5 Dangers Awaiting You At The Nail Salon

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Safety in the pedicure chair. Photo: Getty Images

I look forward to my Saturday afternoons in the pedicure chair. However, an unforeseeable prick with cuticle clippers or bruising from a foot file can turn my relaxing moment into a beauty nightmare. And there's only so much antibiotic ointment and designer Band-Aids a girl can cover up with.

Ready to put an end to these pedi problems, we asked New York City-based podiatrist Dr. Dennis Shavelson to dish on the common dangers lurking in the nail salon. And keep scrolling down to see our slideshow of celebrities who would never be caught without unpolished nails.

1. Tools that are open to air or used repeatedly after a prior treatment.
There are two documented cases of “death by pedicure” where young women contracted fatal flesh-eating staph infections and thousands of documented cases of bacterial and fungal infections. Contaminated instruments are the number one cause of salon infections. Molds, bacteria and viruses are more likely to come into contact with clients when instruments are shared, and that can lead to disasters. Communal instruments are also dangerous to the manicurist should they have any open cuts or abrasions. The cure: Bring in your own surgical stainless steel instruments.

2. Liquid sterilization which provides only low-level germ and virus protection.
Steam-sterilized or properly ultraviolet irradiated germiciding kills germs and offers the best protection. Don't be afraid to ask to check the bottle of the liquid being used for disinfecting words like “germicide,” “disinfectant” or “concentrated.” Instruments should sit in a bath for a full 10 to 15 minutes in order to be disinfected. Spa chairs should also be disinfected in between clients. It's always best to go to salons when they are slow.

3. Foot baths, just like whirlpools, are difficult to sterilize quickly.
These are a breeding ground for mycobacterium (which can produce boils), warts, MRSA (hard to cure infections), athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, HPV and swine flu virus. All of those issues thrive in a warm, wet environment. Request a pipeless drainage system tub as bacteria breeds in pipes. Then make sure all water is drained, the walls are scrubbed and that the nail technician runs a cycle of disinfectant for 10 minutes between clients.

4. Untidy surroundings with too much clutter attract fungus and bacteria.
Dirt, clutter, poor evacuation piping and air filtration all breeds germs. And employees that don’t wash their hands between clients or salons that don’t ask clients to wash their hands are also at risk. Those piles of scrub brushes, instruments, trays and linens left open and in view, call for a change.

5. Disposable tools such as buffers, files and orange sticks should be disposed of between treatments.
If you see any disposables that have nail polish, dents or staining which suggest they were previously used, call the local Board of Health.

Have you ever had a bad experience at the nail salon? Tell us about it in the comments section. Then be sure to know which shoe is messing up your at-home pedicure.

Meanwhile, check out these safe nail polishes for moms-to-be.

Want more? Be sure to check out Stylelist on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest.

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  • Jessica Alba and daughter, Honor

    VAH/Fame Pictures

  • Honor Marie Warren

    Mandatory Creditline: R2D2/Fame Pictures

  • Kim Kardashian and Friend


  • Goldie Hawn

    Pablo Nieman/Fame

  • Emma Roberts

    Visual Press Agency/Fame

  • Lori Loughlin

    PER/FameFlynet Pictures

  • Paris Hilton


  • Mel B


  • Hayden Panettiere


  • Ashley Tisdale

    SLY/Fame Pictures

  • Miley Cyrus


  • Lindsay Lohan


  • Jennifer Gardner

    Pablo/FameFlynet Pictures

  • Kristin Cavallari

    GHOST/Fame Pictures

  • Elisa Reyes and Kaley Cuoco


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Recency  | 
7 hours ago (10:28 PM)
Yes, I went to a salon for a pedicure and got a nasty nail fugungus. I was so mad. I went to the doctors to get gels and creams. It took 6 months to get rid of it. They don't clean this salons very well. Beware!
Imagine a world w/no hypothetical situations...
14 hours ago ( 3:49 PM)
plus they talk about u in their own language & u pay them
20 hours ago ( 9:30 AM)
I'll stick with doing my own toenails TYVM
05:02 PM on 06/23/2012
I knew this before even reading this article. You shouldn't even use the same bottle of nail polish that was used on someone else.
02:43 PM on 06/21/2012
I had a bad experience with a nail salon when visiting my mother. The salon did not look very clean as it was. I ended up with an infection in my middle finger that spread from underneath the nail down into my hand. I've been on 3 antibiotics and I believe I have nerve damage in my finger. It still hurts to touch the skin in certain areas. I will never ever go to an unfamiliar salon again!
02:42 AM on 06/22/2012
Ouch sorry to hear that! I never found the need to go to a nail salon as I like to keep my nails clean and short but it's such a shame that people get sick due to unsanitary practices. It's come to a point where your either do it yourself or risk your health!
7 hours ago (10:38 PM)
Well, I also had a problem that started several years ago..I got a toe nail fungus that can't be fixed without expensive medicine for 2 years. AND, I can't take the medicine because I'm already on cholesteral meds. All because I was in a country that goes from person to person and does manicures and pedicures in public. I have had this fungus for 16 years now.


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