Are Pedicures Dangerous?

The beginning of September unofficially declares that fall is upon us. As we prepare for the transition of seasons, we have to strip our wardrobes of everything summer and break out the boots. Even though sandal season is coming to a close (although you can probably squeeze a few more days in your Havaianas) keeping your toenails primped is still of utmost importance. While you may not be showing off your toes in public as often, the last thing you want is to be caught with ungroomed feet (gross!). Regular pedicures have become an integral part of most women’s beauty routine, but before hurrying to the nail salon to sport the latest Essie, beware of these health risks that can be associated with a nail salon pedicure.

According to Dr. Robert Spalding, author of Death By Pedicure, there are approximately 1 million people in the U.S. who leave their trusted nail salon with either a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. These common nail ailments can take long periods of time to treat and are very difficult to eradicate for good. To put an end to these nasty pedi-problems I've broken down common salon dangers and precautions to help prevent them.

1. Contaminated Tools


Improperly disinfected tools are the leading cause of salon infections. An estimated 75 percent of salons in the US aren’t following their state’s required disinfecting procedures (according to Dr. Spalding). Metal tools such as nail clippers and cuticle pushers should be sterilized in a bath of autoclave solution, which uses high-pressure steam to kill 100 percent of fungus and bacteria. Many salons use UV sterilizers (those machines that look like toaster ovens), which do not adequately kill bacteria. Other non-metal tools including files and buffers should be thrown out after each use, as they can’t be completely sterilized.

To ensure cleanliness of instruments, don't be afraid to ask! Any credible salon will be happy to explain and even show you their disinfecting procedures. You can also bring your own tools, which can easily be purchased at any beauty supply store. This All Season Just For You Pedicure Kit from Sally Beauty is a great option.

2. Whirlpool Footbaths


You might like the sensation of the bubbles when you dip your feet into a footbath, but these whirlpools are actually breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria. Fungus, viruses and infections thrive in warm, wet environments and are usually harbored in the jets and pipes due to trapped debris of skin, nails and hair. It’s almost impossible to completely sterilize footbaths because bacteria can still lurk into the inner workings of the machine. Protect those tootsies and opt for a fresh glass bowl or a pipeless footbath instead.

3. Cuts, Scrapes, Scratches


Have you ever had a pedicurist that worked so hastily and carelessly, pricking at your skin and being too aggressive? Chances are you answered yes. Nail salons manage massive foot traffic (pun intended!) on any given day forcing nail technicians to work quickly without giving proper care to each client. When tools are used too aggressively they can scratch and nick skin, creating a gateway for bacteria. Cutting nails too harshly on the sides is also a common culprit of ingrown nails. Toenails should be cut straight across along the contour of the nail. Make sure to speak up and voice your concerns! Let your pedicurist know how you’d like your nails shaped and don’t be afraid to ask him or her to slow down!

Ed. Note: A previous version of this story misattributed the following statistics to the American Podiatric Medical Association: 1 million customers leave the salon with an infection; 75 percent of salons aren't following disinfecting procedures. The actual source of this information is podiatrist Dr. Robert Spalding. We regret these errors.

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