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Some nail salons fined thousands for unsanitary conditions

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DENVER -- Nail salons in Colorado pay thousands of dollars in fines every year for unsanitary and potentially harmful practices.

A trip to the nail salon is supposed to be a luxurious treat. But that isn’t how a Centennial woman describes her last experience.

“Alarming. Unacceptable. Unsafe,” Carrie Parkinson said.

She visited Ooolala Nail Salon in Highlands Ranch for a pedicure in 2015. While the nail technician was cutting her cuticles, Parkinson says she cut her foot with the clippers.

“My foot began bleeding quite badly,” she said.

Parkinson said the nail tech wasn’t wearing gloves and didn’t use a first-aid kit. Plus, she said she applied a liquid to the wound from an unlabeled bottle that was sitting on a nearby manicure station.

“I said to her, 'We need to stop, I’m worried.' And she directly looked at me and said 'Don’t worry, everything’s clean,'” Parkinson said.

The FOX31 Problem Solvers found Ooolala was the eighth-dirtiest nail salon in Colorado in 2016. The salon paid $2,242.50 in fines for violations such as using dirty tools on customers and not labeling bottles containing poisonous and caustic chemicals.

Records of the top 10 most fined salons in 2016 found each one was caught reusing tools or foot tubs on customers without cleaning them.

“I think people don’t consider that there are real and present dangers associated with pedicures and manicures,” Kaiser Permanente dermatologist Dr. Michelle Draznin said.

She said the combination of dirty foot water and clippers can be a recipe for infection.

“Do you have any sores or cuts or wounds on your feet? Do you have any preexisting infections on your feet? Did you just shave your legs?” Draznin said. “All of those things serve as portals of entry for bacteria, viruses and fungi.”

That is why the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies holds nail salons to strict standards.

“Right out of the gate we ask for licenses,” DORA program director for the Office of Barber and Cosmetology Ofelia Duran said.

She said inspectors also look for the overall cleanliness of the shop and sanitation techniques with equipment.

Salons are fined for violations and put on probation for at least a year in hopes they’ll start following the rules.

“By and large, they do tend to improve,” Duran said.

DORA relies on the public to help find violations. Inspections are only done upon the receipt of a written complaint. DORA does not send inspectors out regularly to seek out or spot check compliance.

Nail salons with most fines in 2016

This map shows the 10 nail salons that paid the most fines in 2016. The data come from DORA .

Consumer tips from DORA when going to a nail salon

The consumer should make sure that the person providing services holds the proper license

The law requires that the license is displayed for public viewing. So consumers should see a license on the wall as you enter the salon or an individual’s station. If you don’t see it, it’s OK to inquire about their license. The type of license should be looking for are cosmetologist or nail technician. Any other license does not cover those services.

If someone is refusing to talk about a license they hold, or won’t produce it, it’s a red flag out of the gate. Very possible they are not licensed to perform the service.

Single-use items mean single use.

Items such as paper nail files, orangewood sticks, pumice stones, foam flip-flops wouldn’t survive the cleaning process. So, if a consumer sees these items as used/dirty, the client should ask for a new item.

Multi-use tools that are metal and plastic have to be disinfected with each new client.

If there is an appearance of lotion, skin, hair --anything on that tool – that demonstrate that it hasn’t been cleaned or disinfected, it shouldn’t be used.  Ask the licensee to clean and disinfect the item before it is used on you.


  • If you are showing up to a salon, take the opportunity to observe the person performing the service or the salon. Are employees they washing hands? Are they washing clients’ hands or feet when performing a pedicure? Are areas where surfaces provided clean and not disorganized?
  • Be responsible for your own health. If there is something in your health history that can trigger problems, be aware. Licensees don’t have your full health information and don’t have the authority to ask about your health information and all the technician can observe is what is physically present.
  • If you have any cut prior to getting services, may want to re-think that visit.
  • If something doesn’t look or feel right, ask questions, and if it becomes uncomfortable, ask them to stop the service.
  • If you’re going to get a pedicure, try not to shave your legs 24 hours prior to the service so there’s a lesser change of risk if exposed to a tool or item that has not properly disinfected.

Checking if your cosmetologist/nail technician has licensing issues through the Division of Professions and Occupations at DORA.

  • Consumers and licensees are DPO’s eyes and ears. If you see something that doesn’t look right, report it, and we will investigate. If a violation is found, they are posted on the DORA website with any accompanying discipline.
  • Go through the disciplinary actions and make an informed choice as consumers.
  • Consumers can check a license at
  • It’s important to note that DPO not only helps consumers, but educates licensees on rules and requirements by holding classes every quarter.