Problems at nail salons often go unreported because North Texans don't know where to file complaints.
That was the case for Benbrook resident Donna Bay until she saw NBC 5 Investigates' Consumer Unit's series on nail salon safety. For more than a year, Bay has been dealing with the effects of a lingering infection on her foot after a pedicure, but it wasn't until NBC5's stories that she realized she could do something about it.
"I didn't know where to go," Bay said.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is the state agency responsible for regulating the industry. Consumers can and should report any problems they see or experience at nail salons to the TDLR.
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Bay said she was a regular at a salon in Fort Worth until the day she was cut by a technician who was giving her a pedicure.
"She was just working on my feet and all the sudden she cut the side of my foot and we saw blood," Bay said. "It was just, like, a little cut and then she got nervous and she just dipped my foot in the water -- panic on her face."
By the next day, Bay said her foot throbbed.
"I knew something was wrong," she said.
Immediately Bay went to her doctor who put her on antibiotics, but the infection didn't go away.
Doctors said the source of the infection couldn't be determined with certainty and that any cut, even a tiny one, can be an opportunity for bacteria to flourish.
"When we have nicks and cuts on the skin they're able to enter the skin and cause infection," said Tara Rao, dermatologist with UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas
Bay's infection went deep, requiring two surgeries.
"I was out of work for a couple of weeks," she said.
By law, the TDLR must inspect nail salons once every two years. However, if there are serious violations found, then TDLR may opt to perform more frequent inspections.
NBC 5 Investigates' Consumer Unit obtained the inspection records for nail salons in North Texas for the past four years. During that time the TDLR conducted more than 6,400 inspections in the Metroplex, including inspecting salons and the individual manicurists who work in these salons. Inspectors noted more than 4,700 violations.
Bay's salon was among them.
A manicurist who was at the salon the day Bay was cut confirmed to NBC 5 that another worker accidentally cut Bay that day while using a metal tool that looks like a cheese grater. That tool is legal to use in the state of Texas, but banned in other states.
Bay said even a year later, she still can't stand on her feet for long periods of time and she can't exercise because of the pain.
She hopes more customers are proactive in lodging complaints to protect others. Stanford said that's crucial.
"Please file a complaint with us. If we don't know about it we can't investigate it," Stanford said. "We depend on the public."
Consumers can also look up violations at their salons. (Use the drop down menu to select "Cosmetologists" then put in your salon"s name under "Inquire by Company Name" and chose your city with the drop down menu under "Inquire by Location")