Murray manicurist and nail technician Karren Hiatt wants the state to help sharpen up her profession.
She and fellow nail technician Leesa Myers are traveling the state, visiting suppliers, manicurists and cosmetologists to push their cause to license their trade.Utah's among four states that don't regulate manicurists - who work on real fingernails and toenails - or nail technicians, who can apply fake nails. And Hiatt said there's a reason why the 46 other states monitor the profession.
"Nail technicians work with hazardous chemicals and if not properly trained can cause nail mold, nail fungus (and) primer allergic reaction," she wrote in a press release distributed to local media recently.
She said properly trained manicurists would forgo the money and politely refer patrons with foot fungus to a physician rather than risk contaminating tools and other customers.
"Professionals are willing to lose a client for a brief time to get those problems taken care of," Hiatt said, while someone filing nails "just for the money" is more likely to chance infecting others.
But it's not just greed that breeds mold on finger nails. An ill-trained nail tech can rot someone's nails by misapplying an artificial nail. If the natural nail is not dehydrated before a fake nail is applied, Hiatt explained, moisture creates a damaging pale green "water mold."
National health and women's magazines have also reported on the infection risks of a manicure. The publications advise readers to bring their own tools to the nail salon to prevent infection and to only take a foot bath in water that has an antiseptic.
Hiatt is currently gathering evidence of sloppy nail work that poses a public health and safety threat to Utahns so she can make a convincing case before the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
Without proof the public is at risk, Hiatt's effort for regulation is wasted.
"Our job is to protect the public health, safety and welfare," said division director David Robinson. "This has come up before, but there has been no evidence presented to us to substantiate licensure."
Robinson said he is willing to listen to Hiatt. And if she can convince him that regulation is needed, she hopes to have some legislation before the state Legislature in January. The new law wouldn't be the first rules and training for manicurists. Lawmakers repealed earlier regulations in 1979.
But Hiatt said the trade has grown since then from "a handful" to an estimated 2,500 working out of homes, nail salons and hair salons. Hiatt said she started shortly after licensure requirements were dropped with some training in technique. But over the years, through classes, trade shows and research, she learned about sterilization, hand anatomy and other aspects of the trade.
Hiatt, who has her own school in addition to her #1 Nail Salon in Murray, believes those things should be taught to anyone working on someone else's nails.
Regulations requiring training and licensure tests would benefit Hiatt's teaching business and she anticipates that criticism from detractors. Her response: "I didn't just begin teaching, I've been teaching for 14 years. I enjoy it and I could still teach without licensing" laws.
To help Hiatt win over her colleagues, she has the backing of the National Nail Technicians Group Ltd., a national trade association of which Hiatt and Meyers are Utah delegates. The group successfully lobbied for regulation in New York.
Hiatt and Meyers are bringing the group's president, Karen Lessler, to Salt Lake July 11 to answer questions from manicurists and nail technicians about regulations.