WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dip powder manicures have become a popular staple at most nail salons. The hot trend is said to make color last longer than gel manicures.
Dip powder manicures are done by using a bonding agent on the nails. The nail is then dipped into a container of powder to apply the color, and filed down to reveal a shiny finish.
According to the North Carolina State Board of Cosmetic Arts, dip nail powder must be applied by pouring the powder into an individual container before dipping a consumer's nails. Once the service is complete, the excess powder must be given to the client or thrown away.
A WECT investigation of 50 nail salons in the Wilmington area, however, found this method is rarely practiced.
When simply asked how a dip manicure was applied, the majority of salons simply said they use the same container of dip powder for all clients.
In fact, our investigation revealed only one of the 50 salons is acting in compliance with state regulations.
Another salon said they do not carry the product at all, citing sanitary concerns as the reason.
Tooties Natural Nail Salon in Wilmington was the only one in compliance with state regulations out of the 50 investigated.
Owner Lisa Pyle demonstrated how they use dip powder, by pouring the powder from the larger container into a small, individual one. All excess powder from the service is thrown away at the end.
“I know it’s a waste, and it’s hard sometimes to want to throw that away, but you have to and you can’t do this,” said Pyle, who has been a licensed nail technician for over 30 years and has also taught cosmetology. “I wouldn’t feel right about it at night.”
Pyle explained how double-dipping hundreds, or potentially thousands, of client’s nails into the same jar puts the consumer at risk for serious infection.
"It can carry a lot of bacteria with repeated dipping. Someone had a little knick on them, anything. Blood born pathogens which is even worse than bacteria. When you think about it if someone has Hepatitis, HIV, you just don’t know,” Pyle said.
Dynh Le owns GDN Nail Bar in downtown Wilmington and he does not offer dip powder manicures for sanitary reasons.
"I don't know if you went to the bathroom and you didn't wash your hands properly or if you're sick and just constantly wiping your face and your nose," he said.
Le said he is not able to control the sanitation of the product, and if he does by following state regulations, he is wasting product which comes at a cost.
“We’re not just going to use something because it’s the newest thing on the market or the coolest thing on the market. Do your research. I’ve been doing nails for 19 years now and I’ve seen a lot of things come and go and a lot of things stick around and then the state board was like ‘no way!,’” Le said.
He believes the dip powder will eventually be banned by the state board, as they are not able to regulate it consistently.
The state board inspects each salon once a year. They will visit a salon more frequently if a complaint is filed regarding a regulation violation.
“State board doesn’t know, unless they’re sitting here watching you, they don’t know if you’re actually doing it and getting rid of it or if you’re dumping it back in or giving it to the customer. So at this point, it’s like he said, she said,” Le said.
As a part of our investigation, we purchased a container of dip nail powder and passed it around the newsroom.
Roughly 15 people dipped their fingers in a small container of pink powder and we sent it off to a lab to be tested.
An aerobic plate count was conducted on the sample, which is a broad test that observes for a large group of organisms.
None were found.
Both Pyle and Le said it is important to be a smart consumer and advocate for yourself in any salon.
“If I went into a salon, there’s a trust thing there and I would want to know that it was clean to use, no bacteria in it,” Pyle said.
She advises consumers to ask questions and watch things closely.
“You really are kind of putting your life at risk with infection,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If people are doing things the right way, they’ll be more than happy to answer your questions for you.”
Experts also suggest bringing your own container of dip powder to the salon, to make sure there is no cross-contamination.
If you visit a salon that is not following state guidelines or is conducting what you believe to be unsanitary practices, you can file a complaint to the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Arts here.