Report: Salons May Be Root of Scary Illnesses

ThinkstockThinkstockManicures, pedicures and haircuts are supposed to be all about pampering and relaxation, but these beauty treatments may leave you with some nail-biting health problems.

According to a new report released at the American College of Gastroenterology's 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, D.C., there is a potential risk of transmitting hepatitis via some of the common instruments used for manicures, pedicures and haircuts. Of particular concern are nail files, nail brushes, finger bowls, foot basins, buffers, razors, clippers and scissors. Not only can they harbor germs if not cleaned and disinfected properly, they have the potential to transmit blood-borne diseases like hepatitis B and C. Eww.

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David A. Johnson, M.D., a professor of internal medicine and chief of the division of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School who presented the findings, explained in his report that, as scary-and gross-as this might appear, there is more research to be done before definitively saying if you are putting your health at risk in the name of perfectly coiffed hair and flawless nails.

"Whether there is sufficient compliance with disinfection requirements is an important variable in the safety of salon and barbershop services from a public health perspective," he says. The risk of transmission of infectious disease, particularly hepatitis B and C, in personal care settings is significantly understudied in the United States.

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While certain states, like Virginia, have "sufficient" regulations, there are no federal mandates on how exactly your nail and hair salon should prevent the spread of disease. And just because there are state regulations, that doesn't necessarily mean every shop is complying. Maybe having that mani-pedi party at home with your girlfriends and learning to cut your own hair is not such a bad idea after all?

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The evaluation of infection through nail and hair salon tools was prompted by an acute case of hepatitis C that was "clearly related to a manicure/pedicure treatment." Since then, researchers have looked at 18 other studies and found other associations with both hepatitis B and C, although none of the studies were conducted in the U.S. and things like sample size and population may not have been accurately represented.

In the meantime, Dr. Johnson recommends protecting your health by asking the salon staff if they are properly cleaning and disinfecting their equipment (hopefully, they will be honest). Your best bet? Bring your own clippers, razors, buffers and nail files with you. And keep a close watch on how the nail and hair salons you visit clean the tools before they touch your hands or hair. If hygiene doesn't seem to be a priority, take your nails and strands elsewhere.

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- Deborah Dunham

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