With the arrival of spring and summer, it’s time for your toes to make their seasonal debut. But although you want to make them look good as fast as possible, you’ve also got to think about how you can keep them safe and infection-free. Otherwise, you might end up with some surprise results, like a fungus or a bacterial infection.
“A pedicure is something I recommend to my patients who want to maintain both the health and look of their feet, but I warn them to proceed with caution when choosing a nail salon to frequent,” says Dr. Oliver Zong, a New York City cosmetic podiatrist.
What’s the problem? While the number of nail salons and spas are on the rise, their health regulations are not. Unlike hospitals, the cosmetics industry is not required to perform sanitary procedures such as sterilization. So, says Dr. Zong, “The biggest risk factor [in getting a pedicure] is going to be infection. Many places do not sanitize properly.”
And that’ a major problem: Experts say the biggest dangers of unsafe pedicures are fungal infections like athlete’s foot, bacterial infections like staphylococcus and (most dangerous of all) viral infections including plantar warts and hepatitis B and C.
But you won’t have to steer clear of pedicures if you follow Dr. Zong’s tips and tricks:
Wait for cuts to get better. When dealing with bug bites, cuts, bruises or poison ivy on your feet or legs, skip the pedicure until you’re healed. These abrasions can let microorganisms enter the body straight from the footbath, causing infection. And try to wait on shaving your legs, getting waxed, or using a hair removal cream before getting a pedicure. This can help prevent bacteria from entering the skin.
Make sure your footbath has been disinfected. When you’re at a restaurant, you notice if your plate or glass is dirty. Pay attention in the same way when you visit your salon or spa. Footbaths should be cleaned between each customer, with enough time for the disinfectant to work. (Due to their filtration system, footbaths can hold onto bacteria, and then pass it into the water.)
Feel free to ask an employee how the footbaths are cleaned, and more importantly, how often. You should pay the same attention to your pedicure tools. The These tiny instruments can harbor tons of bacteria, and should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Your best bet for the cleanest tub and pedicure tools? Schedule your appointment first thing in the morning, this way the disinfectants have had time to work. (Some experts also suggest bringing your own pedicure tools and, possibly, even a footbath liner.)
Make sure your pedicurist has clean hands. If your pedicurist is wearing gloves, make sure it’s a fresh pair before they place their hands in your water. If the pedicurist skipped the gloves, make sure they wash their hands before putting their hands in your water. Their dirty gloves and hands can transmit bacteria and infections between clients.
Don’t get your cuticles cut. Your cuticles act as a barrier against bacteria and other microorganisms entering the skin, so just get them pushed. If your pedicurist often uses sharp tools during your pedicure, watch out. This can be an easy way to nick the skin and cause an infection.
Follow up. For a few days after your pedicure, pay close attention to your skin. Infections can develop and become more serious over time. If you have any concerns about open wounds on your skin, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.