American Barber Institute (A.B.I.) - School of Barbering - State of the Industry


(212) 290-2289

Contact Us

State of the Appearance Enhancement Industry

Appearance Enhancement is one of the fastest growing industries in the US today, New York state has over 173,000 licensed Cosmetologists, Estheticians, Natural Hair Stylists, Nail Specialists and Waxers. This list does not include over 8,000 Barbers operating in New York state today.

As the gender walls are down in our modern society, beauty is no longer the exclusive preserve of women. Men too have realized the need to look after themselves in this stressful world and contrary to popular belief, are in fact concerned with their appearance. Although this trend is relatively new in the US, experts predict Appearance Enhancement services and products for men will be the next big thing.

Personal appearance workers held about 790,000 jobs in 2000. Nine out of 10 jobs were for barbers, hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists. Of the remaining jobs, manicurists and pedicurists held about 40,000; skin care specialists about 21,000; and shampooers about 20,000.

Most of these workers are employed in beauty salons or barber shops, but they are also found in department stores, nursing and other residential care homes, and drug and cosmetics stores. Nearly every town has a barbershop or beauty salon.

Approximately half of barbers, cosmetologists, and other personal appearance workers are self-employed. Many own their own salons, but a growing number lease booth space or a chair from the salon’s owner.

Before AIDS and hepatitis became household names, the Appearance Enhancement industry were under little scrutiny as risks for spreading infectious diseases. However, since the 1980s, an epidemic of bloodborne diseases has forced a reexamination of the beauty industry.

Recent statistics prove that the AIDS epidemic is far from over, New York State reporting an astounding 11,459 new cases in 2002 with a total of 155,755 cases since the onset of the virus. New York City reporting 126,237 - the highest number of cumulative AIDS cases in the country’s metropolitan areas: almost tripling Los Angeles with 43,448 cases and more then quadrupling San Francisco with 28,438 cases.

Among the diseases that have the potential to be transmitted at a hair or nail salon, hepatitis B and C pose the biggest threat to public health. There are over 5 million people infected with hepatitis in the U.S. Every year, approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. contract hepatitis B ? which is 100 times more contagious than HIV. Between 28,000 and 140,000 people contract hepatitis C. Hepatitis B can be infectious for at least a week on surfaces commonplace to salons such as headrests, chairs, and tools and instruments. There is now evidence that hepatitis C, which prior to 1990 was commonly transmitted through blood transfusions, can be transmitted by razors, nail files, hair cutting scissors, clippers and tweezers among other things.

"It is possible for razors, nail clippers, tweezers and similar personal care items to come in contact with infected blood." maintains Dr. Kelly. Recently concern was expressed over the sharing of electric razors in a VA hospital. A study in Hepatology showed that 19% of veterans tested in a VA hospital in San Francisco were infected with HCV.

According to Dr. Harold Oster, a San Diego Infectious Disease Specialist, "The risk of (HIV) infection at a barbershop is not zero ..and there are many cases where the means of transmission is not known for certain."

"As more and more consumers frequent hair and nail salons each year, the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B and C, HIV and other transmittable diseases increases as well." According to Dr. Sekula-Gibbs, the states need to take a more proactive stance on this issue by ensuring that workers in the cosmetology and barber industry are educated on the risks of their profession, understand ways to prevent transmitting diseases and receive proper education to safeguard themselves and their clients.

"Since there is an inherent risk that customers may accidentally be cut during a routine hair or nail appointment, it makes sense to use sterile instruments. Nail clippers, acrylic nail drills, cuticle scissors, callus paring blades, reusable razors and blades all have the potential to transmit infectious diseases if they are not properly sterilized."

There are simple ways beauty establishments can modify their current practices and reduce the potential transmission of infectious diseases. Using disposable instruments whenever possible, properly sterilizing instruments, employing proper hand washing practices, and teaching the "universal precautions" in cosmetology and barber schools would virtually eliminate the risks of contracting viral, bacterial and fungal infections.

"Salon regulations need to shift from focusing on the aesthetic features of the salon such as the architectural decor and shampoo bowl size to educating the profession on ways to enhance beauty in a safe manner for workers and clients alike."

The American Barber Institute (A.B.I.) is approved by the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision of the Education Department in the State of New York and is committed to advancing the science and art of Appearance Enhancement industry and advocating high standards in education and research in Nail Specialty, Natural Hair Styling, Waxing, Esthetics and Cosmetology, supporting and enhancing client care and promoting a lifetime of healthier skin, hair, and nails. For more information, contact A.B.I. today  (212) 290-2289.



  1. Dr. Sekula-Gibbs - The American Academy of Dermatology - Speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology?s 57th Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
  2. Center for Disease Control?s (CDC) "Universal Precautions"
  3. Dr. Harold Oster, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Scripps Medical Group in San Diego, California
  4. Dr. Kelly CR. The New England Journal of Medicine 2000. HepCBC - HEPV-L HEPATITIS C FAQ v5.6 May 24, 2002