When getting a much-needed mani or pedi, usually the only things to worry about are a long wait or your favorite color being out of stock. Unfortunately, some potential dangers may also be lurking in the salon that aren’t so pretty. In 2014, a 22-year-old Brazilian woman may have contracted HIV – simply by getting her nails done.
The woman was diagnosed with advanced HIV, but she didn’t participate in any of the most common risk factors. She never had sex, surgery, a blood transfusion or any tattoos or piercings. Her unique case was published in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses.
How could this have happened?
Ten years before her diagnosis, the woman remembered sharing nail instruments with her cousin who was a manicurist. The cousin was later diagnosed with HIV. The two women had very similar strains of the virus.
According U.S. News & World Report, about 75 percent of salons in the U.S. don’t follow state protocol for disinfection, leaving you at risk of serious infections, like HIV or hepatitis C.
Contracting HIV in a nail salon is a possibility, say experts. “Any sharp instrument could theoretically carry this risk,” Dr. Ronald Hershow, an infectious disease expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, who has studied HIV in women told Yahoo Health.
The skin around nails is extremely sensitive and when doing manicures and pedicures Dr. Hershow explained, “they use metal instruments and files, and there might be blood or blood-derived body fluids, like the oozy material that comes out of a skin lesion. If you’re filing a cuticle and get a little blood on the file, then use it on a person, there would be some risk, yes.”
This, of course, makes businesses that offer piercings, acupuncture and tattooing also potential sites for risk. According to HIV experts, instruments that can penetrate the skin or become contaminated with blood should be sterilized or thrown away after ONE use. These include:
Razors, cuticle scissors and tweezers
Ear piercing devices
Needles used for hair removal (electrolysis), acupuncture and tattooing
Salons are high-traffic areas and there’s no way you can control who will be there before you or after you. However, you can do your due diligence to make sure that your salon and manicurist are providing quality services that minimize health risks. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
Most salons will have UV sterilizers displayed for their customers’ peace of mind, but you may be shocked to find out that these may be just for show! Many salons have fake “blue light toasters” that offer nothing more than the depiction of sterilization. For a more guaranteed sterilization, ask your tech to soak tools and cleanse bowls and stations in a barbicide bath. This blue solution has proven effective to kill tuberculosis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C and HIV-1.
Ensure the manicurist is wearing protection.
It is recommended that salon workers wear latex or vinyl gloves (inquire about the type if you have allergies) during contact with customers if they have open sores or broken skin on their hands.
Say no to the wrong tools.
Due to safety concerns, many salons have gotten away from using razors or graters to remove dead skin. If your technician attempts to use these tools, it’s okay to say no. Also, politely stop them if you notice they are attempting to re-use a tool. It’s okay to ask for tools that are fresh out of the package or retrieved from where it is being disinfected.
Bring your own tools.
Feel free to bring your own nail files and cuticle tools, this way you know you are the only person to use them. As an extra precaution you can also make sure your nail technician is using the proper filing technique. Filing in both directions makes your nails split and compromises their health. The proper way to file the nails is from corner to center in one direction.
If you believe you’ve been put at risk for HIV, discovering your status a decade later like the woman in Brazil does not have to be your story. After a minimum of three months, you can learn your HIV status via a test either by your doctor or even in the privacy of your home with the OraQuick at-home test. OraQuick is FDA approved and is the same test used by health professionals.