The Hidden Health Risks of Pedicures

Spring is here, and summer is around the corner, and that means two things for sure: flip flops and pedicures. Before you book your next appointment to get your toes looking presentable (hello, they've been covered for like 9 months of crazy winter weather!), there are six seriously important things you need to know. Huffington Post racked the brains of top professionals to get the skinny on getting your feet summer ready the healthy way.

red pedicure

Never let them turn on the bubbles while you soak your feet.

Whatever you do at a pedicure salon, do not let the pedicurist turn on the bubbles in the foot baths. "The jets in the whirlpool bath can harbor bacteria and fungus," says Dr. Sutera.

Sutera estimates that she sees about 10 to 12 patients a week that come in with fungal or viral infections, like warts and athlete's foot, caused by build up in whirlpool foot baths. If the skin is cut by accident during a pedicure, you can also get bacterial infections by coming into contact with bacteria from previous customers at your station. She recommends finding a salon that uses pipeless foot baths or individual bath liners to further avoid cross-contamination with previous clients. Plus, make sure that your salon runs a sanitization cycle for the required minimum of 10 minutes between each client.

To be extra safe, Toombs suggests taking the time to dry the spaces in between your toes, too. "The moisture in those areas is where organisms like fungi and bacteria tend to grow," she says.

woman getting a pedicure with metal tools

Make sure the metal tools they're using are sterilized between each client...

When you walk into a salon, look for tools soaking in that blue liquid disinfectant (a common brand is Barbicide). This effectively kills most microbial life that can lead to infection, in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines. Of course, some salons are better than others about cleaning, so make sure your pedicurist is using freshly sanitized metal tools on you.

Some salons might be using UV lights to sanitize tools -- you know, those machines that look like toaster ovens (not autoclaves, which kill 100 percent of infective organisms using high pressure and steam). But Dr. Sutera says that popping tools into one of those isn't a great way to sterilize. "It's a six-hour process to sterilize instruments," she says. "You have to get them at really, really high temperatures; you have to soak them in different solutions; they have to be scrubbed. So putting them in that little toaster oven in between clients for a few minutes? I don't think that that's really doing much."

woman getting a pedicure and getting nails filed

...and know the tools that should never be used for more than one client.

Any non-metal tools should be used on you and only you, since they're not sterilizable. Sutera tells her patients to bring their own nail files and foot pumices and sterilize them at home. Some salons give customers individual file kits, which include nail files, foot files, an orange wood stick and nail buffers, for each new pedicure client. You can then keep these tools and bring them back in to be used during your next pedicure. But again, staying alert is key here -- keep an eye on your pedicurist to ensure that you're not coming into contact with any used non-metal tools. "That's a big red flag," Clements says.


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