Health, Safety & Hygiene

Sterilisation and sanitisation

  • Effective hygiene is necessary to prevent cross-infection and secondary infections. Cross-infection occurs through micro-organisms, that are contagious, being transferred through personal contact, touch or by contact with infected equipment that has not been sterilised.
  • Secondary infections can occur because of the client having an open cut or wound, prior to the treatment starting or by an injury caused during the treatment, and micro-organisms penetrating the skin causing an infection.
  • Sterilisation and sanitisation are methods used to destroy or minimize harmful micro-organisms that can cause infection.
  • Sterilisation – This is total destruction of all living micro-organisms/germs.
  • Sanitisation – This is the destruction of some but not all micro-organisms’ spores.
  • Sterilisation and sanitisation techniques that are carried out in beauty salons involve the use of heat and chemical agents such as antiseptics, disinfectants, and vapor fumigants

Methods of sterilisation

Why do we sterilise?

  • The therapist has a moral, and legal obligation, to take measures to reduce the risk of cross-infection.
  • Law/Legislation requires that businesses take certain measures.
  • Beauty therapy/nail services codes of practice, which are in existence, must be followed to ensure you do breach the law. The local environmental health officer can close a salon and/or enforce fines and in extreme cases imprisonment.
  • Your insurance policy may become invalid if you do not follow certain procedures. In the event of prosecution, your insurance company will not pay out if you did not adhere to legislations


Health and safety to prevent cross-infection

To prevent cross-infection, the following procedures should be taken:

  • Sterilise all tools before and after each client.
  • Therapist/nail technician must wash their hands before and after each client.
  • The client’s hands must be cleansed and checked for contra-indications prior to treatment starting.
  • Towels should be washed at temperatures starting at 60°c.
  • All work surfaces should be wiped down with a chemical solution, eg disinfectant before you set up for a treatment and after you have tidied away after each treatment

Before any tools are put into any steriliser they must be washed with soap and water first.

Autoclave (moist heat)

  • This is the most effective method of sterilising tools. It is created using an autoclave. This is a piece of equipment that heats water to a very high temperature (126 °c +). It creates what is known as super-heated steam and this is hot enough to quickly kill all common bacteria found in salons.
  • Medical settings use autoclaves due to their effectiveness in destroying micro-organisms. Small, handheld tools, e.g., tweezers, are put into the autoclave. It is sealed and the water inside it is brought to the required temperature. The temperature is maintained for the time necessary to ensure that all bacteria are dead, and then the water is allowed to cool before the tools are removed.
  • You must ensure that you have sufficient supplies of tools to allow you to work on other clients while the autoclave is in use. This is the main drawback of this method of sterilisation.
  • If you use this type of sterilisation method then you must buy tools that can withstand very high temperatures if they are to go into the autoclave, e.g., stainless steel.

Glass bead steriliser (dry heat)

  • It is a method that uses an oven to create high temperatures or glass beads within a cylindrical steriliser. Although micro-organisms are effectively killed by this method, tools can be damaged because they are held in the heat for an extended time.
  • The advantage of this method is that tools only take 30-60 seconds to sterilise. Once the tools have cooled, usually in barbicide, they will be ready to use in less than 5 minutes.
  • The disadvantage is that the whole of the tool is not sterilised as generally the tips of the tools are immersed into the beads. This method is only suitable for small metal tools like tweezers, comedone extractors and manicure/pedicure tools.

Methods of sanitisation

UV cabinet

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light rays are used sanitise surfaces. This method is not a method of sterilisation due to its limited ability to fully sterilise an item. Many therapists/nail technicians tend to use the UV cabinet to store their tools in after they have been sterilised using other methods such as the autoclave.
  • Disadvantages to the UV cabinet are the rays sterilise only the surface areas that they touch. This means that you may have to turn the items, if the UV lamps are only on one side, so that all surfaces are treated. Also, it can take up to 20 minutes to be effective.


  • This method is often used in salons and is effective if used correctly.
  • Common brands include barbicide, marvicide and sterilsafe.
  • Tools must be washed before being placed into the chemical solution; otherwise, the dirt on them will contaminate the solution.
  • The chemical must fully cover the item –many therapists place their tools into a sterilising jar that is only ¾ full.
  • The tools must be left in the chemical long enough for it to do its job, (follow manufacturers ‘guidelines).
  • This time varies, depending on the cleanliness of the item and the strength of the chemical solution, but it can be as long as an hour.
  • As with using an autoclave, this means that therapist must have enough tools to allow for the time to sterilise.
  • A disinfectant destroys some but not all micro-organisms, e.g., leaves spores behind. If for some reason an object cannot be sterilised, it must be wiped with surgical spirit and be placed in a chemical disinfectant such as quaternary ammonium compounds or Glutaraldehyde’s.
  • Once implements have been removed from the disinfectant they must be rinsed in clean water to remove all traces of the solution, to avoid an allergic reaction occurring on the client’s skin.
  • Cleaning with alcohol, either by immersion or wiping over the exposed surface of the implements, is a popular method used for equipment that cannot be put in a steriliser. Examples of this are make-up brushes, nail brushes.
  • Containers that are used for disinfecting should be washed out on a regular basis with hot soapy water and the disinfectant should be discarded after one use as it will no longer be sterile. All equipment must be washed first to remove surface debris, in hot soapy water, then rinse in plain water and dry thoroughly.

Health, Safety & Hygiene

Washing machines

Often when performing facials, especially in a non-clinical environment, towels and mitts will be used. Towels/mitts must be clean for each new client. When washing them the wash must be a 60-degree wash.

Most of the equipment needed for standard facials are disposable items that are one use.