Consumer Guide to Barbering and Cosmetology Services
- Health and Safety Guidelines
- Before Accepting Service
- Deciding on a Service/Selecting a Salon or Barbershop
- Scopes of Practices/Types of Service
- In-Home Services
- Unregulated Services
- Illegal Instruments & Techniques
- How to File/Resolve a Complaint
- The Bottom Line
The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology is part of the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Board regulates the professions of barbering, cosmetology (including skin and nail care), and electrology in the State of California, as well as the establishments (salons, shops, studios, spas, etc.) where these services are performed.
Anyone who provides the following services to consumers for a fee must be licensed by the Board: Hairdressing and styling, haircutting, shaving, manicuring, removing unwanted hair, skin care, and the application of cosmetics. In order to be licensed, individuals must complete an approved number of hours of coursework and practical training, and pass a written and practical (hands-on) test.
The Board licenses the salons and barbershops where these services are provided, and also regulates health and safety and coursework issues in approved barber, cosmetology, and electrology schools. The Board handles the following consumer complaints: Gross negligence and/or incompetence; unsanitary conditions in salons, barbershops, and schools of barbering, cosmetology, and electrology; the unlicensed practice of barbering, cosmetology, and electrology; the operation of unlicensed salons or barbershops; and misrepresentation or false advertising of services.
This booklet is being provided to you, the consumer, so that you can make informed decisions when seeking barbering, cosmetology, or electrology services in California.
The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology's Health and Safety Guidelines are listed below in this document. The laws and regulations from which these guidelines are taken are printed on the Health and Safety posters that must be displayed in the reception area of all licensed salons, barbershops, and schools. Every licensee must follow the health and safety laws in order to ensure consumer protection. When these laws are not followed, consumers may face health risks, such as contracting various infections, parasites, fungus, etc.
On your next visit to a salon or barbershop to receive cosmetology, electrology, or barbering services (a haircut, manicure, waxing, electrolysis, etc.), look around to see if the salon or barbershop is complying with the following health and safety guidelines:
- Is the overall appearance of the shop clean? Are the sinks dirty? Are the trash cans overflowing?
- Are the establishment license and Health and Safety poster displayed in clear view in the reception area? Is the establishment license current?
- Are current operator licenses posted in plain view at individual work stations? (Photocopies are not acceptable.)
- Are the operators performing only those services for which they are licensed? For example, manicurists and estheticians cannot provide hair services, and Barbering and Cosmetology licensees are not allowed to perform certain procedures, such as laser hair removal, which is considered a medical procedure.
- Are the operators properly disinfecting their instruments between clients? Did you see the operator disinfect the instruments after they were used on the client before you? Instruments must be cleaned with soap and water and then totally immersed in an EPA-registered disinfectant that has demonstrated bactericidal, fungicidal, and virucidal activity. The disinfectant container must be covered, and the disinfectant must be used according to manufacturer's instructions.
- Does the basin of the footspa look clean? Don't be afraid to ask the operator if he or she has removed the jets and screen during cleaning.
- Is the electrology equipment sterilized by a steam or dry heat sterilizer that is registered with the FDA? Are disposable needles/ probes available? Ask the operator.
- Are items that cannot be disinfected, such as emery boards, cotton pads, nail files, nail buffers, etc., immediately thrown away after use on clients? Note: Some nail files can be disinfected and don't have to be thrown away.
- Are clean items stored separately from soiled ones at the operator's work station? Are they labeled to identify them as clean or dirty? Are combs and brushes clean? Are manicuring instruments stored in a clean place and not hanging on the side of a cup or jar? Make a note as to where they place tools that were just used on you.
- Are clean towels stored in a closed, clean cabinet? Are soiled towels put in a covered receptacle? Is a clean towel provided for each client?
- Did the operator wash his/her hands before beginning services on you?
- Are the operators using prohibited instruments such as Credo blades, cheese grater-type metal scrapers, and lancets? Use of these instruments is illegal except by medical personnel. Do not let an operator use them on you.
Before you accept barbering, cosmetology, or electrology services, be sure that the salon or barbershop and the operator are in compliance with the following guidelines:
- The establishment and all operators must have licenses issued by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. All operators must display their licenses in plain view at their work stations. The salon license and the Health and Safety Poster must be displayed in the reception area.
