Is your health at risk from a nail technician?
An expert tells Katie Wright what to look out for at your next 'mani' or 'pedi' appointment
If your beauty salon doesn't take the right precautions, you could end up with some very nasty nail complaints, not just a dodgy polish job, as one American woman found out earlier this year, when what started out as a tiny nick from a manicure landed her in A&E.
After getting a mani at the Arizona nail salon she had visited for a decade, Maria Luisa Gerardo's cut became infected and eventually she had to have emergency surgery to prevent amputation of the finger.
Now, that may be an extreme example, but when you're dealing with sharp tools and delicate skin, it's important your nail technician takes the right precautions to ensure the only thing you leave with at the end of your appointment is perfectly preened and polished nails.
So, how can you tell if a salon is safe? We asked podiatrist Emma Supple, on behalf of Flexitol, what to look out for...
1. Cleanliness is key
"When considering which salon to go to, my number one rule is cleanliness. When you're waiting for your appointment, have a good look around you. Are they bringing out fresh instruments and regularly cleaning their equipment? Are they throwing away used cotton pads and tissues? Used instruments, tissues, scrub brushes and dishes will all attract unwanted fungus and bacteria and put you at risk of infection."
2. How do they treat their tools?
"If your pedicurist is using wooden instruments, such as files and cuticle sticks, these must be disposed of after every client. Additionally, if your pedicurist is using metal tools, these must be cleaned thoroughly with hot water and soap. Metal instruments should be soaked in disinfectant and left to dry properly. Doing this will prevent cross-contamination and avoid your risk of picking up nasty a fungal infection."
3. Are the footbaths sanitised?
"Whirlpool footbaths that are not cleaned between clients can be a breeding ground for microorganisms. These can cause warts, athlete's foot and other unpleasant infections, so make sure you look out for salons that use individual bath liners and pipe-less foot spas. It is also important to ask your pedicurist when it was last sanitised, as they should be cleaned no less than 10 minutes after every use."
4. Are the technicians protected?
"It's a good sign if they're using masks and gloves, not just for your safety, but for theirs too. The technicians are in contact with toxic ingredients found in polishes, lacquer removers, glues and gels all day."
5. Are they kind to your cuticles?
"Similarly, it's important that your pedicurist takes extra care when dealing with cuticles. The cuticles are there to protect your nails' growth - if the skin breaks, you risk getting an infection, which can be painful and ultimately hamper the growth of your nails. The best way to neaten cuticles is to soften them and push them back delicately with a cuticle stick. If your pedicurist is over-enthusiastic or aggressive with this, make sure you tell them to go easy."
6. Stay on the straight and narrow
"The best way to help prevent ingrown nails is to avoid the round cut and go for straight. One of the most common causes of ingrown toenails is cutting them too short. They may look neat and tidy, but cutting nails too short encourages the skin at the sides of the nail to fold over it."
7. Say no to harsh foot files
"Some salons choose to use tools that look like cheese graters or metal files to remove hard skin, but over use of the metal 'cheese grater'-style foot files can create more hard skin, so I would not recommend using them all the time. Instead, choose a pedicure treatment that uses a heel balm which contains urea, and is clinically proven to hydrate dry, cracked heels and feet, such as Flexitol Heel Balm."
8. Do they take their time?
"If the pedicurist is rushing the pedicure process, this may leave behind several problems as you leave the salon. For example, if the skin in between your toes hasn't been dried properly, this can help microorganisms thrive in the wet and warm environment, and will increase fungus and bacteria growth."
9. Speak up if you're not sure
"Finally, if something doesn't feel right, speak up! If you're unsure about a method or tool the pedicurist is using, you're quite within your rights to voice your concern - and you may help to prevent serious, long-term damage."