Mary’s daughter was getting married. So, as a last-minute surprise, she took her daughter and all the bridesmaids out on an outing to be pampered at a nail salon. But just before the wedding, the bride and all her assistants developed large black, oozing sores on the lower legs and ankles. So how can you make sure your nail salon is safe and avoid this type of pedicure mess?
As a podiatrist, I get a lot of questions about the relationship between pedicures, foot fungus, and infections. But the most passionate discussions seem to revolve around the pedicure. I even remember that one of my instructors in medical school told all of us medical students to warn our patients to avoid salon pedicures. But we have to be realistic. Women love to be pampered and a pedicure is a great way to relax and feel special. You just have to know the risks associated with nail salon infections and follow a few simple rules to keep your pedicure experience safe.
If you don’t think pedicure can be dangerous, you shouldn’t watch the news. In September 2000, 110 people were infected during an outbreak at a nail salon in the San Francisco Bay Area. Within days of the relaxing foot bath and pedicure, pimple-like bumps appeared. These small bumps got worse and turned into red or black pus-filled sores. Many of these women have permanent leg scars as a result.
In 2004, there was another outbreak just miles south of San Francisco in which pedicure-related infections were identified in 143 pedicure clients linked to 33 different nail salons in Santa Clara County. In 2005 there was another outbreak of nail salon-related infections affecting 17 people.
A pedicure lawsuit was born after a Mountain View California woman died after a bacterial infection allegedly contracted from a pedicure in 2004. A similar case in Fort Worth, TX involved a 46-year-old woman who allegedly contracted an infection resistant to the antibiotics and eventually died of the staph infection. A shocking study conducted in Arizona in 2009 showed that 181 salon establishments agreed to pay fines to resolve health code violations in the Tucson area alone.
Although the statistics and headlines can be alarming, you should know that not all pedicures cause infections. There are professional laws and guidelines that help nail salon workers protect you from infection and the spread of disease during a pedicure.
The first thing to do when visiting a nail salon is to look around you. Use a little common sense. If you go to a restaurant and you see flies buzzing in the kitchen, would you still eat there? Does your nail salon look clean? See the health and safety rules posted in the waiting area? This is one of the most common reasons for citations in California nail salons during state inspections. Let’s face it, if they can’t follow the simple rules, would you really trust them to sterilize instruments or meticulously clean the massage chair or foot bath?
Then ask a few questions. Are all of your nail technicians licensed? If they are licensed, you can be sure that they have at least been tested on ways to reduce the spread of nail infections. Unsanitary practices are common, but less likely in nail salons that follow the rules.
Ask them how they disinfect their instruments. Do you reuse any disposable instruments? This is a real no-no. Reusing disposable instruments is an easy way to spread fungi and bacteria from foot to foot.
How do you clean the foot bath? Most of the truly contagious infections involved a germ called mycobacterium. It lives in water and can grow on dead skin and hair that gets stuck in a small filter inside the footbath motor. If salon staff can’t quickly tell you the exact protocol for cleaning the foot bath, you may be drenching your feet in an alphabet soup of infection-causing bacteria.
Look for labels and lids on all containers. If you don’t see clear labels such as “dirty”, “clean”, “water”, “disinfectant”, etc., don’t expect workers to always pick up the clean when working standing up. Container lids may not seem like a big deal, but all those fungal and bacterial spore-causing infections can float through the air from that nasty yellow nail on the chair next to you and then settle right into the cuticle pusher that is. nail technology. about to use on you.
Be attentive to hand washing. Doctors and nurses wash their hands before and after each contact with a patient. Simply washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of a contagious infection. Your nail technician should do the same. As you wait for your turn in the pedicure chair, just watch and see if the nail technician washes their hands or just changes gloves between clients.
Ask them if they ever get ingrown toenails fixed. If the answer is yes, you may be putting yourself at risk. Ingrown toenails are often teeming with bacteria that cause infections. And you don’t want to be sitting in the pedicure chair after a pus-filled ingrown toenail. Only licensed podiatrists (foot doctors who specialize in foot and toenail surgery) should work on these. Simply cutting the corner or ingrown toenail has many risks and is illegal when performed during a pedicure at a nail salon. Once you’ve found a clean and reputable nail salon, don’t shave your legs before getting your pedicure. The only risk factor linking pedicures to horrible infections is open wounds. Shaving less than 48 hours before your pedicure creates small, invisible cuts in your skin that allow bacteria to enter. If you shaved your legs the morning of your pedicure, you can still do your toenails, but you should avoid soaking your feet.
Keep in mind that there are many safe and comfortable places for you to get a pedicure. You just have to ask a few questions to be sure that you will leave the salon with beautiful, soft, pampered feet … and not with a nasty infection.