excretions occurs, you must stop the service, and perform the correct measures to clean and disinfect the broken skin area, clean and disinfect the workspace, and dispose all implements used. All tools that come into contact with blood or body fluids must be disinfected in a EPA registered tuberculocidal disinfectant (a disinfectant that kills HIV 1 and Hepatitis B virus).

Sanitizing and disinfecting non-electrical tools and implements:
Wear protective glasses and gloves.
Rinse implements and thoroughly clean them with soap, a brush, and warm water.
Dry thoroughly with a clean towel or air dry on a clean towel.
Immerse implements in the disinfection container with an EPA registered hospital grade disinfectant that is  bactericidal, fungicidal and virucidal, for 10 minutes.
Remove implements with tongs or gloves, rinse well in warm water and pat dry.
Store in a clean, labeled, and covered container until needed.
Remove gloves and wash hands.

Clean electrical components that come in contact with clients (i.e. high-frequency electrodes) in the same manner as nonelectrical tools, but be sure not to immerse metal tips in water/disinfectant solution. Also, having an autoclave (equipment that sterilizes tools by using steam under pressure) in the spa/salon is very useful.

Another very important service that must be performed with utmost care is waxing, and no matter what anyone else tells you, gloves are essential any time during contact with a client’s blood, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, non-intact skin, and mucous membrane. You must assume that all blood and bodily fluids are potential sources of infection. It is especially important to wear gloves when performing Brazilian/bikini waxing when the follicles are left open and can bleed, especially because that area has thick, coarse hair. In addition to any unknown blood-borne pathogens that may be transmitted via open pores, there is possibility of contracting herpes through broken skin, if you have any cuts/ broken lesions on your fingers, and don’t wear gloves.

Correct use of spatulas is very important during waxing. Be aware that hairs, as well as dry, dead skin may get into the wax container if you double-dip, so don’t keep using the same spatula throughout the service. The wooden tongue-depressors we use for waxing cost pennies, if even that! They are meant to be 100% disposable after ONE time use, so don’t double-dip – just toss it out and use a new one.

Make cleanup easy after waxing by using a disposable roll of waxing paper (just like you would see at your doctor’s office) over your sheets. Not only will it save your sheets from sticky wax, but it will give your clients the assurance that they are laying on a 100% clean surface.

For Nail Technicians
Having a well-ventilated room to work in is of utmost importance for nail techs, since workers may breathe in harmful vapors and dust from nail products, daily. Even in small amounts, these chemicals add up in the body, and may cause serious health problems.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) consider the exposure to chemicals to be a serious health concern for nail technicians and salon workers. Nail techs are exposed to toxic chemical ingredients in nail polish and remover, nail primer, nail glue and remover, nail hardener and artificial nail liquid, daily. Such ingredients as acetone, Butyl acetate, Methyl methacrylate, Toluene, formaldehyde, ethyl acetate, and dibutyl phthalate have been linked to allergies, cancer, and birth defects, according to various studies. Along with proper ventilation, workers must wear N95s NIOSH-approved dust masks (Filtering face-piece respirators), and become familiar with all the chemical present in their workplace. OSHA provides a mass of information on their website

A great way to reduce exposure to chemicals, is shopping for natural nail care products, which don’t have the “toxic trio” of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. Manufacturers will proudly tell you this information on their labels, so please do your research before you buy!

Since manicures and pedicures require trimming and cutting cuticles and nails, nail techs run the risk of piercing the skin, and coming in contact with infected blood, which can carry blood-born pathogens such as hepatitis, or HIV. There is also a very high risk of contracting fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot. Working with gloves and sterilizing all implements reduce the likelihood of infection. In addition to following all sterilization procedures for implements I previously mentioned, remember that proper disinfection of a whirlpool pedicure spa requires the disinfecting solution to circulate for 10 minutes.

For Hairdressers
Generally, all salon workers should keep their area ventilated  – nail techs, and hairdressers alike. Similarly, precautions must be taken when working with potentially toxic products daily. I once met a hairdresser who applied color without wearing gloves, which was rather surprising, to say the least! Our skin is the largest organ of our body, and if it has the ability to absorb the color in seconds, think of what else your body is absorbing.  When working with chemicals, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s exact directions, and perform a patch test on yourself before starting to work with unfamiliar products. If you, as a hair stylist, have a known allergy, check the ingredient list for the allergen, to be sure you are not poisoning yourself every time you are using this product on clients (this could be daily). You can always request an MSDS, which contains information complied by the manufacturer about product safety, including names of hazardous ingredients, safe handling and use procedures, precautions to reduce the risk for accidental harm or overexposure, and flammability warnings. Be sure to unplug all electrical hair tools when not in use, and wear proper gloves when using clip-less hair-curling irons.

Nourishing Your Beautiful Body
Even though we all love what we do, and sometimes work too many hours, we should remember that health comes first! Be sure to keep hydrated throughout the day, by drinking lots of water. This also flushes out your system, and helps your blood flow without stagnation. Proper nutrition is very important, so indulge in fruits and vegetables, especially those that ward off infection, and keep up the immune system – such as garlic, ginger, onions, and mushrooms such as shitake, maitake, reishi and cordycepts (all available in supplement form). Vitamins such as Vitamin C (1000mg), Vitamin D3 (5000IU), and B-complex are important, as well as a Calcium/Magnesium ratio of 500mg/1000mg. Additional supplements that promote good health are Omega-3 (EPA + DHA), and Folic Acid.

As hairdressers, estheticians, make-up artists, massage therapists, and nail techs, we spend a lot of time on our feet, and use our hands in repetitive motions daily. Take time to relax yourself, and stretch as often as possible. Use MSM to maintain healthy joints and connective tissue, and see a doctor any time you feel pain in your wrists or back, because ignoring your body’s symptoms could lead to complications down the road. Keeping healthy is the key to enjoying many years of professional and personal success! When you are healthy, you have the energy to give your clients the best service, and they will absolutely feel it in your touch! Take pride in your profession, and your knowledge! Love your work, and every task that goes with it, feel gratitude for having an opportunity to make others beautiful and healthy, and life will reward you with good health, and an abundance of clientele!

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