Dear Scott: Do hairdressers have an agency that checks on them to see if they are treating their clients up to some standards? Does anyone ever make unannounced visits to check on cleanliness, etc.? Other professionals have standards that must be met or they lose their license. Realistically, how do I know that the robe I change into was not worn by a couple people before me? I know that most people are very trusting, and most stylists are honest, but how do we know if someone is cutting corners?

Answer: There is nothing wrong with checking out any place that you are patronizing to see if things are up to your standards.

In the state of South Carolina, beauty salons are periodically inspected for cleanliness by the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology, a division of South Carolina Labor Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Yes, we get surprise visits from an inspector, complete with clipboard. The inspection report must be posted and is available for everyone to see, although this is not the case for all states.

Every salon must have a wet sanitizing solution container ready to go and a dry sanitation device to zap brushes and combs, ridding them of stuff that no one wants to think about. Multiple brushes and combs are necessary for any stylist that practices safe procedures.

Realistically, there is no way that the State Board can stand over the stylists in all the salons in the state and make sure that they are cleaning every brush that they use. It is the salon ownerís responsibility to be sure that the employees abide to regulations that are standard procedure and taught in every beauty school in the state of South Carolina. These regulations are really nothing more than common sense hygiene.

South Carolina also requires stylists to attend six hours of continuing education every year. The seminars are provided, for a fee, and are supervised by the state to ensure that cosmetologists are maintaining some degree of professionalism. Cosmetologists must provide proof of attendance to these required classes before their license can be renewed. State Board also checks to be sure that licenses are kept up-to-date during their inspection of the salon with a big fine if they are not.

If the salon you visit offers you a robe to change into for protection of your clothes, you are probably going to a nice place, and hopefully they care enough to wash them. Many salons donít provide clients with this commodity nor is it a requirement for them to do so. If the robes are a mess or if there isnít a container to dispose of soiled garments, these would be a red flag.

Tip of the week: A dirty shampoo sink with a hairball in it would be a good indication that itís time to move on.

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