Recently I blogged about the dangers of fish pedicures and last week, the Health Protection Agency ruled that the possibility – though small – of contracting infections such as hep C and HIV from fish pedicures couldn’t be ruled out. But these aren’t the only dangers lurking in your beauty salon.
I used to be a frequenter of high street beauty salons that were nothing more than a formica table, bowl of acetone and stern therapist. But a recent story I did for Woman & Home magazine has forced me to rethink my criteria for choosing a salon (pretty much: cheaper the better). What few people know is that in the UK at least, no central regulatory body polices the hair and beauty industry, only local authorities as well as the Health & Safety Executive have responsibility for enforcing trading standards. This lack of regulation in the industry leaves people with little recourse when things go wrong – and they do.
Take hair bleaching. In the last 12 months 350 people have reported injuries at the hairdressers and one study found that 82 per cent of salons didn’t offer patch testing to check for allergies before colour and hair stripping procedures that come with allergic reaction risks, eye irritation, burns, blisters. Hydrogen peroxide and ammonia, used to lighten hair can cause skin and eye irritations and lead to inflammation and blistering. Most hairdressers wouldn’t use ammonia or peroxide above nine per cent on the scalp because scarring of the scalp and permanent hair loss can occur. Unfortunately some do. If your hairdresser is using 12 per cent peroxide on your hair, ensure it isn’t going on your scalp and a lower solution and without ammonia is used on your roots. Tell your hairdresser everything that has been on your hair including semi-permanent dyes and if you’re having bleaching or stripping insist on a patch test. Check that they are members of the National Hairdressers’ Federation or The Hairdressing Council to ensure they have adequate training, product knowledge and insurance.
Acrylic nails I know – all a bit TOWIE – but Gawd, I loved their Footballer’s Wife look and sheer convenience. But I had mine removed after finding out that one chemical called methyl methacrylate or MMA is banned in the US and Australia but routinely used here. MMA has a strong odour and anyone using it usually wears a mask, Thea Green, founder of Nails Inc told me. MMA is abrasive and so strong that if you catch it, the entire nail can lift off. Gross, I know. MMA could also penetrate to skin causing irritation, she believes. It’s hard to tell what nail technicians use as most acrylic powders are decanted but another tell-tale sign, says Green, is that the technician cannot use a nail file on MMA acrylic and has to use an electric drill which can also damage nails. But I still haven’t braved au natural and am loving new three week manicure from Nails Inc (not on the payroll, promise). It’s MMA free and requires no drilling of the nail bed. I love the fact that it’s instantly dry and lasts about four weeks colour perfect on my nails. It’s bloody pricey at 50 quid but it really does last so if you were paying £15 for weekly manicures it’s almost justifiable, innit? See a pic at this twitter link
I will stop soon but I know my sister Tanya (Hi Sis!) reads this blog and like me is a total beauty junkie so this is stuff I want her – and any others amongst you dear readers – to know like, now because I have a feeling it’s rarely reported perhaps because of the power of beauty advertisers on websites and in magazines or simply because no one thinks pretty little pampering treatments could come with risks.
I used to think eyelash tinting was fairly innocuous until my friend Tory mentioned that her hairdresser told her it wasn’t the best thing for lashes so I decided to look into it. Turns out, eyelash tinting done without a patch test can sometimes lead to swelling and other allergic reactions. Plus, I found that some experts believe some newer lash extension treatments can weaken natural lashes.
BABTAC, which is is the certifying and educational body for UK therapists, sees claims for eyelash tinting that has caused dramatic swelling of the eyes when therapists haven’t done patch tests, one of their directors recently told me. Plus, when it comes to extensions, as surgical-grade glue is used on the natural lashes, the danger is that an inexperienced practitioner can theoretically glue your eyelids together. Yikes. According to Jinny Coffey, founder of Jinny Lash, many under-qualified therapists now use glue that is too strong which can damage or weaken the natural eyelashes and irritate the eye. So - insist on a patch test to ensure you are not allergic to tints or glues. Ask to see training certificates and diplomas specifically for lash extension application, says Coffey. Plus – ‘Before you agree to an extension treatment, look at the weight and material of the extensions,’ says Coffey. Heavy lash extensions can pull at the natural hair and damage the follicle. ‘We use a variety of thicknesses starting from .15 mm which gives you an idea of the fineness to look for. Lash extensions should look like natural lash hair, not heavier or thicker.’ Beware of anyone promising to extend the life of extesnions more than four weeks as this can only be done by using dangerously strong glue. Make sure your therapist is using an established brand (these include Jinny Lash, 3D lashes, Lash Perfect or AH Francis).
Other danger zones include:
Peels – High concentration peels can cause skin burning, hyperpigmentation and the activation of dormant herpes virus. This happened to me when a therapist in Covent Garden no less left a strong solution on my face too long and I could feel the burning around the delicate area at the top of my cheekbones after which parts of my face literally fell off on flakes for the next two weeks. Three months later despite using Guzillion-plus sunscreen I developed upsettingly hyperpigmented sun spots in this area that required a year’s worth of antibiotic treatment with a derm to fix. Don’t do it.
Brazilian blow-dries - often contain formaldehyde (used in embalming and a confirmed carcinogen) up to 75 times legal levels. Although many with formaldehyde have been removed from the market, some experts are concerned they are still being used illegally as it’s not regulated and that some hairdressers are still bringing in the hard stuff from Brazil in their suitcases. Not so easy to police you see.
Fish pedicures – I have been banging on a bit about this but think about it, they are banned in 14 US States and the HPA said they have received a handful of people reporting infection after one because of the that possibility fish can potentially carry infection and bacteria from one person to another on their mouths. But a handful is a handful and I wouldn’t want to be the one nursing a stubborn fungus in exchange for smooth feet. But regular pedicures in unhygienic salons carry risk too. Get this – in 2006 in the US and the Netherlands there were outbreaks – and in the US two deaths – of MRSA (that’s the antibiotic-resistant superbug that has broken out in hospitals in the past and been responsible for a number of deaths, usually in old people with already compromised immune systems) in nail salons contracted from unsanitized foot baths and nail instruments. This is because those UV light sterilizers don’t kill 100 per cent of infective organisms such as Hep B and C, MRSA so you need a machine called an autoclave for this. It’s like a big pressure cooker that they get their utensils in and out of.It’s also best if the foot baths don’t have the nodules as experts have told me these are tough to clean.
Be beautiful people. But be safe.