06 December 2010

The Big Question at a Russian Salon

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I see a red flag and hear a bell...

There I was, just 68, fat dumb and happy, in the salon chair a few weeks ago.  Angela, wearing an orange doll wig, had just finished with the electric clippers.

She unzipped an old leather case with several small scissors, took one and started trimming my hair.  At that moment I woke up about barber safety and wondered….

Where’s the Barbicide?  How many times has she used those scissors without cleaning, disinfecting or sterilizing them?  

Suddenly I was curious about salon sanitation in Russia and the USA.

Inspections can be their own symptoms...

How well a society handles inspections… of business accounts, fire safety, sanitation…  reflects the thinking and conditions of that country.  Russia has comparatively few inspections and poor oversight of public safety.  There are inspectors, but some of them seem uninspired, unorganized, and corrupt.

Tara Lynn from South Florida, a hair stylist who wrote for Epinions, had the most informative article listed by Google, “Ten Dirty Little Secrets Your Hair Stylist or Barber Will Hate Me for Telling You”. (Hot link at end of post)

She describes the viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and head lice that can be caught in a hair salon.  Then she lists the sanitation violations she sees frequently.

OK, I'm motivated!  What's the next step?

Even before my fateful trip to EconClass hair salon, I was thinking about making a survey of the local shops to find one that would wash my hair before cutting. Why not add a few questions about sanitation?

My list

  • Waiting area clean?
  • Hair swept often?
  • Scissors and combs sanitized after each use? 
  • Brushes de-haired and sanitized? 
  • Barbicide solution?  A steam autoclave? 
  • Stretch papers or a clean towel to protect neck from cape? 
  • Hands washed between customers? 
  • Licenses displayed? 
  • Last inspection report on wall?

My Russian wife talks turkey...

I asked Larissa to help me with Russian phrasing.  After writing and explaining some vocabulary about clean implements, she stopped and looked at me...

Robbie, you know what people are like. You can’t ask these questions without getting some Russian Rudeness.  It isn’t America where the Customer is King. 

[She continued] Just recently I went to a salon where two stylists were smoking at the doorway.  One told me to go inside and wait.  They were outside chatting long after they finished their cigarettes.  I went to the door and asked when they would be ready to work.  One of them came in, but of course there was no apology.

First ask questions in our usual salon, EconClass, and try to be tactful.  Otherwise they will think someone sent you to get them in trouble.  You don’t need the upset.

It’s true the people here are a different type of critter from  the typical American.  They have little interest in prevention, are locked in a system of corruption, and have trouble organizing improvements.  If you confront these roadblocks head-on, nothing will change but trouble may result.

A constructive relaxed approach...

Larissa's right.  No one likes someone with a foreign accent suddenly asking questions about how they do business. I can't replace a missing inspection system.  Who would I call if there are violations?  No one would do anything anyway.

Better to observe cleanliness at the salon we go to, and ask them one awkward question as tactfully as I can.  So my question next time I am in the shop for a trim is...

       How do you disinfect the instruments?... scissors, combs and brushes, electric clippers?  как вы делаете                 дезинфекцию инструмена? 

I'll let you know what I find out in the next post, when the weather isn't quite so bitter cold, and my hair is longer.  It's a question that merits an answer no matter where you live.  I'd be very interested to read in the Comments what you find out about sanitation at your own barbershop or salon!

Just click on the title to read the article...

Ten Dirty Little Secrets Your Hair Stylist or Barber Will Hate Me for Telling You

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  1. This is really not something to worry about. Its really not standard practice in ANY salon to "disinfect" scissors every day--mostly because the chemical treatments are so hard on them. UV is impractical and not terribly effective.

    Combs are another matter, but as a microbiologist, let me assure you that you're at this very moment already swimming in a pool of your own bacteria and fungi. Yes, there are potential pathogens (or parasites, like lice) which can be spread via combs or scissors, but the risks are probably very low under normal circumstances. I think most of our revulsion to the "idea" of uncleanliness is part of our particularly victorian attitudes about sanitation which are so prevalent among Americans.

  2. Hmm just hope anonymous knows what he/she is talking about!

  3. Thanks, Anonymous...

    for your calm way of looking at things. To me it's sort of like crossing the street... the risk each time is small, but why not take the time to be careful?

    The most obvious risks in a hair salon have to do with manicures and pedicures. Customers are safer if they bring their own files and so on, and insisting the soaks are changed each time.

    St Petersburg is best for people with high immunities and savvy caution. I agree I have some of that American Victorian attitude towards sanitation, but it's dangerous to just muddle around Russia without a cautious eye.


  4. Hi Rob,

    The counterbalancing comment of Anonymous motivated me to search Google for hair salon law suits in the States.

    The sanitation problems are there in the USA, so I assume with current conditions in Russia, caution is a good thing.

    Thanks for stopping by from sunny Spain!



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