Sunday, 13 April 2008

Is your salon a Safe Salon?





Non standard salons and the problems with MMA in the UK are a constant concern, I have been chatting to Victoria Smith about how the industry can work together to combat these issues.

As a salon owner, Master artist educator and distributor for Ez Flow Nail systems Victoria Smith is well aware of the difficulties associated with running her own business and employing technicians to work with her at her salon, Room One near Norfolk, here she found that low standards of education and poor quality products were saturating the UK market. “It became clear how easy it is for an unqualified technician to find employment or open a salon and how little regulation there was in the industry to ensure minimum standards are achieved and maintained.
Although this problem does not affect the industry on a whole, it does affect the consumer, and how they distinguish the good salons from the bad.” Victoria explains the main problems clients face when choosing a salon and how she has developed a concept to help salons within her area. In this present climate Distributors are struggling to gain new accounts, Educators are finding it difficult to fill classes and Technicians are expressing the need to be busier. And it seems that fundamental solution to all this is to increase the amount of clients utilizing the services of professionally qualified technicians. “For too long the industry has focused on educating the technician, but should we educate the consumer instead”?

Victoria tells me that “With the sensationalized portrayal of the Non Standard Salon within the media, from television programs such as Watch Dog, who first brought these salons and their use of MMA to the attention of the consumer in 2002, and high lighting the need for caution. Along with Published articles in the trade and national press and web based information readily available, it is now difficult to profit in the nail industry. The consumer is left confused and unaware of what constitutes a safe salon. With prices impossible to compete with at the Non Standard salons, teamed with uneducated clients utilizing their services and unaware of the potential dangers of wearing an MMA enhancement, it has proved too much for the professional technician to contend with”

MMA is an abbreviation for a chemical also known as MethaMethacrylate. This substance in its liquid form when mixed with acrylic powder goes through a chemical process called polymerization resulting in an extremely rigid nail enhancement. This rigidity can cause major trauma to the natural nail if the enhancement is put under any strain. The alternative to this product is EMA, EthylMethacrylate, a product designed to create a flexible acrylic nail. MMA has incredibly poor adhesive qualities meaning in order to attach the product to the natural nail the technician must heavily etch the surface of the nail plate. This ultimately thins the nail plate compromising the health of the natural nail. In comparison high quality EMA liquid based products when applied by a qualified professional technician will provide a safe nail enhancement whilst maintaining the integrity of the natural nail.

“Educate the consumer about this and help her find a safe salon is the key” Victoria explains “Industry professionals have coined the term Non Standard Salon in a desperate attempt to reinstate consumer confidence in our profession. It is the Non Standard Salon that puts poor hygiene and insufficient training into question with some using low grade products. The term Non Standard Salon is also widely used when highlighting those salons that use MMA, this deleterious substance that can cause many problems when used as a nail enhancement product”.
This substance has been since banned in the USA, and most recently local government in Milton Keynes has received concern from constituents regarding the harmful nature of this product and has called for the UK to follow in the footsteps of the US and ban the use of MMA Liquid Monomer. MP Dr Phyllis Starkey raised this issue of banning MMA monomer in the House of Commons last November, and is now canvassing for nails bars to be regulated nationwide, she is intending to introduce a short piece of legislation in the House of Commons on 12th March, which will permit local authorities to regulate nail bars, and hopefully encourage a safe salon environment for the consumer.
On Friday 29th February Victoria and Dr Phyllis Starkey MP for Milton Keynes who has recently been campaigning against the use of MMA throughout the UK, had a meeting, which high lighted that Industry professionals have been under the impression that if a customer has a complaint to make against a non standard salon that this should be directed to the Environmental Health Department of your local authority. The Environmental Health Department however ONLY holds the authority to deal with complaints affecting EMPLOYEES in the workplace. They have no jurisdiction over any actions that may potentially harm the PUBLIC in relation to nail services. Also that regulation of our industry in the form of licensing must be SELF FINANCING – under no circumstances can the taxpayers money be used to fund this allocation despite it being in the interest of public health.

Dr Phyllis Starkey has been raising awareness of this issue amongst her constituents, fellow MP’s and local authorities and is attending parliament on Monday 17th March. Where she will have a ten minute slot in which to pitch her proposal requesting the right to discuss the matter further within government. Her fundamental aim is to propose an amendment of the Local Government Act 1992 allowing local authorities to license the industry similar to the scheme operating from Westminster and London Boroughs.

MP Phyllis Starkey however can only raise this issue in her constituency and is aiming to gain as much press coverage as possible to raise awareness of this issue throughout the UK gaining national support. This is providing us as industry professionals a real chance to stand up and be heard in the fight against the Non Standard Salon and the use of MMA. MP Phyllis Starkey welcomes all comments, experiences and information regarding this matter to support her arguments.

Victoria’s aim is to see all salons become safe salons throughout the country “A safe salon is one which takes its responsibilities seriously to provide a clean and hygienic environment for both its employees and customers. In order to do this Salon’s must regularly disinfect work stations, floors and surfaces as well as sterilizing all tools and implements. It is also vital that sanitation occurs between every client to prevent cross contamination of potentially harmful bacteria. Salons should also use professional products and have the education of all members of staff clearly displayed, this education should be up dated regularly, and NVQ levels achieved. ” Victoria goes onto explain that these details should be available to the client, in order for them to find a list of ‘safe salons’, Victoria has developed a unique opportunity, available for every technician nation wide to become part of a team to combat the state of the industry today. Safesalon.co.uk is the first independent assessment scheme for operating Nail Technicians Nationwide and provides the consumer, our clients, with details of all salons that have met the minimum requirements in salon hygiene, product quality and regulations, level of qualification held and customer service. These details are published and will be assessed on an annual basis to ensure minimum requirements are continually upheld, creating the link between the NVQ and brand led education

“Safe Salons.co.uk, is not just another business for me, but something which allows me to develop my industry and work with other technicians to make it one of the safest in the world” Victoria goes onto to say “ I am fed up with the lack of information available to the clients, and it is obvious they are hungry for it, these details are vital if we are going to grow this industry and see it flourish once more” Not only listed in a safe salon guide on the internet the Technicians can take advantage of a variety of other services which provides them with continual learning and an incentive to grow their own business and realize profit.
This scheme represents those technicians dedicated to continually updating their skills, compliant with all codes of practice as outlined by Habia, the government approved body for setting standards within the Hair, Beauty and Nail industries, Victoria’s aim is not only to educate our clients in what’s safe and what’s not, but to help us continue with our own education.

For more information contact; Victoria Smith on 0845 5211069 or 0779 5490923
info@safesalons.co.uk, or visit the website http://www.safesalons.co.uk/
If any of you would like to comment on how the use of MMA is affecting our industry, businesses and reputation please send your comments to: Phyllis.starkey@gmail.com

This article was written for and published in the April 2008 addition of Health and Beauty salon Magazine.

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