9 Diseases You Can Get at the Salon
Mad cow disease, hepatitis, fungus, even stroke—these can all result from a day of relaxation and beautification at the salon. Beauty is only skin deep, but you're going to have to look beyond the surface to make sure your next trip to the beauty parlor leaves you pampered and free of these nine frightening health risks:
With so many customers sharing the same equipment, improper sanitation at hair or nail salons can easily lead to fungal infections such as tinea capitis and ringworm. These infections can circulate when instruments and tools are not cleaned between clients or aren't handled in a hygienic manner.
2. Mad Cow Disease.
You probably never thought you could get mad cow disease from cosmetics, did you? With all the concern about ingestion of beef a few years back, people were quick to overlook what was in their lipstick, anti-wrinkle cream, or other skin care products, or what the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). It released a statement about mad cow disease claiming, "The FDA continues to implement policies to keep safe all FDA-regulated products, including food, food ingredients, dietary supplements, drugs, vaccines, and cosmetics from risk of any BSE-contaminated bovine material."
Though the risk of getting mad cow disease from cosmetics may be small, some countries have taken preemptive steps just to be safe. In 2001, China prohibited the import and sale of cosmetics from 13 BSE-affected European countriesDylan a year before that, Japan had imposed the same ban. In the United States in January 2004, the FDA and the Department of Health & Human Services prohibited the use of dead or disabled cows in the products that the FDA regulates, including food products, dietary supplements, and cosmetic ingredients.
3. Hepatitis B or C.
In 1965, a medical researcher was able to track several hepatitis B patients back to a barber who unknowingly transmitted the disease by shaving all customers with the same razor. The barber had disinfected the razor, but it was too weak to kill all of the germs.
A study conducted by the Emory University School of Medicine discovered that hepatitis C could be passed on through the straight razors commonly used in barber shops to trim the hair from sideburns and necks. The razors from five different barber shops were soaked in five frequently-used sterilizing solutions. The results: zero of the five solutions destroyed hepatitis C, though some were soaked for six hours, 24 hours, and even seven days.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 1.25 million Americans with chronic (long-term) hepatitis B, and 3.2 million with chronic hepatitis C. These diseases are spread by exposure to infected blood. The CDC has not published any reports of the transmission of either hepatitis B or C transmission to or from salon workers to date.
4. Boils and Rashes.
There has been much controversy over pedicure baths at nail salons, as employees can often be lax about thoroughly cleaning these baths. The residue left behind can easily pass on infection that can lead to boils and rashes. Recently, the California Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control checked 30 foot baths in salons around California after an outbreak of leg scarring. Although most of these businesses had been disinfecting the baths, bacteria that caused boils and rashes was still found in 29 of them (97 percent).
5. Bacterial Infections.
Infections such as staphylococcus, streptococcus, pseudomonas, can also come back with you from your trip to the salon. Many of these are pedicure-related, often resulting from contaminated footbaths. Poorly cleaned foot spas allow biofilm such as oils, skin, hair, and lotions, to build up. The biofilm then acts as an effective breeding ground for the mycobacteria. The bacteria is usually able to enter the skin through small cuts caused by shaving. In fact, seventy percent of the patients from the Northern California outbreaks had shaved their legs prior to their pedicures, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
When you go to get your hair cut, probably the last thing on your mind is the possibility of having a stroke. But although a trip to the salon carries a very small risk of stroke, it's not out of the question--and a La Jolla, California woman is living proof. After noticing that one of her pupils was much larger than the other (a possible sign of stroke), she contacted a neurologist friend. An MRI revealed that she had a tear in her carotid artery, and she was put on a blood-thinning medication for six months until the artery healed and was able to lower her risk of stroke. The likely culprit: tilting her neck back too far during her shampooing at the salon earlier that day.
Salon customers aren't the only victims of transferable diseases. Salon employees run a high risk of developing dermatitis. This uncomfortable skin condition is caused by exposure to products such as shampoo and coloring agents as well as prolonged work with fluids. It can result in dry, flaky, itchy and blistered hands. Habia, which oversees standards in the hairdressing industry, reports that over 50 percent of the 130,000 hairdressers in Great Britain will suffer from this uncomfortable inflammatory skin condition at some point in their careers. Dermatitis can interfere to the point that hairdressers are forced to quit their jobs all together, but it can usually be prevented with the use of non-latex gloves while shampooing and coloring.
8. Birth Defects.
About 10,000 chemicals that the nail industry uses have not been tested by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). What's more, a 2006 study by the National Asian Pacific American Women's Union reports that 89 percent of these chemicals have not been tested for safety by independent scientists, either. Lab animals exposed to these chemicals have developed birth defects and hormonal and reproductive problems. In addition, toulene, found in high levels in nail polish remover and nail treatments, may cause birth defects in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), breathing in large amounts of toluene while pregnant can cause birth defects in children and hinder growth and mental abilities. Combined with the poor ventilation in many salons, toulene can be especially dangerous.
9. Breast Cancer.
Recently, research has begun on the possible link between nail salons and breast cancer. Formaldehyde resins, found in nail polish and hardeners, are listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable carcinogen. Stanford University-affiliated researchers at the Northern California Cancer Center and Asian Health Services are teaming up to assess whether nail salon technicians in Alameda County are at a greater risk for breast cancer that may come from daily exposures to potential carcinogens.
A bill passed in October 2006 that calls for cosmetics manufacturers to report to the California Department of Health Services any carcinogens and reproductive toxins in their products has brought this topic to light.
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