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Tips for a Safe Salon Pedicure

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Updated September 04, 2012

Few things can rejuvenate and beautify feet like a professional salon pedicure. While most salons are safe and strictly regulated by state cosmetology boards, occasionally we hear about incidents of infection or injury to customers after having had a pedicure.

On a few occasions I have had patients, who after developing a nail infection soon after a pedicure, ask my opinion as to whether it could have been caused by the pedicure. It's hard to say -- opportunity does exist for nail and skin infection to occur if the salon does not consistently practice equipment sanitizing procedures. But in most cases, it's difficult to know for sure if the salon was to blame.

The salon procedures that most often present some risk of infection are cuticle treatments and foot spas (baths), if not properly sanitized.

Whether you are looking for a new salon or ensuring the safety of your current salon, here are some tips for a safe pedicure:

  • See the Salon - Does the salon's appearance convey a clean and professional atmosphere? The floors, tables, and equipment should be free of dust and debris and work areas should be free of soiled instruments.

  • Check Licensure - Be sure the salon and individual technicians have valid, current licenses. Often the salon's establishment license is displayed but you may have to ask to see a technician's individual license.

  • Inquire About Spa Maintenance - Foot spas can harbor harmful bacteria and fungi if not properly cleaned and maintained. Ask about the salon's spa cleaning practices. The spa should be disinfected after each customer and nightly with a hospital-grade disinfectant.

  • Minimize the Chance of Infection - If you have any wounds on your feet or legs, avoid having a foot spa treatment. This will decrease the chance of infection. Be sure your skin is free of any bug bites or shaving nicks before you use the salon's foot spa. Seek medical attention for any slow-healing wounds, rashes or infections prior to having a pedicure. Signs of infection include redness, swelling or discharge.

  • Keep Cuticles Intact- Do not allow the cuticle, the skin adjacent to the toenail, to be cut. The cuticle creates a barrier to protect the nail from infection and should remain intact.

  • Verify Instrument Cleanliness - Be sure that reusable instruments such as metal nail clippers or drill bits have been steam sterilized or fully submersed in disinfectant between use. Items that should not be reused include nail files, orangewood sticks, and buffing tools.

  • Observe Hand Washing- A technician should practice thorough hand washing before beginning your pedicure.

  • Share Your Health History- Be sure to let your salon know any medications you take and if you have any medical conditions, especially diabetes, circulatory problems, or any condition that causes slow or non-healing wounds. If you do have a medical condition, ask your doctor if it is safe to get a pedicure.

  • Avoid Certain Tools - Do not allow calluses or corns to be cut with blades or metal files which can injure skin and cause infection. Ask about gentler alternatives.

  • Check Online Reviews - Online customer reviews of salons may help you find or rule out a particular salon - especially if there are several, detailed reviews.

    Sources:
    US EPA. Preventing Pedicure Foot Spa Infections http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/factsheets/pedicure.htm July 2011.

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