Nail Salon

Reporter: Jasmine Homer

Amber Kittson's a beautician who's seen the downside of the nail boom. Poor infection control, dodgy techniques and cheap toxic chemicals. "You'll find your cheaper places use, sort of an inferior quality product and a lot of these products have actually been banned in a lot of different countries except for Indonesia and Australia."A recent investigation by Today Tonight found methyl methacrylate.... a banned substance used to harden acrylic nails ... was still available to buy in Australia.

Amber says "To actually get this product to adhere to the nail they've got to remove the shine on the natural nail and actually really really rough it up so bad and then once the product adheres it is adhered so firmly that there is no way you could remove it except for physically prying it off." ...which takes layers off your own nail. But despite the horrific consequences of poor workmanship, thousands of women are prepared to take the risk and go on cost alone.

Getting a set of acrylic nails used to be an expensive, time consuming luxury. But in recent years Perth's beauty market has been flooded with dozens of new cut price nail bars, making the whole process much quicker and cheaper it's become a standard grooming routine for thousands of women.We price tested nail salons from Joondalup to Rockingham to find Perth's best value nails. The results in a minute but first - more of the pitfalls.

Jackie Elliot says lack of care and hygeine at a cut price nail bar gave her a nasty infection. "They were rough, like it would hurt. Sometimes they would nick it, and there'd be a little bit of blood and they'd just wipe it off."

Your feet are also at risk. This is a pedicure gone wrong; too much skin scraped off the heel. Norma Roberts advises the government on health and safety for nail salons. She says tools that aren't sterilised between customers, carry fungus...

bad news for nails. Norma Roberts says "It's terrible, you can lose your nails, it transfers so easily to other people."

We sent three nail-lovers to investigate.

Armed with secret check lists, Jenna, Mia and Lara each went to a cut price nail bar for a full set of acrylics and a pedicure.

Check number one - did they see the therapist wash their hands?

Jenna says "Not beforehand I didn't, no."

Mia says "No. No washing of hands? No."

Lara says "I didn't but the sink was at the rear of the store so it made it quite difficult but there was a wash area down there so who's to know."

Check number two - did the therapist wear gloves?

Mia says "For the pedicure yes, for the manicure no."

Lara says "Gloves for both, when the nails were being done I think when the drill was being used."

Jenna says "No gloves at all. On either? On either."

Three - were the tools sanitised in front of them?

Jenna says "Unfortunately no, they were just thrown back in a drawer, I would probably say that they weren't sanitised."

Mia says "She didn't wipe it with anything and I did see her use the same instrument the same buffer on the girl that came after, so."

Four - was the pedicure basin disinfected?

Lara says "Once the pedicure was finished that was cleaned with antibacterial spray, wiped down as well."

Jenna says "They did scrub it after, after I'd finished."

Mia says "Not before and after I noticed that they drained the water and she didn't continue to bleach it. There was no sort of scrubbing afterwards at all."

Was the service friendly?

Jenna says "They were really, really friendly"

Lara says "Yeah, very polite, very friendly"

Mia says "They were really, really friendly but to get my foot up on the spa to do the pedicure, it was a bit of a tap on the leg like up you get, wasn't really speaking to me, it was like... Gesturing? Yeah it was gesturing, like if you've got to clean the hoof of a horse, like come on up you get."

No complaints on price either.

Jenna says "It only cost what 90 dollars for a pedicure and a full set of acrylic nails, it's pretty good."

Mia says "80 bucks for both, can't complain really."

Lara says "I think 95 for the two wasn't too bad."

The girls think their nails look great.

Then the professional has a look. Amber says "A lot of these nails have been built really flat so I don't know the durability of them because where we actually need the strength is through the middle part of the nails. The sides as well are a little bit wide and a little bit thin, so it's more the durability of these and see how long they'd actually last. And also when you look at it from the front they're quite thick and when you check them from the side they're quite flat so again the durability of them.

Amber says "I've found a couple of nails with the free edge has actually already pulled away and separated from the tip, so you'll find that tip will just continue to pull away. But they are quite nice and short, the shape's really even as well so I will compliment that."

So, the final verdict?

Mia says "I'd have to say about a 7 out of ten, taking into account what Amber's said. It is a really nice paint job and although they're not the strongest nails, 80 bucks - can't complain."

Lara says "I'd probably say about a 7 for mine."

Jenna says "You get what you paid for and the service was pretty good. I'd probably give them a six out of ten."

Now our survey results.

The average price in Perth for a full set of acrylic nails - 62 dollars. 37 dollars for refills - which you need every two weeks.

The cheapest we found...

Gentle Nails - in Rockingham.

You can get a full set for 40 dollars. And refills for 25.

The cost for a year's worth of nail maintenance - 630 dollars.

Less than a quarter of what you'd pay at Perth's most expensive salon, where a full set costs 200 dollars and refills - one hundred.

A whopping 2600 dollars a year.

But Norma Roberts says a nail salon doesn't have to be cheap to be nasty ... and if you want value for money AND safety - it's up to you to demand proper hygeine. "The client has the right, no matter what they're paying, whether it be a lot or a little, they have the right to insist that they are in a clean, safe environment."

ara says "I didn't actually witnesses it but there were disinfectant compartments around there so you presume so."