- The establishment must have clean, working equipment and a clean work area. Regulations require licensees to wash and disinfect all tools and instruments, including whirlpool footspas, before they can be used on customers. An operator should never use the same tools on you that were just used on someone else without first disinfecting them. If an item cannot be disinfected (such as a nail buffer block or an emery board), it must be thrown away immediately after use. If a clean set of tools is not available for use on you, do not allow the operator to perform the service. Improper disinfection of tools and implements can spread disease and bacteria from one person to another, for example, the spread of nail fungus during a manicure or pedicure.
NOTE: You have every right to ask the operator to explain the disinfection procedures before a service begins. Many viruses can be transmitted through the use of dirty instruments, including HIV and Hepatitis B. Don't risk your health. If the disinfection procedure doesn't sound right to you, you should refuse the service.
- Whirlpool footspas are required to be cleaned and disinfected after each use by a client, at the end of each day, and every other week. In addition, a log must be kept that records the date and time of each cleaning and disinfecting, and whether the cleaning was daily or bi-weekly. This record shall be made available to clients and board representatives upon request. There have been reported cases of clients contracting bacterial infections from footspas. Individuals have been left with permanent scars covering their legs as a result of these infections.
- Electrologists are required to sterilize their reusable needles/probes and tweezers with either a steam sterilizer or a dry heat sterilizer approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some electrologists use disposable needles/probes and throw them away after each client. Some cosmetologists and manicurists may also use steam sterilizers or dry heat sterilizers to disinfect their metal instruments. Ultraviolet light sterilizers are not adequate for disinfectant purposes.
- In addition to disinfecting tools and instruments, operators are required to wash their hands between clients. Before beginning nail care services, operators should also ask their clients to wash their hands.
Talk with your operator before the service begins so that you both have an understanding of the desired results. Be honest. If you already have color or other chemicals on your hair, tell the operator. If you have had problems in the past with artificial nails, tell the manicurist. Tell the operator if you are taking any medications, since this could affect the outcome of the service. When you pay for the service, be sure to insist on a receipt. If something goes wrong and you must file a complaint, the receipt will help you prove that the service actually took place and may help identify the operator who performed it. (If the operator accepts payment by check or credit card, also keep your cancelled check or credit card slip.)
Barbering and cosmetology services should not be painful. You should report any side effects or unpleasant experiences associated with a service to your operator and to the Board immediately.
You'd like a change but aren't exactly sure what you're looking for. Maybe you'd like a permanent wave to add body to your straight hair, or a chemical relaxer to aid in styling your overly curly hair. You might be thinking about getting a completely different hair color for your next job interview. Or, maybe you're thinking of getting artificial fingernails or having a relaxing pedicure. If you're not sure what you want, the best thing to do is be observant. Look through magazines and cut out photos of styles and colors you find pleasing. Be a people watcher. If you see a style or color you like, notice the wearer's face shape or eye and skin coloring. Is it close to your own? Take notes so that when you decide to take that big step, you'll have an idea of what you want and can discuss your options with your operator.
The simplest and best way to find a reputable salon or barbershop is to ask friends, family, or coworkers. Ask them if they are satisfied with the services they receive. Whether you select an operator through word of mouth or by advertising, or just take a chance on a new salon or barbershop, take the time to ask about the operator's experience with all the services that interest you. Seek the operator's professional opinion, but don't let that be the final word. If you don't feel comfortable with what the operator suggests, don't feel pressured to get the service at that time. A second opinion can be just as important here as in other areas of your life.
All beauty and barber services must be provided in licensed salons or barbershops by licensed individuals who have received state-required training and have passed a state test in their specialty. Barbers can provide hair and limited skin care services. Cosmetologists can provide hair, skin, and nail care services. Manicurists can only provide nail care services, and estheticians can only provide skin care services. Electrologists can remove unwanted body/facial hair using electric needles or probes.
All licensees are required to display their licenses at their primary work stations. You have every right to ask to see the license if it is not visible.
If the salon or barbershop won't show you an establishment license, you don't know whether the shop is complying with the Board's health and safety guidelines. If the individual operator doesn't show you a license, you can't tell if he or she has had the required training to provide the service without harm to you.
For your protection, check out the licenses. If you don't see them and they aren't shown to you when you ask, walk out and find another salon or barbershop operator. To verify a license, call the Department of Consumer Affairs at 800/952-5210 or visit the web site. The Board can tell you if a license is current and when it was issued.
