There’s nothing like a gorgeous mani-pedi to leave you feeling like a million bucks…unless, of course, you get it done at a nail salon that’s not so hygienic. When nail salons don’t take appropriate safety precautions, your pretty pedicure could leave you dealing with a painful, and potentially dangerous, foot or nail infection. Want to stay safe and  pretty? 

Watch out for these warning signs at any salon you’re considering; noticing just one should be an indication to tread carefully before booking a service in that space.   Make sure nail techs use disposable gloves before trimming your nails at the salon

Signs a Nail Salon May be Unsafe

1. The Bathroom is Nasty

Safe nail salons are clean nail salons. Here’s one way to know just how careful your locations is. Before sitting down in a spa chair, ask to use the restroom. If it’s spic and span, there’s a good chance ownership makes cleanliness a priority. But if it’s gross…you should probably move on to the next salon. Why risk the chance that pedicure tools are as poorly cared for as the restroom facilities?

2. Tools are not Truly Sterile

The only way to properly sanitize pedicure tools between customers is to clean them with steam pressure. You’ll know that your salon uses this method if you see fairly large, aluminum boxes near the instruments used by technicians.

Spot the tools being stuck in cups of blue liquid? Run away! This method of sterilization is not sufficient to protect you from exposure to previous customers’ germs.

You should also make sure that the towels used on your feet are completely fresh, and that your technician wears disposable gloves with each client (changing them out between pedicures, obviously!)

3. They Use Jacuzzi Tubs

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 97% of salon footbaths contain the bacteria Mycobacterium fortuitum, which can cause boils to form on your feet. Fungi can linger in the foot spas, as well as other germs, like Staph and MRSA, leaving you vulnerable to infection, serious illness, amputation and even death.

Why is that? Even if the basin of the Jacuzzis are properly scrubbed, as the water drains into the attached pipes, germs can linger behind. And it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to properly clean those pipes, which means the same germs will flow back into the fresh bowl the next time the tub is filled!

So, as relaxing as those Jacuzzi baths may be, it’s probably best to give it a miss and opt for a dry pedi, or even for a soak in a good old-fashioned basin. That way you can ensure proper sterilization measures have been taken.

4. Cutting Techniques are in Use  Keep feet pretty and protected by avoiding non-sterile nail salons

Just say no to razors at a nail salon! That means you shouldn’t let techs cut off your cuticles, or shave down your calluses.  Why? As we just reviewed, foot spas (and salons in general) have lots of germs floating around. And if you get even the tiniest of cuts during your pedicure, that gives those germs an opening to directly enter your blood stream!

Want to be extra careful? Avoid shaving in the day or so before you hit the salon. You may end up showing off some stubble, but you’ll be sure that open cuts on your lower legs will have closed. 

5. Ultra-Violet Drying Lamps are Used

Even if you are in a rush, you should always opt for air-drying your nails. By now, we all know the dangers of tanning beds—well, UV dryers are basically teeny-tiny tanning beds for your nails. By using them, you’re increasing your risk of skin cancer…and you won’t even have a great tan to show for it.

6. The Place Stinks

If you walk into a salon and the smell of acetone (a chemical in polishes) is overpowering, it’s a likely sign that safer polishes aren’t being offered.

Many nail polishes contain known and possible carcinogens like formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor. But there are far safer brands available, so bring your own or suggest that your salon invest in some! The smell will improve and everyone will be safer.


Of course, even if your nail salon doesn’t display any of these obvious warning signs, things can still go wrong after a pedicure. If you’ve recently visited a nail salon and you’re seeing swelling, redness or pus on your toes, you need to see your podiatrist right away.


Jordana White
Jordana Rothstein White
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