Welcome to the Precision Nails Blog

As a salon owner and licensed manicurist, my perspective on the nail industry could not be more practical. While some may be offended by the opinions expressed, please understand that I want to share information and stimulate discussion. Whether you want your nails done or do nails professionally, I hope you find this blog both useful and interesting.

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Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Working Around the Rules

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, July 2013

Salon owners face many decisions as they compete for clients, like which services to provide, products to use, hours to operate, prices to charge, etc. These decisions are unique and personal to every owner, giving consumers many choices when they seek beauty services. However, there’s one choice that neither owners nor consumers should have, and that’s engaging in unlicensed activity. Any beauty service(s) provided by an unlicensed individual or in an unlicensed location represents unfair competition and threatens our professionalism.

Regardless of where you live, unlicensed activity affects your business. It’s unfortunate that unethical individuals/salon owners perform services illegally; some manufacturers sell prohibited equipment/products; the media publicizes individuals/salons/services, legal or not; too many consumers compromise quality and safety for low prices and convenience and government agencies don’t have the resources and/or political will to enforce their own rules.

How can ethical salon owners compete under these circumstances? Why should we? Since when is compliance optional? Our responsibility as professionals is to understand and follow the applicable federal and state rules, not work around them. I’m not an expert on every state, nor do I have to be because I work in California only. In this state, any business that provides hair, skin and/or nail services regulated by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) must obtain a valid establishment license before it opens (a measly $50!), and renew it every two years. This applies to any kind of business, whether a salon, day spa, hotel, medical office or gym. Likewise, any individual providing regulated beauty services must have a valid BBC license (another measly $50!), specific to a course of training and scope of practice, and renew it every two years. (Note that the following services are not regulated by the BBC, and thus do not require a BBC license: natural hair braiding, styling wigs, threading, permanent makeup, tanning, massage and body treatments like wraps and scrubs.) Your state will likely have different rules, for which you are responsible; ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it.

We could complain that consumers, manufacturers and the media should know better and state governments should do more, but that’s not reality. I don’t expect consumers to understand the rules, but they should understand, at a minimum, that service prices must reflect the costs of operating a legitimate business (licenses, overhead, compensation, taxes, insurance, products, education, etc.). In a perfect world, consumers would demand quality services from licensed professionals in licensed establishments only.

And don’t rely on the media to educate consumers. We have them to thank for misrepresenting the facts and scaring consumers into believing that having your nails done professionally is dangerous and UV gels cause skin cancer, among other things. Even our own professional publications do us no favors when they promote unlicensed activity by referencing, quoting and/or profiling individuals and business that do NOT have valid licenses. (I won’t name names here, but I do report you to California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.) And no matter how many articles you’ve read about it, doing mobile services is not legal in California, except under very specific conditions which do not apply in these cases. If these publications wanted to serve nail professionals, they might start by ensuring that they feature individuals and salons with valid licenses, and clarifying that the services/products mentioned and/or advertised may not be legal in your state. Do your research!

Manufacturers know our industry, and yet some still take advantage. For example, when medical procedures are beyond our scope of practice and false advertising is a problem, why are callus shavers and detox foot soaks available? Because they sell. Before investing in any new equipment/product/service, confirm that it fits within your scope of practice, does not violate any existing rules and will be covered by your liability insurance. (And if you don’t already have liability insurance, or paying too much, check out the coverage provided by Associated Hair Professionals as a membership benefit: www.insuringstyle.com.)

If we expect others to act ethically, we apparently expect too much. Voluntary compliance obviously wouldn’t work because compulsory compliance doesn’t seem to either, thus far. Of course, the problem of unlicensed activity is not limited to nail services. In fact, one of the best examples I could provide involves skin care. In February, 2010, I discovered multiple articles online about vagina facials and immediately alerted the BBC. At the next board meeting (April 18, 2010), I presented the following statement and later emailed it to every member of California’s Business, Professions and Economic Development committees, both Assembly and Senate:

Vagina Facial, Anyone?

The fundamental challenges facing California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology can be summarized in just two words, vagina facial; or perhaps you’re already familiar with its trademarked name, The Vajacial™, a new service advertised by a licensed establishment in San Francisco called Stript Wax Bar. Having spoken to someone who works there, I learned that this service includes extractions, a mask and exfoliation for $60, and can be done immediately following a Brazilian bikini wax. Whoever developed this service is much more than a marketing genius; besides being titillating and garnering lots of publicity, the vagina facial can be performed without any concern for BBC regulations. That’s because body treatments, such as scrubs, masks and wraps, that are provided in many salons and spas are not regulated at all. The Barbering and Cosmetology Act does not define scope of practice to include the entire body, with the exception of hair removal. Through omission, existing law allows these services to be performed without any consumer protections to ensure health and safety, or to avoid potentially inappropriate behavior. Never mind the fact that during these services clients are generally naked while having cosmetic preparations applied to their bodies.

If vagina facials weren’t disturbing enough, let me address the fact that Stript Wax Bar operates two additional locations, one in Palo Alto and the other in Oakland, but according to the BBC website, it only has a valid establishment license for its San Francisco location. If true, this business will prove to be yet another example of unlicensed activity, a problem that undermines our professionalism, cheats our economy and places consumers at risk. Unlicensed activity warrants more severe penalties than are currently enforced, and the names of the violators should be publicized as a deterrent. Perhaps if the risks outweighed the benefits, the BBC could achieve greater compliance with its laws and regulations.

While the BBC was receptive and acted on my complaint, not one politician even bothered to respond. Why doesn’t that surprise me? Three years later, Stript Wax Bar has expanded to 3 more locations, according to its website (www.striptwaxbar.com); the above-mentioned Palo Alto and Oakland locations received their establishment licenses effective April 22, 2010, according to the BBC website (www.barbercosmo.ca.gov). Congratulations!

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.