You trust your nail salon with sharp tools, noxious fumes, even hot wax. A healthy, clean space should be a given.
How safe is your nail salon?
A wall of polish, a rack of mags, and the promise of a foot rub—what’s not to love about a pro mani-pedi? it depends on where you go. if a spa isn’t sanitary, you run the risk of anything from a headache due to potent fumes to a serious infection from dirty tools. we’ve mapped out the red flags.
while that nail polish smell is unavoidable, your eyes shouldn’t water upon entry. workers are the most vulnerable to fumes, but short-term exposure to hazardous chemicals can still be harmful.
A dirty nail kit can transfer serious germs, which can result in anything from a fungal infection to a staph infection. “imagine if you went to your dentist, and he used a tray of tools he’d used on another patient,” says lauren Breese, director of professional development for opi. Autoclave machines (which use steam to kill germs) and hospital-grade soaking solutions are effective, but it’s tough to know if a salon is sanitizing the tools long enough or using the right formula.
pedi tubs are potential germ farms, especially those with Jacuzzi filters, which get trapped with dead skin. if your local pedi place doesn’t do jet-free bowls, inspect the tub before they fill it, and see if there’s any grit, grime, or gunk. if so, ask them to clean it once more.
"Nail technicians should not cut ingrown toenails," says dermatologist Yanee Vasquez, MD, of Aesthetic science Clinic. 'This can lead to infection and worsening of the ingrown toenail. Most of the time, it's just excess dry skin that needs to be softened with moisturizer. for extremely bothersome ingrowns, it's best to see your dermatologist or surgeon for surgical removal."
some salons apply a red antiseptic Merthiolate onto cuticles after cutting them to "prevent infection." sometimes a nail tech will ask permission since the disinfectant leaves behind a temporary pink stain on skin. Merthiolate contains mercury, a toxin which poisons the body when ingested or used regularly over long periods of time. "A great natural alternative is tea tree essential oil, which has anti-microbial and antiseptic properties. it's safe to use directly on skin," suggests Dr. Vasquez.
Technically, cuticles should be left alone since they protect you from getting an infection. if you insist on the neat, clean look, Dr. Vasquez warns, "fingers should be soaked in warm water or oil before removing," so they're less likely to tear when cutting.
Going for a wax? The treatment table should be covered in a fresh paper sheet. And if they doubledip? Run.
Your nails look great—but at