How to know your spa is safe

By: Health Local Staff Jun 03, 2011
spa services

Signs your trip to the spa could be putting your health in danger.

-- “L’un doit souffrir pour être beau” – saying often attributed to actress Catherine Deneuve, which means, “One must suffer to be beautiful.”

Summer is here! With what seems like the longest hibernation in history (we are a dramatic bunch aren’t we?), break out the shorts, the cute skirts, sundresses and sandals. It’s time to paint your toes, toughen up your skin and prime it for waxing. Call your girlfriends, make a day or even a weekend of it. You’re going to the spa!

Whether this is your first visit to a Day Spa or your 55th, finding one that is safe, clean and won’t leave you in worse shape than when you walked in, should be your number one priority. Given that estheticians must all pass the same licensing in his or her state or province to enable him or her to beautify you, experience is the only thing that ultimately sets one apart from another. Indeed personality and customer service are equally important qualities along with price to consider; pampering isn’t cheap.

Signs a Spa is Safe and Clean:

First things to look for are proud displays of their licenses. Both the spa itself and the esthetician(s) should have theirs framed and in clear view for clients to see. If you must ask to see either, this is not a good sign. Part of operating a salon in any province means that inspectors may walk in unannounced and perform an inspection. They too will look for clearly displayed licenses. If upon finding one for the spa and fewer licenses on the walls than there are estheticians being employed, the spa may be fined. It is an indication the spa is hiring people who aren’t licensed. This person, although lovely in personality and who giggles on queue at everything you say, may out of naivety harm you (from clipping cuticles incorrectly or applying an inappropriate mixture of facial that could burn you) or improperly disinfect his or her instruments, which can lead to infection.

There are two acceptable forms of disinfection for the instruments used to perform manicures and pedicures. At minimum you want to see a large jar with bluish liquid. Floating inside for a minimum of twenty minutes for proper disinfection, should be everything your manicurist will pull out, wipe off and use on your hands and feet.

Another method used to cleanse your clippers is by putting them into something that looks like a toaster over. Called an autoclave, it gives off low levels of UV light, which kill bacteria, mold and anything else left behind by the previous client. Since the manicurist nor you can assure you of the previous client’s hygiene, the only way to mitigate this is proper sterilization.

Upon completion of the previous client’s pedicure, did the esthetician properly disinfect the foot spa? Water alone doesn’t constitute proper cleaning. Did she or he use both a disinfectant and a brush to accurately remove dirt, particles, dead skin and whatever else the previous client left behind? If an esthetician waits until it is the next client’s turn to clean his or her instruments or the foot spa used for a pedicure, this is by no means proper cleansing. All cleaning and disinfection should be performed immediately following use. In other words, when you walk over to his or her table or the foot spa to soak your feet, it should have already been cleaned and waiting for you.

Other little things to look for in a salon are ones that are often overlooked. If their bathroom isn’t clean, this is clearly not a good sign. However, if you witness someone cleaning the restroom, did he or she properly wash his or her hands before working on any part of your body? You don’t want whatever chemical was used to clean the toilet or whatever was in the toilet now to transfer to your body. Yes, ewwww!

Look at the container that holds the wax that will be used to give you perfectly arched eyebrows, or smooth legs. Is the wax dripping onto the floor? What color is the wax? If it is dark, ask why. It ought to be light honey colored. Some newer ones may be dark blue or green, which is an enhancement to soften skin, that is fine. But dark brown or black wax is a sign the wax hasn’t been changed too recently. If the salon uses the old fashioned white strips, watch to see that she or he removed them from the package in your presence. Dirt and other harmful bacteria can adhere to the strips, which can then get into your newly opened skin once the hair is removed.

You were born with good sense and intuition. Although we tend to tune this out or ignore those little voices in our head that nag us when something seems off kilter. If it seems as though it is, it is. Use your head when determining the safety of your Day Spa and/or salon. Of all the complaints the provinces receive about these businesses, nearly all can be traced back to cleanliness, which can threaten the safety of clientele.

It is better to leave a facility and go home with unpainted toes than suffer an infection that will remind you for months that you ought to have listened to your instincts.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at