Painted toenails are a simple way to boost your confidence, but some pedicures can do more harm than good. Aggressive or unsanitary procedures can lead to fungal infections of the toenails or serious bacterial infections that can travel through the bloodstream, turning a fun day at the spa into an unsightly and painful injury.
Tips to Protect Your Feet at the Nail Salon
Before you put your feet in someone else's hands, you should do your research and choose your nail salon carefully. Ask for recommendations from friends, and read online reviews that mention the cleanliness of the salon as well as the quality of the work. A reputable salon should also display current licenses for both the salon and its nail technicians.
Once you have made an appointment for a professional pedicure, it is best to:
- Prep your skin. Any cuts or scrapes on your legs and feet are potential points of entry for an infection. Hold off on shaving your legs for at least 24 hours before your appointment, as this can cause tiny nicks in the skin. Don't be afraid to reschedule your pedicure if you have any bug bites, scratches, or blisters on your feet.
- Go early. Foot spas, tools, and other equipment tend to be cleanest earlier in the day. If you can't get an appointment first thing in the morning, make sure the salon cleans and sanitizes the foot bath and filters between clients.
- Watch the tools. Tools that are not properly disinfected can spread bacteria deep into the nail bed. If you cannot bring your own pedicure kit and toenail polish, make sure that the tools used have been sanitized. If you are receiving both a pedicure and manicure, make sure the same tools are not used for both procedures.
- Ask questions. If the technician is overly aggressive when removing dead skin, don't be afraid to ask for less pressure. If the salon uses emery boards instead of metal files, ask for a new one straight from the package (emery boards are extremely porous and can trap bacteria).
- Check your feet afterward. Even if your feet do not show any signs of infection in the days after a pedicure, the harsh chemicals used in the process can weaken your nails. Damaged nails are more likely to succumb to bacterial, so make to keep your feet clean and dry and inspect them regularly for infection symptoms.
An At-Home Pedicure Can Reduce Your Risk of Infection
If you have diabetes or poor circulation in your feet, a traditional pedicure could put you at unnecessary risk of foot ulcers. Fortunately, you can enjoy all the benefits of a salon experience without leaving home with an easy DIY pedicure:
- Remove any existing toenail polish with non-acetone nail polish remover.
- Soak feet in warm water for 5-10 minutes to clean and soften the skin.
- Be sure that you don't leave any moisture between toes. Anything left behind can promote the development of athlete's foot or a fungal infection.
- Use a pumice stone or foot file to remove dead skin on the heel and ball of the foot. Do NOT use a razor, knife, or clippers to remove calluses or toughened skin.
- Dry your feet thoroughly, taking care not to leave any moisture between toes to prevent athlete's foot.
- Gently push cuticles back with a rubber cuticle pusher or manicure stick.
- Run a manicure stick under your nails to remove any dirt and build-up.
- Use a toenail clipper with a flat edge to clip toenails straight across. Don't round the edges, as it increases the risk of ingrown toenails.
- File nail edges with an emery board with light pressure and in one direction.
- If your toenails are healthy, you can finish them nail polish. However, if your toenails are thick, crumbling, or discolored, do NOT apply nail polish to cover up the problem—it can make the condition worse.
If you notice any pain, swelling, or discoloration on your toenails after getting a pedicure, it is vital that you make an appointment with our foot and ankle specialists as soon as possible. At Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry, we offer free initial consultations and create a customized treatment plan to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Simply fill out our online contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET to set up your first visit.