A trip to the nail salon should be relaxing, not worrisome. Manicures and pedicures are designed to relieve stress while sprucing up your appearance. Health hazards lurk in salons, however. Understanding what hazards you face when you walk through the salon doors may help you avoid infections and other problems with your nails after you leave.
Fungal infections are the most common health hazard in salons, says the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Fungal nail infections on fingernails and toenails are caused by bacteria, fungi or yeasts. The infection easily spreads through contaminated or improperly cleaned instruments or foot baths. The manicurist may spread infection if she fails to sanitize her hands and station between clients, or if products become contaminated. Infected nails appear yellowed or discolored with a thick nail. Nail infections are unsightly, but rarely cause other health problems. In rare cases, for example, in people who have weakened immune systems, the infection may be painful.
Salons routinely use numerous chemicals that pose a health risk, explains the website NailsMag.com. Chemicals should be stored properly in sealed containers. Metal trash cans with lids help contain fumes and odors from used applicators. The ventilation system of the salon must provide fresh air while exhausting the old, vapor-filled air. The open flames of lighted candles may pose a fire hazard in the presence of chemicals. Small, bleeding cuts acquired during the manicure may expose you to hepatitis or HIV infection, although these risks are rare. Allergic reactions from the chemicals used in the process, such as acrylic nails or adhesives, may occur in rare cases.
Treatment for fungal infections consists of oral medication, says the University of Iowa. Nothing can be done for the appearance of the nail, and it will not improve until the nail grows out and is replaced with a new, uninfected nail. Fungal infections will linger if left untreated.
Cleanliness keeps away most salon health hazards. As a customer, you should ensure a salon follows proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures before your appointment, notes NailsMag.com. Check that the salon and your manicurist are both licensed and that the salon has been inspected, suggests dermatologist Susan Taylor. Notice the condition of your manicurist’s hands. If her hands show cuts or scrapes or are otherwise dirty, leave the salon. Ask how the instruments and appliances, such as foot baths, are cleaned and disinfected. The pedicure chair and tub should be scrubbed between clients and instruments sterilized with ultraviolet light or a cold sterilization process. Wiping instruments with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide is ineffective.
Consider purchasing your own set of manicure instruments if you visit salons frequently, recommends Taylor. Ask your manicurist to push back your cuticles rather than clip them to avoid cuts. Wait to shave your legs until after a pedicure. Small shaving nicks can leave you vulnerable to infection. Wear acrylic nails only for short periods. Long-term wear can cause nail thinning and promote infection. Similarly, do not allow your manicurist to file and thin the surfaces of your nails to apply acrylic nails. Ask your manicurist to apply creams, lotions and other products with disposable applicators. If you contract an infection, report it to the salon and your state Board of Cosmetology, and visit your primary care doctor.