What’s not to love about manicures, pampering, and beautiful nails? Well, potentially a whole wealth of hidden issues if you don’t go into your appointment fully clued up.
Rest assured that most nail salons run clean, safe, excellent businesses. Americans spent an incredible $8.3 billion on nail services in 2018 alone, according to Statista, and most would give their experiences a top rating.
But here are eight important things to bear in mind the next time you book an appointment at your local salon.
1. Beware of hidden fees
Nail technicians will usually charge you for the service as a whole, but there might be hidden extras in the details. For example, do you sometimes have a base coat and a top coat of nail polish? Maybe that’s extra!
Don’t be shy to ask what’s included, it’s the only way you’ll know for sure.
2. Don’t have a pedicure if you’ve just shaved your legs
This might sound bizarre, but when you shave your legs, you are creating incredibly small invisible openings in your hair follicles. These openings are an open invitation to bacteria in a potentially unsterile environment.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends not shaving for “at least 24 hours” before having a pedicure. It’s safest. But for those of you who feel shy, just remember: your nail tech really doesn’t mind about your leg hair!
3. Watch out for slack sterilization
Incidents of contracting horrible infections from unsterile tools at nail salons are the exception, not the rule. But it’s something to watch out for. Proper steralization is actually really hard to practice outside of an operating theater.
Surgeons use an “autoclave” to eliminate bacteria, fungi, and harmful viruses from their stainless steel instruments. “It’s a specific device that sterilizes equipment with steam,” Debra Lindy, co-founder of sterile nail tool company Sani Sak, told Healthy Way. “[But] this is very rarely purchased by nail salons as it can be cost prohibitive.”
Many salons use chemicals or UV light boxes to sterilize their tools instead, but these are not 100 percent effective. Be sure to ask your nail tech what method they use, and if in doubt, you can always bring your own tools instead.
4. UV lamps are not harmless
If you’ve ever wondered whether your skin could be at risk under the magical blue light of a UV lamp, well, it’s possible. Skin cell damage could build up over many nail appointments and put you at a slightly increased risk of skin cancer.
A 2014 study published in JAMA Dermatology came up with an elegant and simple solution, however: just apply sunscreen first!
5. Warts? It could happen!
Fungal infections are unsightly and uncomfortable, but did you know that it’s also possible to contract warts from a pedicure session? Warts happen if the skin is infected with a virus that improperly sanitized salon equipment could be carrying.
If you have any broken skin on your hands or feet and the nasties find their way in, then you could be looking at dealing with a wart or two for the foreseeable future.
6. Leave calluses alone
It’s tempting to want your feet to look as smooth and baby-soft as the day you were born, especially when sun, sea, and sandy beaches require minimal footwear. But while calluses look a little rough and can even be painful, they are doing their job properly: protecting your skin!
There’s an additional reason for asking your nail tech to leave those calluses alone. Using a credo blade, the tool most often used to shave away hard skin, is illegal in most states for anything except licensed medical procedures.
Consider a light pumice stone treatment at home, instead. “The most that I think is appropriate is just filing some of the calluses,” Dr. Jacqueline Sutera of New York’s City Podiatrists told National Post. “And that should be done gently.”
7. Leave cuticles alone, for that matter
The truth is cutting back cuticles is harmful to your nails. They, too, are performing an excellent function. “Cuticles protect your nails and the surrounding skin from infection,” explains the American Academy of Dermatology. “When you trim,” they add, “it’s easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside your body.”
By all means, push your cuticles back, but leave the skin where it is—firmly attached and doing its proper job!
8. Nail techs rarely say “no”
Finally, you’re at the salon to have a nice relaxing time, right? So is everybody else, but unfortunately, some people will attend the nail salon when they really shouldn’t. The staff are there to earn a living; they will rarely turn a customer away, even if he or she clearly has a fungal nail infection.
Knowing this, it’s your responsibility to pay attention and ask questions. And if you’re the one who has an infection, then be kind enough to stay away until it’s cured!
Remember these eight useful dos and don’ts and keep living your best nail life. Now you know what to watch out for at your next nail salon appointment.