Nail salon investigation uncovers health code violations

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - When you're paying good money to get your hair or nails done, you expect clean equipment and conditions. Sometimes you get that and sometimes you don't, says Jonesboro's Cosmetology School of Designing Arts Owner Jeannie Bonds

"I feel that probably only 40% of the hair and nail salons do follow the sanitation rules," says Bonds.

Kendall Youngman believes she's a victim of unsanitary practices from an unnamed and still operating Jonesboro salon.

She says the fungal toe nail infection she claims to have contracted during a pedicure there a nightmare, "I had to have it numbed up, and then they dug out the toe nail, and it's just now back to its normal form."

Jonesboro Podiatrist Dr. Lee Woodruff says he's seeing Kendall's situation way too often, "Actually, I would say I see it quite often--at least on a weekly basis."

We questioned salons with the most health violations out of 20 state health inspection reports in the Jonesboro area. Our first stop is Diva Salon and Spa.

Reusing old nail files and buffers is just one of the violations the health department checked during Diva's September inspection. During our visit we find several used buffers and files as well.

REPORTER: "Were you guys planning on reusing these? Because they looked like they have been used and just are sitting here waiting for another customer. Because these are the kind you can't disinfect."
DIVA NAIL TECH: "No we don't use these."
REPORTER: "You don't use these? Whose is this?"

We're told they belong to a former employee and will be thrown away. Then, just moments later, we find another set of used instruments.

REPORTER: "Were you going to use this again? This looks like it's been used."
DIVA NAIL TECH: "No, no, no, we don't. we set it in there and use a different one."
REPORTER: "It looks like it to me that you were going to reuse that because otherwise you would have already thrown it away right?"
DIVA NAIL TECH: "No response."

While they seem to agree they shouldn't re-use buffers and files, one of the other employees doesn't see anything wrong with the re-use of brushes.

DIVA NAIL TECH: "But how do you disinfect it?"
REPORTER: "These are not my rules ma'am. These are what are set up for the state, and if you look at the report, brushes used for nail dust cannot be sanitized'."

The employees at Diva do not seem to be alone in disagreeing with the inspector's report. Our next stop is Private Edition Salon and Spa. According to the report, they are written up for leaving used waxing sticks next to the wax pot.

PRIVATE EDITIONS EMPLOYEE: "It was laying by the pot not in the pot."
REPORTER: "But it's still a violation. So, have you guys changed that?"
PRIVATE EDITIONS EMPLOYEE: "We didn't get a fine for that, so apparently it wasn't too bad."
REPORTER: "Well it made the list though, so you don't think it matters?" 
PRIVATE EDITIONS EMPLOYEE: "No it's laying right here beside it. It's not in the wax...So no, I don't think...It's maybe a sanitary issue. Not a cleanliness issue."

Ed Barham, with the Arkansas State Health department in Little Rock, weighs in on the video clips.

REPORTER: "Is there a difference between cleanliness and sanitation if it made the list?"
BARHAM: "Sure, if it is on the list my response is 'If it's on the list, my inspector…she needs to talk to her why it's on the list until she (stylist) understands why it's on the list. That's why. I don't see it as being debatable."

Barham says while these violations may not seem like a big deal, it's a huge deal to state legislators.

"That's why the legislature has moved the responsibility to us--to make sure that we inspect in a thorough and complete and a safe and reliable way," says Barham.

But, just as this position is still new to the health department, it is also new to the salon owners and employees.

"It may be a hard time for operators right now," says Barham.

The switch occured a year and a half ago. Barham admits the kinks are still being worked out of their inspection process.

DIVA NAIL TECH: "I think the rules and regulations are too tough."

"If we have things on video where owners and operators are saying the rules are too tough, or they don't understand why something is being done the way it is, we don't yet have the relationship that we one day hope we will," says Barham.

He says even with this in mind, his inspectors will be back to both of these salons and all of the other salons across the state.

"There are teeth in our regulations, and we will enforce them," says Barham.

PRIVATE EDITIONS EMPLOYEE: "Like, I don't feel like they are hurting anything."
REPORTER: "So, even though this made the inspection list, she is not going to change it?"
PRIVATE EDITIONS EMPLOYEE: "That's her call. She has been doing that for years."
REPORTER: "You don't know what's in there. There could be bacteria in there, and she wouldn't even know it."
PRIVATE EDITIONS EMPLOYEE: "Well we have a towel service, and they come and get them weekly. They bring us clean towels. It's not like they stay in there for months. They are gone weekly every Tuesday."
REPORTER: "I just don't think the health inspector would put it on there if it wasn't violation their standards." 

As for Youngman, she says her toes will never see another foot bath again, "Now I have to do my own nails."

But, she's hoping by sharing her story, she'll open other's eyes and maybe stop this same thing from happening to another.

"Just watch it and make sure everything is being done cleanly and question it if you don't feel comfortable with it," says Youngman.

Want to know what to look out for before your next hair or nail salon appointment? Click here.

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