Beware of the Summer Pedicure Risks

By Sara Novak
Sara Novak
Sara Novak
August 11, 2014 Updated: August 11, 2014

It’s sandal season so your tootsies are on display. It’s the most popular time of the year for pedicures. If you’re craving a pamper session, make sure that you choose a safe place to get a pedicure. It’s no surprise that you get what you pay for when it comes to pedicures. Pedicures can be risky because of bacterial infection or toe fungus. Be aware of the many risks.

“One is fungus, then viruses and bacterial infections,” says Gene Mirkin, a podiatrist at Foot & Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic in Kensington, Maryland, reported in The Washington Post. “If the place you go to isn’t vigilant about how they treat the instruments between clients” — more on this below — “there’s a greater possibility” of picking up something that could make summer toenails more painful than splashy.

If your pedicurist slips and cuts your toes, it opens you up to an infection or toe fungus. Podiatrist Howard Osterman says that he sees far fewer patients than he did 15-20 years ago as a result of pedicure acquired infections because salons are much more concerned with hygiene. But there is still a real risk.

Pushing back the cuticles opens the gate to bacteria and toe fungus as well. It’s also helpful to have your pedicurist cut your toenails straight across and not cut the corners of the nail.

“Just make sure you aren’t being treated with used pumice” — this porous rock used for exfoliating skin can harbor bacteria — “and don’t be afraid to ask questions” about sterilization procedures for all equipment. The gold standard is to clean metal tools in an autoclave, a machine that sterilizes instruments using high-pressure, high-temperature steam. Cleaning tools in liquid disinfectant can kill most germs and viruses if they soak for at least 10 minutes, but that won’t guarantee sterility, the doctors says.

Look to make sure the instruments are being properly sterilized. Ask questions if you’re unsure. It’s also become acceptable to bring your own instruments to the salon. Some salons have installed glass foot soak bowls because they are less likely to become a cesspool of bacteria compared to plastic and fiber glass. Whirlpool foot baths can also be problematic because the piping is difficult to clean.

When you get a pedicure, take a look around and make sure you know what you’re signing up for before you sit. 

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*Image of “feet” via Shutterstock

Sara Novak
Sara Novak