Nail technicians, expert warn against dip powder nails

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Whether you like long, short, flashy, or classy, manicured nails can be a source of self-expression and self-esteem.

"Oh I love fresh nail day. It's my favorite. They're sharp, they're pretty, and it just makes you feel good. It's like getting your hair done," says Stephanie Perez, a customer.

Salon di Capelli in Merced offers a variety of services, including polish, gel, and acrylic manicures.

Becky Ogden has worked there for 11 years and has more than 30 years of experience as a nail technician. She enjoys keeping up with the latest trends but says cleanliness and safety are her top priorities. That's why she and many other manicurists across the country are concerned about the recent popularity of dip powder nails.

"People don't realize that just using the same one powder on another person, you don't realize the cross contamination that can happen," she says.

The process involves painting nails with a bonding agent and dipping them into a jar of powder. The technician then applies a special polish and files down each nail to create a shiny finish. Some customers say they love this technique because it's faster and lasts longer than other options. But the concern comes when the same container is used over and over again by many different people.

"Every time someone dips their finger into a bottle of nail powder, two things are happening. First, they're exposing themselves to whatever microorganisms are already in there, and they're leaving their own microorganisms that they brought in on their hands," says Merced College professor Dr. Valerie Albano.

Albano, a biology professor, believes bacteria, fungus, and mold spores can survive in a pot of the powder for weeks. She says that poses a potential infection risk, especially for people with weakened immune systems, and treatment can be challenging.

"The fungus can get deep down into the bed of the nail, and sometimes surgical removal of the nail is the only way to treat that infection."

The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology tells Action News it is aware of concerns about dip powder in other states but has not received any complaints at this time. When asked about the practice of re-using the same container for multiple customers, a spokesperson said it could be a code violation, but added, "We are looking into any scientific evidence that shows bacteria can or cannot grow in the powder. As of right now, there is no proof that bacteria can grow so we are NOT citing for this."

Still, some experts say salons should take precautions by shaking the powder onto nails instead of dipping them or using different containers for every customer. But Ogden says that's not cost-effective.

"Because of all the steps you have to take to make sure it's sanitary, I just don't feel like it's worth it for me to do the dipping because you have to have so many different colors and all of that, and it's just really expensive, and I don't have that many people that really want it done," she says.

Several other salons we contacted shared those same sentiments. So for now, the nail services they offer will not include double-dipping.
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