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Nail Salons and Polish: Not So Squeaky Clean

They look so harmless. Just little glass bottles filled with brightly colored liquid. But nail polish may contain dangerous additives, such as formaldehyde, or conceal bacteria, viruses and fungi. Buyer beware!

The dangers of nail polish, though, are just half the story. The other half is your nail salon. How clean is it, really? How well does it protect you from infection?

Many nail salons are not what they appear to be. Despite slick interiors and smiling technicians, many places do not follow proper hygiene techniques.

BTG Cosmetics Inc., manufacturer of the Toma brand of nail polish known for its formaldehyde-free formula, has created a new concept in nail care: a never-opened, never-used personal-size bottle of polish that clients get to take home with them after their service is complete. BTG Cosmetics suggests that you ask these questions before you sit down for your next manicure or pedicure:

* Is everything up to speed? Be sure that your salon is operating under current licenses and that the technicians are properly certified. Such documents should be displayed.

* How are the tools sanitized? Clippers, scissors, files and other instruments should all be sterilized after each use. The small machine that exposes tools to ultraviolet light has yet to be approved by OSHA, and barbicide, the ubiquitous blue liquid cleaner, is a disinfectant only and will not destroy viruses such as hepatitis C.

Many places use chemical sterilizers with germicides and fungicides, but only a medical-grade autoclave can sterilize metal items sufficiently by subjecting them to extreme heat under extreme pressure. Even better: Some salons use new, individually wrapped tools for every customer.

* How safe is the nail polish? Your nail polish should be treated like your toothbrush – do not share. Rather than risk infection by using a previously opened bottle of polish, request your salon to carry the Toma SlimLine personal polish collection or bring your own polish. As an added advantage, you can easily and quickly repair those inevitable chips in between nail services.

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