THE RISK IS ALWAYS THERE
According to The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), there are approximately one million trusting nail salon patrons in the US who finish their treatment and walk out the door of their salon of choice with either bacterial, viral or fungal infections. And, regrettably, it doesn’t seem to matter which salon the patron favorites for the service, there is almost always a risk of attracting an infection no matter where you go. According to the Association, it is estimated that seventy-five percent of salons in the United States aren’t following their own state’s required procedure regarding disinfecting equipment. Unsuspecting patrons are simply not aware of the likelihood that their salon is not mixing disinfectant solutions as required, or soaking and sterilizing instruments properly. Some salons are even using watered-down products to cut costs (i.e: using a window cleaner like Windex as a substitute for Barbicide). And, for the customer there is virtually no way to verify that proper procedures are being followed in their salon.
At approx. $10-to-$45 a session for a manicure and $15-to-$50 for a pedicure in the New York City area, we’re talking about a two billion dollar a year industry just here in New York. So salons will do whatever they have to do to keep you coming back. There are times when “whatever it takes” means taking that extra step to insure excellent service and hyper cleanliness. Then there are times when all it really means is putting the customer in harms way by cutting corners to keep costs down and profits up.
When it’s the later, what’s supposed to be a relaxing, energizing, treat, can turn into the customer’s worst nightmare. I don’t mean to sound alarmist – and in fact millions of women and men get manicures each year without any serious, or life-threatening side effects showing up — a customer would be only kidding herself to just assume it could never happen to them. The fact is nail salons often don’t provide their customers the required level of cleanliness, nor do many have adequately trained nail technicians to prevent diseases from starting and spreading in their salons.
Which is why the APMA went straight to the pros who know — nail technicians and their member podiatrists in order to get the skinny on what’s really going on in these establishments that they don’t want you know.
CUSTOMERS NEVER GET TURNED AWAY
Althought required by law, most nail salons won’t turn away costumers even is the customer is sick, with say a nail infections or foot fungus. Which means that people who are sick are being worked on next to you instead of being referred to an appropriate medical professional.
BOTTLES ARE SWAPPED AND DILUTED
One very experience, so-called celebrity manicurist, claims to have seen salons owners filling expensive lotion bottles with a cheap generic lotion.
Similarly, she says that some salons use nail polish remover to dilute nail polish that is old and clumpy from too much air exposure. Dilution compromises the quality of the polish, which will make the formula chip easier once on your nails.
JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T SEE BLOOD, DOESN’T MEAN YOUR SKIN HASN’T BEEN CUT
Cuts in the skin can be microscopic. The customer either comes with the little cuts, scratch, hangnails, bitten nails, insect bites, paper cuts, split cuticles — or a careless technician can cause one in the salon. But just because no blood is visible, it doesn’t mean these bacterial portals of entry aren’t susceptible to infective organisms.
MIGHT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU
Some customers think the back-and-forth talk, in a foreign language, between nail technicians is about them. But 99% of the time, it isn’t. And the chatter can mean that your technician isn’t paying proper attention to the delicate work she’s doing on your fingers. Ask them to please stop the chatter to avoid an accident…but be nice about it.
SOME DISINFECTING SOLUTIONS ARE NOT 100% EFFECTIVE
Some microorganisms that cause infections are easy to kill. Some are not.
One dermatologist we spoke to told us many nail technicians think their instruments are sterilized, when, in fact, they really don’t have a no clue. The fact is not all disinfectant solutions are powerful enough to kill all viruses. Nail technicians aren’t trained to know the difference between one viral infection and another and therefore they seldom, if ever, know how to properly disinfect their instruments for particular pre-existing condition and viruses. Manicure and pedicure-licensed technicians are neither schooled nor licensed to work in the presence of blood or to maintain a surgically sterile environment environment.
FOR PROPER INSTRUMENT STERILIZATION A DEVICE CALLED AN “AUTOCLAVE” IS THE ONLY SAFE BET
While many salons use Barbicide, UV light sterilizer boxes, or other chemical solutions to disinfect their tools, the only device that works completely to sterilize instruments is called an autoclave, which uses high pressure and steam to kills 100 percent of all infective organisms. But currently, only two states (Texas and Iowa) require autoclaves in nail salons by law, which means that less than one percent of salons use them regularly.
To be safe, the customer should ask the salon owner/manager if they use an autoclave to disinfect their tools. Then customers should look for the color change pouches that the instruments are prepared in. The color changes on the bag once correct sterilization conditions have been met. This color change indicates that the object inside the package has been sterilized. Autoclave pouches are sealed and the customer should ask for them to be opened in front of them.
DON’T SHAVE BEFORE GETTING A PEDICURE
You shouldn’t shave before getting a pedicure, says our celebrity pedicurist. Shaving the legs makes the skin more prone to infection as newly shaved legs have open pores (and often tiny nicks you can’t see) that are susceptible to infectious diseases.
LEAVE THE CALLUSES ON YOUR FEET
Many salons will try and talk customers into removing callouses, for which they charge extra. Don’t do it. Don’t do it especially if you tend to be athletic and go to the gym regularly. Athletes should never remove calluses because they protect sensitive, softer tissue skin on the feet. If you do opt for callous removal, always choose scrubbing or a chemical remover. Never allow your nail technician to cut or shave the skin off your feet.
SOME TOOLS CAN’T BE SANITIZED
Only metal tools can be put in the autoclave. Other tools used in nail salons like pumice stones, emery boards, nail buffers and foam toe separators should be replaced after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria. That’s why the salon customer is better off bringing his/her own tools — just in case the salon doesn’t follow the required practice of swapping out no metal tools after every use.
KEEP YOUR FEET OUT OF FOOTBATHS
Whirlpool footbaths, though seemingly safe, are filled with city water, which may or may not be free of microbes. Even though most nail salons disinfect their tubs, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention typically find bacteria that could cause boils and rashes in most of these units used in nail salons, according to the New York Times. And it’s extremely hard to sue nail salons for causing these microbe growths because infections like boils can take as long as four months after a pedicure to develop.