A Global News investigation has found that many beauty salons and spas in Edmonton are violating sanitation safety standards, potentially putting public safety at risk.
Through a freedom of information request, Global News received 215 inspection reports of facilities offering waxing services in the city for the past three years.
The inspection reports reveal inspectors went to salons where “wax sticks are doubled dipped between each application, contaminating the bulk supply,” and they inspected another salon where the “wax was full of hair.”
The reports also show unsanitary conditions inside various salons. At one business, “the service bed for the wax room was very dirty with an accumulation of hairs all over.” In another instance, the “waxing bed was soiled — appeared to be visibly dark.”
There were also dozens of mentions about unhygienic tools and cleaning practices.
One report states that “tweezers in the waxing room were rusted and some still had stuck-on debris” while in another, “tweezers were placed in a soaking solution by the sink without being cleaned.”
WATCH: After you see the results of a Global News investigation, you might have some serious questions during your next trip to the waxing salon. Reporter Julia Wong looked at hundreds of reports, which show many salons in Edmonton are violating sanitation standards.
The violations go on and on, ranging from salons where operators claimed to reuse electrolysis needles, to facilities that had only expired disinfectant for cleaning instruments, to businesses that did not have dedicated sinks for washing and cleaning tools.
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Amanda Escalante, 22, is a regular client to these types of salons and has seen some unnerving waxing practices, such as failure to disinfect tools and change sheets on waxing beds.
“Unsafe, unclean,” she said.
“You never know what person has laid in that bed before you or what they could have on their skin.”
Escalante, who has walked out of salons after spotting unsanitary conditions, is now a student in the Professional Advanced Esthetics Program at the Eveline Charles Academy.
Kierra Steil, an esthetics instructor at the academy, said it’s shocking to hear about the businesses in Edmonton that don’t follow the best practices.
“The general population doesn’t always know or take into consideration what is proper and they just trust the business they’re going to is practicing the safest standards and that’s not always the case,” she said.
The instructor demonstrated to Global News what is involved in a proper waxing treatment, including using fresh linens on the waxing bed, cleaning the area that’s to be waxed and putting powder on to absorb any moisture. Staff checked the temperature of the wax before applying it to a model’s skin.
“We are not going to double dip our sticks,” Steil said during the demonstration.
“When you put wax on with a wax stick, you’re also picking up all of their dead skin and any debris you might have not gotten when you cleaned their skin. You’re dipping that into the wax — you’re cross contaminating.”
UBC dermatology professor Dr. Harvey Lui, who also works at Vancouver General Hospital, said there can be risks when hygiene isn’t top of mind.
“A lot of hair removal is happening in sensitive locations… the genital region, the armpits or other private areas of the body. Some people will carry infections such as HPV infection or something else,” he said.
“If you’re not using a cleaning technique in between each of the clients, then there’s the risk of inadvertently transferring these types of infections or pathogens from one person to another.”
Lui said it is important for customers and workers to assess the skin before getting a treatment; if there is something abnormal, he said it is a good idea to see a doctor first.
The Global News investigation also revealed that salons can sometimes go years without inspections.
AHS medical officer of health Dr. Kathryn Koliaska said waxing and esthetic salons are not required to be inspected on a “particular frequency.”
“At this point in time, AHS becomes aware of issues in personal services issues by a complaint or a referral from another agency,” she said.
Koliaska said AHS is working on a new inspection schedule that would see facilities inspected based on their risk level, something that she said is new for the province.
The inspection reports examined by Global News also revealed that some salons were repeat offenders, with one salon that saw unsanitary conditions cited in three reports within nine months. The reports cited poor sanitation of work areas, no cleaning supplies in the waxing room and hair left over on tweezers. If there are issues, the salons are then re-inspected until they reach a state of compliance.
Koliaska said a facility would have to constitute a “significant” risk to public health and safety and a “significant” risk of disease transmission to be shut down.
When asked about the concern for public safety in a situation where facilities are repeatedly offending, Koliaska said there is a shared responsibility between AHS and the operators.
“Inspections and an inspection schedule can’t possibly catch every potential safety concern,” she said.
While the province publicly posts inspection reports for restaurants, reports for beauty salons and spas are not posted. Koliaska said the public can call 780-735-1800 to learn more about a facility before they go.
Coming up Thursday: How is the industry regulated? And what can you do to protect yourself? Be sure to stay tuned to globalnews.ca on Thursday, Dec. 7 for part two of our series on waxing salons.
What issues do you want to see investigated? Or do you have a story you think should be investigated? Email email@example.com
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