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Do Unlicensed Hairdressers Pose Consumer Hair Risks?

Vinti Singh, a staff writer for the has reported that some Danbury, CT. hair salons have not been inspected in 30 years.  Can you say ewwwww?

Singh talked to the owner of Anita's Beauty Salon on West Street, Tom Talarico, who claims a health inspector has not been through the doors of his salon for more than 30 years.

They can prove it with their last inspection sticker which harks back to 1978.

(Image of salon chair with hair clippings still on the floor - Haap Media LTD - All Rights Reserved)

Not only does this mean that health code violations aren't being checked, it means the licenses of the stylists working in the salon have not been verified either.

Is this a rare thing or does it happen a lot?  The issue of unlicensed hairstylists has recently become national news as hair salons in some states have come under the glaring spotlight indicating a serious lack of code and licensing enforcements in some states.

Keep in mind that hairstylist and salon licensing is managed at the state rather than the federal level.

(Image of shampoo bowls in hair salon - Courtesy of Haap Media LTD - All Rights Reserved)

The hair salon inspection issues are more serious in Connecticut because inspection responsibilities were handed down to individual towns and cities back in the 1970s.

As a result of the change in inspection requirements many Danbury salons have not been inspected.  Instead of the state policing salons and hairdressers, individual cities are in charge.  When small towns and cities are lacking the funds to pay salaries for inspectors the job falls low on the list of priorities.

Although you might think this is a good thing, the hair salon owners in Danbury, as reported by Singh, are concerned that the lack of regulations has allowed some salons to skate by on maintaining hygiene requirements.  Lack of proper hygiene in any hair or beauty setting can be dangerous for consumers in a number of ways.

There is also a concern that a number of Danbury hair shops are employing unlicensed hairdressers offering much lower prices than salons with the proper licensing and hygiene practices.  The unlicensed salons offering bargain basemen prices are threatening licensed salons with unfair competition.

Besides harboring unlicensed hairdressers, some of the hair salons which don't worry about hefty fines from non existing inspections are reportedly downright filthy.

Salons that don't follow specified hygiene requirements such as sterilizing scissors or clippers after each use can pose a number of risks to consumers including the development of a variety of fungus infections which will grow on the scalp, skin, face or necks of clients.

Hairdressers in Connecticut where inspections are rare are concerned that the unlicensed half price shops are destroying the hair industry.

It costs anywhere from fourteen to twenty thousand dollars (depending upon the school you attend) to complete licensing requirements in a reputable cosmetology school.

If unlicensed stylists are allow to operate salons and charge half the price of licensed stylists what is the motivation for anyone to go to cosmetology school and pay the high price to become a cosmetologist?

The unlicensed salons in Danbury are often operated by immigrants from Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries.  Since the salon industry in Connecticut has a lack of regulations it's easy for family members as young as 14 or 15 to set up shop to make instant cash.  Never mind the risks to hair consumers or the slow destruction of a previously tightly licensed industry.

State law requires that hair stylists have their license with them at all times and be able to produce it if an inspector or customer asks to see it.  The state Department of Health in Connecticut is not responsible for regulating salons and barbershops, but it does have jurisdiction over licensed hairdressers.

The state health department responds to complaints, and of the approximately 75 unlicensed practitioner cases it handles every year about two-thirds involve the hair care industry.  Unfortunately there are literally thousands of hair salons and a department with a staff not nearly large enough to handle ongoing regular inspections.

The state handed the responsibility of regular inspections to towns, but did not provide any standards, said Scott Leroy, Danbury's director of health.

"It's basically considered an unfunded mandate, and the standards don't include inspections and legal enforcement," Leroy said. "It's an incomplete law, a good-natured reference, but without enabling language."

If there is a complaint, the Danbury Department of Health will investigate on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Health. If the city discovers an unlicensed salon, there is nothing it can do, Leroy said, since the state is the licensing agency.

Some towns in the state have created their own municipal legislation to regulate salons and have proposed a salon ordinances requiring yearly inspections of all hair salons, nail salons and spas.

Some hair salon owners think the lack of inspections is fine.  Why?  The hair and beauty industry is self-regulating. If customers see a salon is dirty, they won't return.

While that is often true, do hair consumers need to catch a serious fungus or other disease at salons which are un-regulated?

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