I-TEAM: How do you find out if your nail salon is legal or illegal?

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Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – Do you know about the YouTube trend “I went to the worst-reviewed nail salon in my city”?

Yes, it’s a thing, and like the Tide pod challenge, it’s also extremely dangerous.

Now, we didn’t go to the worst-reviewed nail salon in the area. Instead, we went to several illegal nail salons and to the person in charge of closing them down.

When Kay Kendrick isn’t cutting hair at her shop in Thomson, she’s reviewing case note into illegal nail salons in Georgia.

"I've seen a lot of infections,” Kendrick said. “I've seen people lose limbs. I've seen people lose toes. I've seen people have had blood-borne infections that has to have thousands and thousands of dollars of medical treatments to repair it."

That's what happened to Jayne Sharp this past spring. She lost part of her thumb from getting flesh-eating bacteria from a nail salon in Tennessee.

"I was totally shocked that you could walk into a nail salon and have this happen to you,” Sharp said.

"The nail salons are the worst environment for an unsanitary -- potential for an infection or bacteria -- that's the biggest problem we have in our industry is the unsanitary and nail salons more so than others,” Kendrick said.

The Georgia Board of Cosmetology inspects nail salons throughout the state. Inspectors look for unsanitary conditions and blades.

"The skin on your feet is basically protection to keep your feet from getting impurities into your body,” Kendrick said. “When you scrape that off, it's kind of like a scrape up on the knee or something and then you put it in a whirlpool bath that might or might not have bacteria, so you’re opening up a path for that bacteria to come into your body and into the bloodstream."

We found multiple salons in our area cited for using blades. We found others using unlicensed techs. The board requires not only requires the shops to have a license, but each nail tech must have one as well.

"Unfortunately, a lot of consumers would be surprised with the number of people who say, ‘You mean you have to be licensed to do what you do?’" Kendrick said.

An unlicensed salon means it’s not listed with the Secretary of State and thus not on the board's radar for inspections. So how can you tell a legal salon from an illegal one?

"There are several ways consumers can protect themselves,” Kendrick said. “Number one: There is an inspection sheet in every salon that's been inspected and it gives them a break down for everything they have been cited for."

“It’s not hanging on the wall, there is a reason, generally. People hide them because they failed an inspection.”

Also, ask to see your nail tech’s license. Sharp is extra pre-cautious after losing part of her thumb. She brings her own supplies.

"There are so many girls and guys that go to salons to get manicures and pedicures and they have no idea what can happen to them,” Sharp said. “Oftentimes through the day because I cannot feel everything with my arm and hand, I'm reminded of that horrible time. I'm grateful that I lived through it when some don't."

The easiest way to check your salon is with your smartphone. A legal salon should have its license in public view. On it is a bar code. Scan it, and it will tell you everything you need to know about the salon.

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