The various licensed barbering and cosmetology services are described below, along with special requirements and consumer precautions.
Barbering is the practice of shaving or trimming the beard or cutting the hair and giving facial and scalp massages with oils, creams, lotions, or other preparations, either by hand or with the use of mechanical appliances. Barbers are also trained in singeing, shampooing, arranging, dressing, curling, waving, chemical waving, hair relaxing, or dyeing the hair or applying hair tonics. Barbers also apply cosmetic preparations, antiseptics, powders, oils, clays, or lotions to the scalp, face, or neck. In addition, barbers are trained in the styling of all textures of hair. In California, barbering services may be legally performed only by statelicensed barbers in state-licensed salons or barbershops.
State-licensed cosmetologists and barbers may perform some common services; however, some services such as shaving can only be performed by barbers. Barbershops are most easily identified by the traditional symbol known as the barber pole. It is an unfair business practice for barbershops or salons to display the barber pole if a barber is not employed at that location.
A common tool that you will see in most barbershops is electric clippers. Like all other tools or equipment used on a client, these must be disinfected prior to each use with an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectant that has demonstrated bactericidal, fungicidal, and virucidal activity. The disinfectant container must be covered, and the disinfectant must be used according to manufacturer's instructions. Many clippers have a detachable blade. It is not uncommon to see a barber disinfect electric clippers by removing the blade, cleaning away any foreign matter, then spraying the blade with an approved disinfectant. Make sure your barber uses only clean, disinfected equipment on you during any service.
The practice of cosmetology is all or any combination of the following: Arranging, dressing, curling, waving, machineless permanent waving, permanent waving, cleansing, cutting, shampooing, relaxing, singeing, bleaching, tinting, coloring, straightening, dyeing, brushing, applying hair tonics, beautifying, or otherwise treating by any means the hair of any person. In California, cosmetology services may be legally performed only by state-licensed cosmetologists in state-licensed salons or barbershops. Licensed cosmetologists may also perform manicuring and esthetics as described in the following sections.
Manicuring is the practice of cutting, trimming, polishing, coloring, tinting, or cleansing the nails, or massaging, cleansing, treating, or beautifying the hands or feet of any person. In California, manicuring and pedicuring services may be legally performed only by state-licensed manicurists and cosmetologists in state-licensed salons or barbershops.
Are Artificial Nails for You?
Whether you will be happy with artificial nails depends on several factors, including your lifestyle and the type and length of nails you choose. In addition, you may discover that you have an allergic reaction to the chemicals in artificial nail products. Different types of artificial nails may be applied to natural nails to enhance their length and make them stronger. The most common types are acrylic and fiberglass applications. Some people are hard on their nails and hands because of their jobs or lifestyles, and are not good candidates for artificial nails. Speak to your manicurist or cosmetologist. Discuss what your hands go through in a normal day and ask for suggestions. You may decide that a plain manicure is the best service for you.
Nail Lifting, Fungus
Sometimes, the artificial nail begins to lift around the edges, allowing moisture to get trapped under it. Left untreated, mold or fungus (causing a green or brown discoloration) may begin to grow. If this occurs, your manicurist or cosmetologist should remove the artificial nails immediately and refer you to your doctor. Do not have the nails reapplied until your natural nails are completely healthy. Without proper treatment, these conditions could result in a permanent deformity of the nail. It should not be painful to have artificial nails removed. If the process causes you any pain or discomfort, tell your operator.
Electric Nail Drills
Electric nail drills are often used to file artificial nails. A licensed manicurist or cosmetologist may sometimes use a drill on natural nails, but only if the drill is designed for use on natural nails and the operator follows the manufacturer's directions. The drill bits on these devices must be disinfected before use. If your operator uses a drill bit (or any other implement) that has not been properly disinfected, you run the risk of contracting an infection. Sandpaper-type drill bit coverings, if used, must be thrown away after use on each client.
Pedicures can be a great source of pleasure for consumers, and a welcome relief to those who have trouble tending to their own feet. However, it is important to be aware of what a manicurist may and may not legally do. Pedicuring falls under the practice of manicuring (nail care) and includes cutting, trimming, polishing, coloring, tinting, or cleansing the toenails. It also includes massaging, cleansing, treating, or beautifying the feet. A licensed manicurist cannot perform any type of waxing. Waxing can only be performed by a cosmetologist or esthetician.
