“Sadly, my practice averages two new patients every week with an infection from the pedicurist,” says Michael DiGiacomo, D.P.M., a podiatrist at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. So before you step into that warm pedicure tub, follow these simple guidelines.
Keep it Straight
When you round your toenails or cut their edges, it allows the surrounding skin to fold over the nail. As the nail grows out it can cut into the skin, creating an ingrown toenail and an opening for bacterial infection.
Cut your toenails straight across and then file down any sharp edges and corners. Also make sure your pedicurist trims your nails using the same technique.
Bring Your Own Instruments
“The second most common problem I see from pedicures is a fungal or viral infection,” Dr. DiGiacomo says. This happens when equipment becomes contaminated with an infection and then the pedicurist reuses the instruments on another person.
Fungal infections can cause your nails to become thick or discolored. They can also lead to itchy red bumps or scaly, dry areas on your skin—a condition known as athlete’s foot.
“I also come across at least four or five people a year who get viral warts after a pedicure,” he says. Your pedicurist may think she’s buffing a callus but it’s actually a wart. If she uses the same pumice stone again, it exposes the next person to the same virus.
To be safe, bring your own clipping, filing and buffing instruments to the salon. At the very least, ask your pedicurist how the salon handles equipment sharing. Also choose a pedicure shop that provides a soaking tub with a disposable liner, because the filters on footbaths often fail.
If you cut your own nails, don’t share your instruments with the people you live with; that will help avoid passing any infections to others in your household.
Keep it Light
Nail polish can cause fungal infections because it doesn’t allow light to penetrate the nail, and fungi thrive in darkness. Leave your nails paint free for at least a week every month, and don’t paint them if you already have a nail infection.
If you think that you may have picked up an infection from a pedicure—at home or at the salon—start with over-the-counter treatments or call your podiatrist.