Salon complaints lead to citations

Morgan Hill – The pedicure police that canvassed Santa Clara
County nail salons last month in response to an outbreak of
microbacterial infections didn’t so much as stop by Gilroy, but did
cite four Morgan Hill salons for improperly disinfected salon
chairs.
Morgan Hill – The pedicure police that canvassed Santa Clara County nail salons last month in response to an outbreak of microbacterial infections didn’t so much as stop by Gilroy, but did cite four Morgan Hill salons for improperly disinfected salon chairs.

None of Gilroy’s seven nail salons was inspected because state and county officials didn’t receive any complaints about them and each of them has been inspected at least once in the last two years, according to Patti Roberts, spokeswoman for California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

The four Morgan Hill salons cited for “incorrect disinfection of pedi footspa chair” are 4-Ever Nails, Christy’s Nails, Creative Nails 2 and Family Hair Care. All four were also cited for infractions relating to proper labeling of chemicals and disposal of instruments. A fifth Morgan Hill salon, Nicole’s Day Spa, was also cited for similar infractions.

Jenny Le, who has owned a salon in Watsonville for 10 years and opened Creative Nails 2 three months ago, said the citation was the result of bad luck. She blamed it on a piece of sock fabric in the filter of one of her footspa chairs.

“Nothing is perfect,” Le said, “it’s hard to take care of every single thing, but we do the best we can. They’re being very harsh because of the infections. They’re making every little thing a big deal.”

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department has received 134 complaints from consumers who believe they have been infected with microbacterial furunculosis at their local salon. Eleven cases have been confirmed.

In response to the outbreak, the Cosmetology Board pulled inspectors from around the state for an intensive five-day campaign in December. Of the 112 salons inspected, 109 were cited.

The infection occurs when the bacteria, which occurs naturally in water, accumulates in the footbaths used for pedicures. Similar in some ways to tuberculosis, the bacteria covers the feet and legs with boils and lesions that take months to heal, even when treated with antibiotics.

Of the 134 cases, 111 have been linked to San Jose salons. The three worst offenders, and the only salons to be named, are National Nails, Kathy Nails and Silver Nails 2, all in San Jose.

Many of the infractions in Morgan Hill are so-called “forgivable offenses,” Roberts said.

“It’s not our intention to close down salons that operate in good faith,” Roberts said. “Part of this effort was educational. We understand that most salons want to keep their customers and provide good service.”

Footspa citations are not forgivable offenses. The first infraction comes with a $100 fine. The third offense carries a $500 fine.

Other than asking the operator, or calling the Cosmetology Board, there is no way for consumers to find out if a particular salon has been cited. Roberts said that consumers shouldn’t patronize a salon that hasn’t been recommended to them.

Heidi Golden and Cheryl Dalton, two Morgan Hill residents who get regular manicures and pedicures, said they weren’t surprised to hear which salons were cited.

“I could have told you about every place on that list,” said Dalton, who is a hair stylist at Shear Color & Design in Morgan Hill. “I always tell my clients exactly where to go and what to look for when they go into a salon.”

Golden said patrons can usually judge for themselves whether a particular nail salon is safe.

“You can a tell a lot about a place when you first walk in,” she said. “Are they rushing around? Are they doing things carefully, taking their time, or are they cutting corners?”

The women also suggested that patrons should be wary of bargains.

“If you go cheap, you’re going to get cheap,” Dalton said.

The desire for cheap pedicures, Roberts said, adds to the urgency of her agency’s work.

“The bottom line is that people are not going to stop getting pedicures, and their not going to stop getting inexpensive pedicures, so we need to try and protect consumers as much as we can,” she said. “We don’t go out of our way to shut salons down. We understand that many of them are small businesses, but we do go out of our way to protect consumers.”

Salon patrons can help protect themselves by not shaving their legs the same day they get a pedicure, verifying that the salon is licensed and clean, and asking nail technicians about how they clean and sanitize their footbaths.

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