The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology's laws and regulations prohibit licensed operators and students from working on a person with an infection or communicable disease and from massaging any person's skin if it is inflamed or infected, or where an eruption is present. Thus, if a client has athlete's foot, eczema, or other similar conditions, the manicurist must, by law, refuse the service in order to protect other customers. (It is illegal for licensees to use certain instruments and techniques during pedicures. See "Illegal Instruments and Techniques".)
Before receiving any nail care service, you should inform the licensee if you are diabetic, have a peripheral vascular disease (such as arteriosclerosis), or are taking any blood-thinning medication, including daily doses of aspirin. This will alert your manicurist to take special precautions.
In October 2000, health officials received complaints about a large outbreak of skin boils from consumers who had received pedicures. It was determined that the boils were caused by contaminated whirlpool footspas that were not being properly cleaned and disinfected after each client. A footspa is a single piece of equipment that a consumer sits in, then places her or his feet in a built-in tub. These footspas often come with vibrating and heating pads built into the chair. The skin boils usually start out looking like a spider bite that gradually grows in size and eventually produces pus. These infections are caused by Mycobacterium fortuitum and other related mycobacteria. We come into contact with this type of bacteria every day, because it is normally found in water and soil. Such infections are relatively rare. If a salon's whirlpool footspas are cleaned and disinfected properly and in accordance with the new regulations adopted by the Board, the risk of these infections is very small. These types of infections can be treated with antibiotics.
If you do notice a skin infection, go to your doctor immediately and tell him/her that you have had your legs in a whirlpool footspa. The doctor can take a small biopsy of a boil to test for mycobacterial culture. Also, you may call the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology at 800/952-5210 to file a complaint, or you may file a complaint online.
You should never receive a pedicure if you have shaved your legs within 24 hours of receiving the service, or if you have any open sores or cuts on your feet or legs. This will help prevent the contraction of any bacteria. Always ask the licensee if the footspa has been disinfected after each client. The mycobacterium fortuitum leaves permanent scars and can be very painful.
Esthetics is the practice of performing facials, applying makeup, giving skin care, or beautifying the face, neck, arms, or upper part of the human body by use of cosmetic preparations, antiseptics, tonics, lotions, or creams. It also includes applying eyelashes or removing hair by tweezing, depilatories, or waxing. (It is illegal for estheticians to pierce the skin during any service or to administer any medications for pain control. See "Illegal Instruments and Techniques".)
NOTE: People who only demonstrate, recommend, or sell cosmetics are not required to be licensed by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology and may not receive (or expect) any compensation from clients for product application. In California, esthetics services may be legally performed only by state-licensed cosmetologists and estheticians (known as cosmeticians prior to July 1992) in state-licensed salons or barbershops.
Electrolysis is the removal of unwanted facial and/or body hair by use of a tiny needle or probe that conducts electric current. In California, electrology services may be legally performed only by state-licensed electrologists in state-licensed salons or barbershops. Cosmetologists and estheticians may not remove unwanted body/facial hair by electrolysis, but they may remove superfluous hair from clients by several other means. (This does not include laser hair removal devices or any other device labeled by the federal FDA as a "medical device.")
It is common for the skin to be slightly red and irritated for up to several hours after electrolysis. If you have more severe symptoms, like large scabs or blistering, or if symptoms last for several weeks, check with your doctor. Be sure that the service you're paying for is actually electrolysis and not simply electronic tweezing, which may not permanently remove the hair. Licensed electrologists may not administer any type of medication for pain control.
Chemical services such as permanent waving, straightening, and hair lightening or coloring all cause permanent changes to the hair. When done correctly, these services can make us look terrific. When done incorrectly, these same services can make us look and feel terrible. In California, chemical hair care services may be legally performed only by state-licensed cosmetologists and barbers in state-licensed salons or barbershops.
If you are going to have chemical services done, and your hair is in questionable condition, ask the operator to do the proper test before performing the service. For permanent wave services, a preliminary test curl may be done. This type of test will help determine how the hair will react to a permanent. It is usually done on tinted, bleached, or overporous hair, or on hair that shows signs of damage. A test curl also indicates actual processing time and curl results based on rod size and the product used.
