1. Assess the cleanliness of the salon: Look around when you enter a nail salon and check to see if they have bottles of cleaning products near their pedicure soaking tubs. Are they cleaning out the tubs after each client? Soaking tubs are the areas in a salon that carry the highest risk of infection, so use caution! Have they autoclaved their tools between each client? The only way to ensure that nail tools are completely sterilized is through the use of an Autoclave (those little “hot boxes” where tools are placed between each client). Without Autoclave sterilization the tools are only “clean,” and may have lingering organisms present.
2. Bring your own tools: Many salons provide clients the option of purchasing their own “nail tools,” for which you are the only client using those tools. Investing the extra few dollars on that first visit will provide you a decreased risk of infection and peace of mind, knowing that only those tools have touched your feet. You no longer need to worry about who’s toes were being worked on before yours, and what “bugs” may be passed from them on to you.
3. Ask the nail technician NOT to push back your cuticles: The nail cuticle is one your body’s protection mechanisms for keeping bacteria out. By pushing the cuticle back, you open up the possibility of infection, as bacteria can now enter underneath the cuticle. Interrupting the natural function of your cuticles combined with un-sterilized tools and dirty soaking tubs is a sure bet for infection!
4. Give your toenails a rest: Frequently taking off nail polish and allowing the nails to “breathe” helps prevent extra moisture from building up under the nail, subsequently decreasing your risk of infection by bacteria or fungus. In the winter months when sandals are infrequently worn, try to go without nail polish as much as possible. In the summer, when you know you won’t be on vacation or won’t need your nails looking “pretty in pink” for a certain event, take the polish off and give your toenails a break.
5. Diabetics should opt for medical pedicure instead: As mentioned above, dirty tools, soaking tubs, and interrupted cuticles all combine to create a high risk for infection. The risk of infection from a pedicure is the same for clients with and without diabetes, but in the diabetic, the healing potential can be significantly decreased. Due to the nature of diabetes and the course it takes within the body, blood supply to the toes may be decreased, and without adequate blood flow, the cells in your body that fight infection are less likely to reach the site. This can lead to an infection that, in severe cases, runs up the foot and leg and if not caught early and treated aggressively can lead to loss of toes! In addition, healing potential for diabetics is decreased and for the same reasons infection takes a greater toll; the cells in the blood needed for wound healing are less likely to reach the areas where they are needed. In short, if you’re diabetic, it’s wise to avoid pedicures at a salon. Instead, consider a medical pedicure with your podiatrist.
Hopefully these tips will pop into your head as you contemplate your next pedicure. It’s important for feet to look nice for the summer months eliminating embarrassment with sandals where toes are exposed, but it’s more important to avoid infection and its long-term complications!