The CBC I-Team visited two salons previously written up by Manitoba Health inspectors and found violations and unsafe practices continue even after they had been sanctioned.

Aloha Nails on Regent Avenue had previously been cautioned by provincial health inspectors for high bacteria counts in foot baths, for its "dirty and dusty" workstations and for reusing single-use tools like files and buffers.

Mike LeBlanc

The I-Team reviews what its secret shoppers saw in salons to Manitoba's Chief Health Inspector Mike Leblanc (CBC)

The I-Team's secret shoppers observed staff working again on work surfaces coated in nail dust and dead skin and reusing nail files and buffers on clients.  

The province's chief health inspector wasn't impressed.

"Not good," Mike LeBlanc said, when the I-Team presented its findings. "They should be doing better than that."

Public health inspectors have written up Aloha on Regent four times since 2012. The last inspection in March 2015, prompted by a complaint from a customer who believed she had contracted a foot fungus after a pedicure, found Aloha to be compliant with all regulations.

In Manitoba, inspections of spas and salons are only prompted by public complaint. The I-Team's secret shoppers visited Aloha in December, nine months after its last inspection.

"We would be revisiting them and reinforcing with them, encouraging them to maybe get more training and to follow their training and the guidelines," said LeBlanc.

The I-Team also visited Chic Nails, which was the subject of a complaint in September of 2015. During the I-Team's visit, the nail technician failed to sanitize the secret shopper's hands before starting the manicure and used a previously used single-use nail file and buffer.

"They should be disposing of the disposable ones in between clients, and they should be doing that in a public way to show, 'Look, we're throwing this away. We're not reusing it for the next person,'" LeBlanc said.

Aloha Nail File

A worker at Aloha Nails uses a previously used emery board on I-Team secret shopper. (CBC)

As for sanitizing a client's hands before starting work, LeBlanc said: "They should be washing people's hands beforehand."

"We would take another look at them and to make sure that they're complying with our guidelines," he said.

Carter Chen speaks for Chic Nails. When told of the infraction caught on camera, he told the I-Team it was an isolated incident.

"Well, we do have some turnover within the salon," Chen said. "Sometimes you can't always check on each employee."

The salon keeps a list of salon rules in the back of the salon, which tell staff how to treat single-use items, Chen said.

The I-Team's calls to Aloha were not returned.

The Registrar of the College of Podiatrists of Manitoba said podiatrists occasionally have to deal with the after effects of poorly performed or unsanitary pedicures: ingrown nails, infections and fungus.

Martin Colledge

Martin Colledge is concerned after a sales consultant contacted him about buying advertising on the RateMDs website. (CBC)

"Forty to 60 per cent of the population over the age of 50 has clinical evidence of fungal infections in the nail.  The questions is, is that something that is transmitted through spas and pedicures?" Martin Colledge asked.

Colledge also worries about the ways some spas and salons advertise their services.  Some are advertising that they have "master pedicurists" on staff who claim to be able to treat people with health problems as opposed to offering cosmetic services

"The competency of what they are offering is unclear," Colledge said, "As a regulator I have some concerns about that."

In particular, Colledge worries about pedicure clients with diabetes.

"What may appear to be a callous can actually be underneath that quite a deep ulcer," Colledge said. "So if you have someone who despite their best intention starts cutting away at a callous in someone who has that what they may reveal is a whopping great hole in the foot which they probably wouldn't be competent to deal with."

Colledge cautions people looking for serious foot care to seek a regulated health care provider like a podiatrist, rather than an esthetician.

 'If it's too good to be true, it probably is.' - Jocelyn Diamond, esthetician

But if you're just looking for a straightforward pedicure, how can you be sure your salon or spa is compliant with regulations?  Esthetician Jocelyn Diamond said price can often be a good indicator of whether a spa is following the rules.

"Price says a lot," Diamond said. "If it's too good to be true, it probably is.  They're probably not throwing away their disposable items and their service provider may not be paying a fair wage."

Diamond estimates a basic pedicure should be between $35 and $45 which would factor in the cost of using new single-use tools like emery boards and quality sterilized re-usable tools.  She said a basic manicure should cost at least $25.

Diamond urges consumers to be wary of bargain prices on esthetics services because those businesses could be "cutting corners with products, cutting corners with your health, cutting corners with their staff, not using good, quality product."

Esthetics factoid

(CBC News Graphics)

with files from Holly Moore and Samantha Samson