Tips for Healthy Manicures and Pedicures

How to Avoid Nail Infection or Fungus

Woman getting a manicure
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Millions of women visit nail salons to have their nails professionally manicured and pedicured every year. Unfortunately, developing nail fungus or bacterial infections is not an uncommon side effect. What can you do to lower your risk of developing an infection or fungus caused by a manicure? A few simple steps before your next manicure can significantly lower your risk of developing a painful nail infection or fungus.

1. Bring Your Own Tools

Buying your own manicure or pedicure kit and taking it with you when you visit your manicurist can protect you in the event that tools are not properly sanitized. Make sure you clean and disinfect your manicure kit after each use, even if you are the only one using it.

2. Buy Your Own Polish

You can ensure the quality of the polish that's going on your nails by bringing your own base coat, polish, and top coat. Avoid products that contain toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate, which could increase your risk of developing certain cancers. Many nail polishes also contain triphenyl phosphate (TPHP). Long term exposure to TPHP has been linked with hormonal disruptions.

3. Survey the Scene

Check out the salon before you sit down to have your nails done. Does it look clean and sanitary? Is the trash container properly bagged and covered? Is the floor clean? Are the manicure tables kept neat and tidy? Is there plenty of good light? Look at the disinfectant containers and make sure that they are clear, clean and free of debris.

4. Only Allow Fresh Instruments to Touch Your Skin

If you are not using your own manicure kit, be sure that the salon cleans and disinfects its instruments after each use. Ask yourself these questions: Does the manicurist use fresh, clean instruments on each client? Does the manicurist remove the clean, disinfected, instruments from the disinfectant in front of you? Make sure all files, buffers, towels and anything else that touches you is freshly clean before you allow the manicurist to begin.

5. Make Sure the Pedicure Tub Is Clean

You can significantly lower your risk for infection by soaking your feet in a clean, sanitized tub. The steps where clients typically step with bare feet at spa pedicures should be cleaned and disinfected before each client, as well.

6. Use Cuticle Softener

Having your cuticles cut with cuticle scissors can make your nails look fresh, but it can also increase your risk for infection as a result of broken skin. Cuticle softener can achieve the same effect without the risk.

It is important to note that although HIV or AIDS can be transmitted through broken skin that occurs during a visit to a nail salon, this is extremely rare. 

If the above sanitary precautions are not being taken at your nail salon, don’t be afraid to tell the shop owner what you feel needs to change and what you expect from a manicurist and a nail salon. Contact your state cosmetology board if you develop a nail infection, fungus or other condition as a result of visiting a nail salon, or if you see unsanitary practices.

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Article Sources

  • Environmental Working Group. (2015, October 19). Bad News About Nail Polish. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  • National Cancer Institute. (2011, June 10). Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk. Retrieved January 31, 2016.