Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is your salon safe?

If you are looking for a professional ventilation system for your salon, there are two main possibilities. Either you buy a system that vents the air to the outside, or you buy a recirculating filter system that cleans the air and returns it to the room. Recirculating filter systems have the advantage that they are not a fixed installation, so you can move them around the room or to a new salon if required later. Fixed systems that vent the air to the outside can be less expensive if you have many nail stations, but the running cost are higher, it is expensive to change your room layout and if you move to a new address it usually not economic to take the ventilation system with you.

Recirculating Filter Systems for Nail Salons
A Swedish company called Filtronic was the first company to produce an effective recirculating filter system specially designed for nail salons. Their Beauty Line Exclusive Nail Salon Filter System can be seen in the photo above. Being based in Sweden, we use the Filtronic filters in our own schools.

The thing to note about this filter is the size. When it comes to cleaning air effectively size matters! What you want from a filter is that it sucks in enough air to take nearly all particles and chemicals, gives you a large enough working area, but is quiet enough to not be irritating when used all day. It is simply not possible to design a small filter system that can remove 99% of all dust and chemicals from the air. I will explain why later in this article.

Low-cost tabletop filters are only capable of capturing the largest visible dust particles. But it is the invisible dust particles and chemical vapours that are the most dangerous. The smallest particles can stay in the air for weeks (think of the pollution haze over LA) which means you are exposed to them all the time you sit in your salon, not only when you are making nails. If you don't have adequate room ventilation, then the concentration of airborne dust and chemicals will increase over time, further increasing the risk.

While a few small filters do contain an activated carbon filter to remove the chemical vapours, the amount of activated carbon they have is far to small to be effective. There are two reasons for this:

  1. When the chemical vapours pass through the active carbon, the active carbon is slow to neutralise the chemicals - the technical phrase for this is the "dwell time". So if the active carbon filter is thin, most of the chemical vapours won't be caught by the filter and they will simply be vented back out into the room. To remove all the chemical vapours in one pass through, the active carbon filter has to be deep; between 10 to 15 cm (about 6 inches). Even then, the air speed has to be matched to the carbon depth. If the air speed is too fast, again the carbon won't have time to neutralise the vapours (and the fan will make too much noise). However, if the air speed is too low then not enough suction is produced over your work area. That can mean that the system doesn't catch dust particles flying off the e-file when you work. A good filter system design considers both of these issues.
  1. Only the outside surface of the active carbon granules can be used to neutralise the chemical vapours. This means that only 10-20% of the weight of this filter is useful. So a carbon filter that weighs 5 kg (11 lbs) is able to remove between 0.5 to 1 kg of chemicals from the air. That's enough for between 400 to 500 customer services before the carbon filter has to be replaced. However, a carbon filter that weighs only 0.25 kg would have to be replaced every 12 to 27 customers which is impractical and too expensive for most salons.  

The Filtronic system has been tested by the SP Laboratory in Sweden - an independent test laboratory. The test results showed that the Filtronic system removed 99.95% of all dust and chemical particulates when making either gel or acrylic nails. The unit is so safe that it is the only recycling chemical filter system to be approved for use in nail schools by the Swedish Heath and Safety at Work department. That's important because in Sweden there is a law that all nail schools and any nail salon where the nail techs are employees, must have a professional air-quality ventilation system. 

In the diagram above, you can see the three different stages of a recycling filter. The first filter catches the big dust particles (visible), the second filter removes the smaller dust particles (invisible to eye) and the third filter uses activated carbon to attract and retain the chemical vapours. Notice the depth of the gas filter containing the active carbon relative to the other two filter stages.

An investment that pays back
At the end, a good filter system is more than a tool to remove dust, smells and vapours. It is an investment to protect the nail tech from potentially developing health problems to the extent they can no longer work in the salon. If your health is damaged, it is usually irreversible. If you develop an allergy, there is a strong possibility that your sensitivity increases and other allergies will follow.

A filter like this may seem expensive at first. But apart from ensuring that you can keep earning money doing a job you love, is also a great marketing tool because it shows your professionalism and that you have a safe salon both for yourself and your customers. There is a cost to replace the filters every 200 to 400 customers, but in our nail salons we found that customers were willing to pay a little more for each service knowing that we had invested in the filter system also for their safety. This extra money not only paid for the replacement filters, after one year it had also paid for the purchase price of the filter itself!

Buying advice

  • Buy a system from a company that also manufacturers industrial clean air systems. They are experts and will provide a well designed system that works. 
  • Ask the manufacturer if their product has been independently tested and ask to be shown the test results. If they don't have test results how can they know that the product will keep you safe?
  • Find out how deep and heavy their active carbon filter is. To remove more than 99% of chemical vapours it has to be 10cm to 15cm deep and weigh 5kg.
  • Ask for the contact details of some of their existing customers so that you can ask them if they are satisfied. 
  • Try to test the product for yourself so that you can also hear the amount of noise the fan makes. It should not be so loud that you find this irritating when working for 8 hours a day. 

(all images courtesy of Filtronic)

What level can be achieved in 3 years?

Imagine that you trained as a nail tech and just 3 years later you are the national gel nail champion and took 5th place at the World Championships in Germany with a score that was better than 17 other national champions - including the USA?

Along the way you started a successful salon, opened a widely respected nail school, became a product distributor and had your first child. Yet you still found time to develop your skills to an advanced level in all salon and nail art categories, and won the following titles:

2009 Open Independent Cup of Russia Championship (Russia)
• 3rd place in mixed-media nail art
• 4th place in gel sculpting

2009 Baltic Golden Hands International Nail Festival (Latvia)
• 3rd place in gel French sculpting

2010 International Olympic Competition for Nail Design (Estonia)
• 3rd place gel sculpted nails

2010 Baltic Beauty Nails (Latvia):
• 3rd place nail design
• 2nd place mixed-media nail art

2010 Open Independent Cup of Russia
• 1st place nail design (wedding theme)
• 5th place gel sculpted nails
• 4th place trend sculpted nails

2010 Baltic Golden Hands International Nail Festival (Latvia)
• 1st place gel French manicure
• 2nd place acrylic design
• 3rd place gel design
• 3rd place classic manicure

2011 International Beauty Show (Las Vegas)
• 3rd place 3D acrylic nail art

2011 Estonia National Competitions:
• 1st place in national gel sculpting competition

2012 Nailympics USA Competitions:
• 1st place in Div 3 (Masters) gel sculpting competition
• 1st place in Div 3 stiletto competition
• 1st place in Div 3 soak-off gel competition
• 1st place in Div 3 nail embellishment competition

It's enough to make you tired just to read this! But these achievements are real and owned by a remarkable nail technician called Viktoria Prihodko, who lives in the city of Tallinn in the small European country of Estonia (pop. 1.3 million). Because of her achievements and her superb skills in so many categories, Viktoria was promoted from Master Artist Educator to Global Educator for the Iryna Giblett Nail Academy. This is the ultimate accolade that we can offer, is by invitation only and must have the agreement of all other Global Educators.

This shows what is possible with dedication, hard work and great education. Iryna started to coach Viktoria two years ago when she became an Educator for our company, and she is one of a number of Educators who with Iryna's guidance have gone on to win national and international competitions.

Viktoria's website: www.irynagiblett.ee