For color services, the operator may perform a strand test. This pretest is given before the treatment to determine development time, color result, and the ability of the hair to withstand the effects of chemicals. If hair is color-treated, or if you are visiting a new operator, ask for a strand test to ensure the quality of service and the desired result. If the product is an aniline derivative (which includes all permanent haircoloring), the FDA requires a predisposition test (also known as a "patch test"). A predisposition test involves applying a small amount of the product to your skin to determine if you may be sensitive to the chemicals. Nearly all manufacturers of chemical products recommend that a predisposition test be performed 24 hours before the desired chemical service to determine whether or not the client could be allergic to the product. There may be a charge for a consultation or pretest, so be sure to ask in advance.
For all chemical services, a towel and/or other sanitary neck strip must be used to keep the full-length protective covering (i.e., shampoo cape, drape, smock, etc.) from coming in direct contact with a client's skin. The towel will also protect the client from solution that may drip during the service. (The operator may also spread petroleum jelly on the skin to help protect it.) The towel must be changed frequently. If it is too wet, it cannot absorb more liquids. If it has absorbed chemical drips, prolonged exposure to it can burn your skin. The chemical solution must be removed from the skin immediately on contact. If you feel chemicals dripping onto your skin or any burning sensation, inform the operator immediately.
Although some chemicals may have strong odors, they should not cause you discomfort, and salons and barbershops should have adequate ventilation to keep the odors from lingering. If the chemical odor causes you any discomfort, immediately inform the operator. Because the chemical application causes a change to your hair, it is imperative that the hair be allowed to adjust before it is shampooed. Heed your cosmetologist's or barber's advice to wait so many days (or hours) before you shampoo or use any hot implements on your hair. Otherwise, you could severely damage it.
Chemical exfoliation (also known as "skin peels") is a process by which layers of facial skin are removed with commercially available products. Various acids are applied to the face for a few minutes a day over several days. The skin reddens as if sunburned, then darkens and peels away, revealing a layer of sensitive, new skin. Recovery time varies from days to weeks or even longer, depending upon the depth of the peel. Chemical exfoliation is done to smooth wrinkles, reduce scars and blotchy areas, and improve the overall appearance of normal skin.
In California, chemical exfoliation services may be legally performed only by state-licensed cosmetologists and estheticians in state-licensed salons and barbershops, or by plastic surgeons and dermatologists in medical offices.
NOTE: The chemicals used by physicians are usually stronger than those used in salons and penetrate deeper layers of the skin. Any skin peel product with a strength greater than 40% by volume should be used only by medical professionals.
Chemical exfoliation is not the same as "deep cleaning" facials, also known as masks or facial packs. Deep cleaning facials simply clean the pores and slough off dead surface cells, leaving the skin in a softer condition. Board of Barbering and Cosmetology licensees are restricted by law to the use of commercially available (prepackaged) products designed for removing only the uppermost (dead) layers of the skin. Any service requiring greater skin penetration must be done by a medical practitioner. Cosmetologists and estheticians are prohibited by law from mixing or combining skin removal products, unless specifically required by the manufacturer's directions on the commercially available (prepackaged) product.
When performed properly by a well-trained practitioner, chemical exfoliation is usually safe; however, a significant potential for harm does exist. The chemicals used for the exfoliation procedure usually consist of one or more active ingredients, such as resorcinol, phenol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, lactic acid, and salicylic acid. These acids act by destroying skin tissue. Even a fairly mild acid left in contact with the skin for a prolonged period may do considerable damage.
Because of the potential for skin damage, especially if exfoliation is done improperly, it is essential to be absolutely sure that your skin care practitioner is well-trained and licensed. Before you schedule this procedure, follow these tips:
- Ask for names of satisfied customers who have received this procedure. Call them (or have them call you) and ask if they were satisfied with the service and if there were any complications.
- Ask what changes will occur in your skin during each phase of the procedure and how it will feel. Ask to be shown actual photographs (not just advertising brochures) of the licensee's clients during the various phases of the exfoliation service.
- Thoroughly discuss all aspects of the procedure with your practitioner, especially safety issues, hazards, skin types, and any conditions that may increase risks. If you have any doubts about the procedure or about your skin care practitioner's abilities, do not have the service performed.
- Advise the operator of all medications you are taking, particularly Accutane(r), Retin A(r), or any other acne medications.
