Nail Salon Safety: Is your salon putting your health, safety at risk?

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 25, 2015) - Hoosiers visit nail salons every day, and some experts remind them to pay close attention to the services being offered and whether the facility you visit is following the rules. The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency has four compliance officers who are in charge of inspecting beauty culture salons, which includes nail salons. There are 1,067 businesses with active licenses in Indiana that offer manicures and pedicures.

Not only are those specific compliance officers in charge of inspecting beauty culture salons, but they have to inspect beauty culture schools, mobile salons, and tanning facilities. The total number of facilities they are in charge of inspecting is 10,567 for the entire state.

“I feel that it needs to be done more because it’s too easy to fall under the tracks,” Julie Shannon, co-owner of Zen Salon & Spa said.

According to the IPLA, compliance officers are only allowed to inspect nail salons as often as the law allows them. It includes when a new business files for a salon application or to reinstate a license, before it is taken off probation, and if a complaint merits an inspection.

“We simply follow the dictates of the legislature,” Deborah Frye, Deputy Director of the Professional Licensing Agency said.

Frye said there may be businesses operating illegally because they do not have a license.

“The Cosmetology Board cannot bring disciplinary action against an unlicensed facility so at that time it would be a matter of working with the Attorney General’s office to issue a cease and desist,” Frye said.

The IPLA said they do everything they can to monitor this and make sure your public health is not at risk. If a salon fails an inspection, the State Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners files a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s office. The IPLA said the AG’s office investigates individual licenses.

Last year, the AG’s office looked into a number of those and in turn filed 25 licensing complaints against nail salons. Additionally, the AG’s office filed two motions to cease and desist. Some of the violations found in those complaints against nail salons include clogged chair filters, dirty instruments with debris on them, and a bleeding foot from removing a callus or corn using an illegal razor.

CBS4 looked at a number of the complaints filed by the AG’s office. Most of the complaints are being reviewed and it is a lengthy process.

At Wonder Nails in Greenfield, the state claims they failed its inspection in Feb. 2014. One of the reasons listed in the document was because the person doing a manicure did not show an Indiana license. On Thursday, CBS 4 went back to the facility and we were not undercover. We asked for the owner and we were told he was not there. We left our information, hoping for a response.

At Lee’s Nails in Greenwood, in their 2013 inspection, when the inspector showed up, two employees left their clients. The board placed them on “indefinite probation” in 2014 and issued them various fines. CBS 4 went back Lee's Nails on Thursday. We asked for the owner. An employee contacted the owner and we were told the owner did not want to be interviewed right now. We pressed for more information and the employee told us they made changes with their sterilizer, but they were not ready to be interviewed.

The AG’s office reports, during any given year, about 50 to 75 percent of the cosmetology complaints they receive are against nail salons. Those concerns include not having the right equipment, cleanliness and businesses that hire manicurist who do not have a valid license.

“Everyone has to follow rules in life and I think that that it makes it better if we’re all on the same playing filed and everybody has to follow those rules,” Shannon said.

Shannon said her salon was inspected a year ago. She said before that, it had not been inspected since she opened 7 years ago. When a consumer visits a nail salon, they should look for licenses. According to the state, licenses are supposed to be posted in a visible area and each individual license should have their license displayed at their work station so that Hoosiers can see it.

“For those of us, who take our profession seriously, we want the bad actors and the violators out of the profession,” John Halal, former president of the Indiana Cosmetology and Barbering Association said.

In 2012, lawmakers considered getting rid of licenses for the industry. The bill did not pass.

“It is aggravating and it’s an insult for us to say that our licenses don’t mean much,” Shannon said.

Even with the regulations in place today, some people believe something needs to change in the industry and that more inspectors are needed.

According to the IPLA, last year a bill was passed that will give the agency the ability to fine an unlicensed business or employee. The board is currently writing the rules. CBS4 News was told the money would go directly to the agency and it could be used to hire more officers.

“No matter how many inspectors there are on the street, they can’t always be everywhere all the time. So, there’s really a certain amount the consumer has to do to make sure –to guarantee their own safety,” Halal said.

If you would like to check whether or not a nail salon or licensee is in good standing, click here or visit the State’s site at and click on the "search and verify license" service on the right side of the page.

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