By-laws and hygiene stipulations differ from city to city in Canada, so being aware and asking the right questions is your best protection. Read on for tips on how you can be a proactive spa client.
Pre-appointment, make sure that your esthetician washes her hands, and that the wax pots, wooden popsicle stick applicators and paper-covered waxing bed are all free of stray hairs. Stick applicators should come from a clean container – not a pocket, or dusty drawer – and be dipped in the wax once during your session before being tossed in the garbage. If the esthetician double dips into the wax, beware! “If you see the stick going back into the wax, assume that they’re doing that with every client,” says Cecilia Alterman, Manager of Control of Infectious Diseases at the Toronto Board of Health’s Infection Control Program. “That wax pot could become contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, or bacteria [from other clients].” Customers often think that the wax pot is hot enough to kill the bacteria, but studies have shown that in many cases it’s not.
Wax rollers, and tweezers can be additional red flags. Wax rollers cannot be cleaned. If your esthetician uses one, ask if it’s brand new. “If it’s dirty or the wax is half gone, they’re reusing it and that’s a big no-no. There’s the perception that it’s more hygienic than a pot because it’s a sealed cartridge, but if it’s being reused it’s worse,” says Alterman. Tweezers can also pose a hygiene risk if they’re used to dig out ingrown hairs below the skin’s surface. They can introduce bacteria to your broken skin if they’re not sterilized in an autoclave. The smarter option is for an esthetician to use a new pre-packaged single-use needle. “They open the needle in front of you, remove the ingrown hair and then discard the needle into a sharps container,” says Alterman.
Proper hygiene practices should be in place before your facial begins. Is your esthetician wearing gloves? Did she cleanse your face with an alcohol or iodine solution to protect against harmful bacteria that could enter punctured skin during an extraction? If the answer is yes to both questions, your session is on the right track.
Be wary if your esthetician uses a comedone extractor. This device features a tool on each end – a loop for the removal of blackheads, and a sharp lancet for opening pimples. If the pointy end is used for pimple extraction, the spa must ensure that it’s not only disinfected, but also sterilized in an autoclave. “The lancet could be going into the skin where there’s blood. If it’s not sterilized it could pass an infection onto the next person,” says Alterman. Autoclave sterilization devices are expensive, so most spas go without. If your facial regime includes the lancet, ask your esthetician about her sterilization routine before allowing its use.
Dermarollers should also be avoided. Covered in multiple rows of tiny metal spikes, they’re marketed as a tool to exfoliate the skin and stimulate blood cells. In reality, they’re impossible to clean or disinfect between clients, creating the potential for infections.
Any other instruments including needles should be sterile, single-use and discarded in a sharps container once your facial is complete.
Unlike laser hair removal, electrolysis is considered an invasive procedure because a needle is inserted into your skin’s hair follicles. “The needles should be pre-packaged, sterilized, single use, and never reused – even on you,” says Alterman. Gone are the days when a client’s electrolysis needle was saved, and reused at their next appointment. The pen-like device that holds the needle should also be cleaned in a high level disinfectant as it can touch your skin.