Department of State Offers Tips on Salon Visits

Dec 20, 2010, 15:43 ET from Pennsylvania Department of State

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 20, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Before visiting a salon to "spruce up" for holiday gatherings, Pennsylvania consumers are urged to learn more about which techniques and equipment are permitted under law, according to the Department of State.

The State Board of Cosmetology licenses nail, estheticians and hair salons.

"The majority of salons work hard to stay in compliance with state laws and regulations," Secretary of State Basil L. Merenda said today. "However, we want consumers to be aware of what salons can and cannot do so they can make informed decisions and stay safe this holiday."

The department offers several tips to keep in mind when visiting a salon.

Nail technicians are permitted to use non-invasive metal foot smoothers, which can be sanitized, as an alternative to pumice stones, which cannot be sanitized and must be discarded after each use. However, the board prohibits the use of metal razors and rasps (which resemble kitchen cheese graters and metal files). This type of implement is considered invasive because it can cut the skin. Nail technicians and cosmetologists are prohibited from the use of metal razors or rasps unless under the direction of a podiatrist.

The use of the adhesive methyl methacrylate (MMA) by nail salons is illegal and may cause serious damage. Originally developed for the dental industry, MMA was adapted for use in nail enhancement products. In 1998, it was banned after it was found to be harmful. MMA may be identified by its strong and offensive odor.

An esthetics salon that offers services such as a body wrap or chemical exfoliation must use equipment that is of a cosmetic grade and not a medical grade, unless the services are provided under the direction of a physician. A client at a spa that promotes itself as a "medi-spa" should ask about the supervising physician. For chemical exfoliation, any production application with a pH of two or below would be considered medical grade; above two is considered cosmetic because it does not alter the skin.

Any use of lasers in esthetic services, such as laser hair removal, Intense Pulse Light and similar procedures, must be performed under the direction of a physician. The Federal Food and Drug Administration classifies lasers used on skin as medical lasers due to the risk and nature of the procedure. For instance, lasers could remove skin lesions that may be symptomatic of more serious conditions that should be medically treated. For this reason, medi-spas must be affiliated with a licensed doctor. Many physicians prefer to hire trained estheticians to work in their offices or in medi-spas.

The Board of Cosmetology does not regulate massage therapy services, although cosmetology licensees may massage certain areas: the feet, lower leg, hands, arms, shoulder, neck and head. Cosmetology salons are prohibited from providing massage of the torso and leg within the licensed salon area. Salons and spas may offer these services in separate areas but the cosmetology board has no jurisdiction over these services. Massage rooms should be labeled "Massage."  

Among the more than one million professionals licensed by the Department of State are 135,949 Board of Cosmetology licensees (as of Dec. 13, 2010), including:

  • 88,139 cosmetologists
  • 1,494 cosmetologist temporary licensees
  • 8,926 cosmetology teachers
  • 14,846 cosmetology salons
  • 166 cosmetology schools
  • 4,845 estheticians
  • 8 esthetician teachers
  • 1,560 esthetician salons
  • 13,683 nail technicians
  • 2,255 nail technology salons
  • 25 natural hair braiders
  • 2 natural hair braiding salons

When considering cosmetic treatments or other professional services, it is important that consumers seek out the services of only licensed individuals. To verify that a professional is licensed, visit the department's website at and, under the heading "You may also search for," click "Licensed Professionals" and enter his or her name. This site also informs visitors if any disciplinary action has been taken against a licensee.

To report unprofessional or unlicensed practice, contact the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs' Professional Compliance Office at 1-800-822-2113. Complaint forms are available at; under the heading "Not sure where to start?" click on "File a Complaint."

The 29 licensing boards and commissions oversee a range of occupations in health and business-related fields, including auctioneers, barbers, chiropractors, engineers, funeral directors, nurses, nursing home administrators, optometrists, pharmacists and many others. If a licensed professional is found to have violated either state law or that board's regulations, the board can impose disciplinary action against that licensee. Disciplinary actions may include civil penalties and the suspension or revocation of a license.

Learn more about the 29 boards under the Department of State's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs at

Media contacts: Leslie Amoros or Larissa Bedrick, 717-783-1621

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of State