- Ask to see the product to be used, and find out if it is a commercially prepared product. Ask if the licensee will be mixing any chemicals before they are applied to the skin. If in doubt, ask to see a copy of the product manufacturer's instructions.
- Call your doctor immediately after the procedure if you experience any symptoms that are more severe than those explained to you by the licensee. If you have to seek medical attention, take photos of the affected area as proof in case it turns out you have been harmed.
Electronic muscle stimulator (EMS) devices supply electrical energy to the body surface through plates, pads, or other attachments and cause contraction of the muscles. In California, cosmetologists, estheticians, and barbers may use electrical equipment to give facials or to help creams or lotions penetrate into the skin, but they must be set so that they promote muscle stimulation, not muscle contraction. Only licensed medical practitioners may use EMS devices to stimulate and contract the muscles to relax a muscle spasm, prevent tissue atrophy, increase local blood circulation, or for other purposes. Use of these devices by cosmetologists, estheticians, or other nonmedical persons for body toning, muscle firming or tightening, passive exercise, reducing or eliminating "cellulite," girth reduction, and similar applications is considered unsafe and fraudulent by the FDA. EMS devices have a great potential for harm if used improperly.
Excessive electrical stimulation can aggravate existing medical conditions such as cancer, heart and circulatory diseases, and epilepsy and may produce adverse reactions requiring immediate medical assistance. If a cosmetologist or esthetician uses electrical devices while performing a service on you, make sure he or she uses all safety precautions necessary for your protection. Do not allow a licensee of the Board to apply any electric equipment to your skin if you have a cardiac condition or metal implants unless you have the consent of your physician.
NOTE TO LICENSEES: To find out if a device is intended to contract the muscles, ask the manufacturer or representative and check the manufacturer's brochure. Beware of devices that advertise "passive exercise," "slimming," "cellulite removal," etc. These are services, by their very nature and title, that would require muscle contraction to produce the advertised result. Ask the representative to demonstrate the device for you. A muscle contraction can be seen with the naked eye—the muscle "jumps" when the current causes it to visibly shorten and thicken.
California law requires all barbering, cosmetology (including skin care and nail care), and electrolysis services administered for compensation to be performed by a California-licensed operator in a licensed salon or barbershop, or by a student in an approved school. However, the law allows licensees from licensed salons to provide in-home services in cases where illness or other physical or mental incapacitation prevents the customer from visiting the licensed salon or barbershop.
If you need in-home services, call your operator at the shop. Explain that you are ill or incapacitated and ask if your operator or any other licensee at the salon would be available to provide in-home services. The time and date of your in-home service will then be logged into the salon or barbershop's official appointment book. Licensees providing in-home services must follow all of the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology's health and safety laws and regulations.
If you are arranging in-home barbering or cosmetology services for someone in a convalescent home or skilled nursing facility, be sure to make the appointment with a licensed individual from a licensed establishment. Do not accept service from anyone who does not follow state health and safety guidelines. It is particularly important to tell the operator what medications the client is currently taking and to inform him or her of the client's disabilities or special needs.
If the client has difficulty communicating or is limited in other ways, you may wish to stay nearby during the service. NEVER ask the licensee to treat medical conditions such as ingrown toenails or corns. These must be treated by medical personnel only.
The following services are not regulated by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, even though they may be performed by a Board licensee in a salon or barbershop setting. The Board does not establish any specific sanitation, training, or minimum competency standards for these services, and licensees cannot lead consumers to believe they have been licensed by the Board to provide them. Before you have any of these services done, find out what type of training the individual has received, and ask for references.
CAUTION: With unregulated services, you may not always get the results you want.
The Board does not regulate the application of permanent cosmetics, body piercing, and tattooing, however, effective January 1, 1998, Assembly Bill 186 (Brown, Chapter 742, Statutes of 2007, Health and Safety Code) established sterilization guidelines and requires county health departments to conduct annual inspections of establishments offering these services. This law requires that practitioners are required to register with their local county health departments.
The Board does not regulate tanning salons, although some licensed establishments do have tanning booths. All tanning salons and tanning booths in salons licensed by the Board must operate in compliance with the Filante Tanning Act, and licensees must warn consumers of the dangers associated with the use of tanning beds.
Individuals who provide aroma or massage therapy are not regulated by the Board but must comply with applicable local regulations.
