Treat or Trick? Are Pedicures Dangerous?

pedicured feet on beach

Pampering yourself with a trip to the spa or salon can be a special treat—with serious consequences for your feet. Here’s how to stay safe.

For many people, pedicures are one of life’s little luxuries. Small acts of self-care took on even greater meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we looked for ways to cheer ourselves up and restore a sense of normal life. When spas and nail salons reopened, mani-pedi lovers breathed a sigh of relief!

Pampering yourself with a pedicure might make you feel better about your feet—but is it safe? Unfortunately, nail salons can be a breeding ground for infections. And, if you have diabetes, your feet are even more vulnerable to injury from a pedicure.

While they’re great at making you feel pampered and polished, licensed nail technicians are not medical professionals and should not perform tasks that involve treating foot conditions. For ingrown toenails, bunions, warts or other foot conditions, you should always see a podiatrist—before getting a pedicure.

Here’s how you can avoid a pedicure nightmare:

  1. Know when to say “no” to pedicures
  2. Find a safe, reputable spa or salon
  3. Talk to your technician
  4. Learn how diabetes makes a difference
  5. Problems? See a podiatrist

Warts (HPV) and nail fungus are the most common diseases spread by professional pedicures, but hepatitis (Hep B, Hep C) and staph infections are known to occur—including MRSA. Furthermore, nail salons are often crowded with long wait times, which increases your risk of exposure to other communicable diseases like COVID.

Considering these risks, you may want to avoid pedicures altogether. If not, be sure to follow these tips!

Know When To Say No To Pedicures

A bad pedicure can lead to serious issues that require medical treatment, or make current foot problems even worse. Be sure to discuss pedicures with your podiatrist; they may recommend that you avoid pedicures completely! Follow your doctor’s advice—no trip to the spa is worth risking a painful injury.

Cancel if you’ve got a foot injury. If your feet are injured in any way, cancel your pedicure appointment! Even small nicks from shaving can be an entry point for bacteria or fungus. Skin is our body’s first line of defense against infection. Even if technicians follow good sanitary practices, germs can find their way into cracked skin, wounds, or cuts.

Be aware of the salon environment. When you enter a nail salon, pay attention to the facilities. Are they clean? Are workers using sterile equipment, or are they stressed and distracted? If the salon or spa seems unsanitary, overcrowded, or poorly managed, just say no!

Find a Safe Salon

Reputable salons will be open about their health and safety procedures. Licensed nail salons and spas are required to follow safety procedures to limit infection. But just because it’s the law doesn’t mean every salon follows the rules. To prevent the spread of disease, your nail technician must use sterile instruments (new from a sealed package or autoclaved), and footbaths must be drained and sterilized between customers.

Online reviews and recommendations from friends can be a useful resource. However, just because a salon is popular doesn’t mean it’s safe. Very busy salons may increase your chances of being exposed to a disease, as technicians get rushed and skip sterile procedures. Multiple negative reviews mentioning infection are a sign that a salon’s management isn’t making safety a priority.

Talk With Your Technician

Communication is key with your nail technician. They should be willing to listen to your instructions and answer any questions or concerns. If you are diabetic or have any other medical issues, let them know before they begin.

Don’t be shy. Tell your technician to avoid using metal scrapers, callus remover chemicals, or other tools that could cut or damage your feet, and speak up immediately if they’re causing you pain or doing something you don’t like.

Be specific. It’s usually best to instruct your technician to use clippers and an emery board to cut and shape nails. Powered tools are harder to sterilize properly, and more likely to injure your feet. Tell your technician not to cut into the corners of your nails, to avoid ingrown toenails.

Learn How Diabetes Makes A Difference

Diabetes can make pedicures dangerous:

  1. Reduced circulation can make injuries and infections more likely, and take longer to heal.
  2. Peripheral neuropathy can reduce feeling in your feet, making you unable to tell if the technician is hurting you, or if a hot footbath is scalding you.

Properly managing your diabetes is the first step to protecting your feet. If you’re thinking of a pedicure, consult your podiatrist first to make sure it’s okay. Even if your podiatrist feels it’s safe, they may have recommendations on certain procedures to avoid, like footbaths.

Remember to notify the nail salon that you have diabetes—a trained and licensed nail technician should know the precautions to take to protect your feet.

Problems? See A Podiatrist

Licensed nail technicians have minimal training and requirements, and are not medical professionals. They’re great at making you feel pampered and polished, but they should not perform tasks that involve cutting or treating foot conditions.

Podiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in both surgical and non-surgical treatment of foot and ankle conditions. Every board-certified podiatrist must complete years of advanced education and rigorous medical training before practicing medicine. For ingrown toenails, bunions, warts or other foot conditions, you should always see a podiatrist—especially before getting a pedicure.

After any pedicure, keep a close eye on your feet and toenails. If you see any signs of infection, including pain, redness, or discoloration, make an appointment with a podiatrist right away. Quick treatment can prevent pedicure-related injuries from developing into serious conditions.

Advanced Foot & Ankle podiatry clinics are located throughout Middle Tennessee, including Williamson county and Dickson county. Book an appointment today and keep your feet happy!