It is illegal for barbers, cosmetologists, and electrologists licensed in California to use certain instruments, such as "Credo" blades (tools fitted with razor blades), "cheese grater" type instruments, or scalpeltype blades to remove dead skin or shave calluses during pedicures. Licensees are also prohibited from using needle-like instruments, such as lancets, to extract skin blemishes or to perform similar procedures. It is illegal for these instruments to even be in a salon or barbershop. Such acts, and any other services that affect the structure or function of living tissue of the face or body, are considered invasive procedures and should be performed only by medical professionals or by the clients themselves outside the licensed salon or barbershop.
Some manicurists and cosmetologists who perform artificial nail services may use a product known as liquid methyl methacrylate monomer (LMMM/MMA). The FDA discourages the use of this chemical in fingernail products. Although LMMM/MMA is difficult to detect because it is not visually distinguishable from other regular nail acrylic products, consumers should be aware of the following warning signs: A very strong and strange odor different from regular acrylic nail products, very hard nails that may be difficult to file, and artificial nails that will not easily soak off in solvents. You could have a severe allergic reaction to products containing this chemical, and there is the potential for dangerous nail infections resulting from breaks in the natural nail. When LMMM/MMA is used, the acrylic nail adheres so strongly to your natural nail that it may cause the natural nail to be removed from the nail bed under extreme pressure. The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology recommends that you do not allow this chemical to be used on you.
Consumers should also be aware that licensees cannot legally give injections or apply any topical prescription medications. If a licensee offers these services, for example for pain control during electrolysis or permanent cosmetic tattooing, you should decline.
Laser hair removal is currently being advertised as a popular technique; however, it is illegal for any Board licensee to perform this service. The equipment used to perform laser hair removal is classified as a "medical device" by the FDA, and use of these machines is considered the practice of medicine. Laser hair removal may be performed only by a physician or by a registered nurse or a physician's assistant who is working directly with a physician.
Only licensed cosmetologists and estheticians may perform waxing. Manicurists cannot perform waxing. If you receive waxing services, always look at the wax and the container that is holding the wax— make sure that it is clean and kept in a sanitary manner. An example of unsanitary operation is if the operator is re-dipping the instrument (stick) into one big wax container and then applying that wax onto your skin. Anything that cannot be disinfected before it comes into direct contact with a person needs to be disposed of in a waste receptacle immediately after use. This includes the wax and the instrument(s) used to apply the wax.
If you are unhappy with the services you received, first discuss your concerns with the operator, manager, or owner of the salon or barbershop. Many complaints can be quickly resolved this way, and you may be given a refund or corrective services at no cost. However, you should be aware that many individuals in the beauty industry are independent contractors who rent booth space from the salon or barbershop owner. Because these operators are not employees, the salon or barbershop owner may not have control over the quality of the services rendered or the authority to demand that they provide a refund.
NOTE: The Board cannot recommend a business or product or resolve "buyer’s remorse."
If you are injured by any licensee of the Board, discuss what happened with the operator and salon or barbershop owner. Take photographs of the injury and have another professional look at it to provide independent confirmation. Seek medical attention if necessary, and always file a complaint with the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (see the following).
If you feel that a barber, cosmetologist, manicurist, or other licensee has violated state health and safety guidelines, call the Department of Consumer Affairs' Consumer Information Center at 800/952-5210 and request a complaint form. Complaint forms are also available online on the Board's web site. Board representatives will review your complaint and determine the appropriate course of action to resolve the issue and/or obtain salon/barbershop/operator compliance with the laws and regulations. You may also file a complaint to report unlicensed activity, false advertising, or fraud.
If you're not comfortable with what you see in a salon or barbershop, the best thing you can do is leave. Find another salon or barbershop that follows the Board's health and safety guidelines. Beauty and barbering services should not hurt or injure you, or put you at risk of infection.
This publication may be copied if:
(1) The meaning of copied text is not changed or misrepresented.
(2) Credit is given to the Department of Consumer Affairs' Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.
(3) All copies are distributed free of charge.
In other situations, express written authorization is required. You may order an additional copy of this publication without charge, subject to availability, by writing to:
Board of Barbering and Cosmetology 2420 Del Paso Road, Suite 100 Sacramento, CA 95834
For more consumer information visit the Board's web site.