There Are Some Serious Dangers Lurking In Your Favorite Nail Salon

Manicures and pedicures are supposed to be a time to relax, catch up with friends, or get excited while getting ready for a big event. But have you ever wondered how many people have used those tools before they were used on your hands and feet? Nail salons are supposed to sterilize tools after use, but your favorite salon might not be as clean as you thought.

woman in a nail salon receiving a manicure

Manicures and pedicures could expose you to extremely dangerous bacteria, viruses, and fungus. | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

A woman nearly died after an infection from a callus cutter

In June 2018, a North Carolina woman went for a regular pedicure at her local nail salon — it was the same as any other she’d had. But within about 24 hours, Tracy Lynne Martinez felt like something wasn’t right. She had a bad case of the chills, which eventually turned into nausea and vomiting. And two days after getting her nails done, she could barely walk.

Martinez went to the hospital and found out she was toxic and had a serious case of cellulitis, a bacterial infection most commonly caused by streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria. Martinez had gotten two cuts on her foot from a callus cutter, which she blamed for causing the infection. The cutter had apparently not been sanitized. She spent two weeks in the hospital and nearly lost her leg. Doctors told her she’d be on medication for three months after the incident.

Nail salons don’t always disinfect their tools the way they should

Although it’s extremely rare, pedicures can be deadly. Documented cases of deaths caused by pedicures do exist. One 46-year-old Texas woman, Kimberly Kay Jackson, lost her life after she had a heart attack triggered by a staph infection, which she got from a pumice stone. If there is no open wound, you won’t get infected, but certain salon tools are sharp and can cause cuts (as was the case for Martinez and Jackson). If you have an open wound plus an instrument that hasn’t been properly cleaned, it can spell disaster.

Nail salons should also use as many disposable tools as they can. Buffers and files are tools that are typically disposable, so they should be thrown away after every customer. If you notice the tools have not been sanitized (if they have wear and tear or nail polish stains), ask the manicurist for new ones and feel free to call your local board of health to make sure others aren’t exposed to the dirty tools as well.

The foot baths you soak your feet in are a breeding ground for bacteria

The tools are an issue, but the foot baths are no better. They do have plastic inserts that are usually disposed of between customers, but it isn’t enough to get rid of all the bacteria swimming in the tubs. It’s difficult to disinfect those tubs quickly, and when several people are waiting in line for a pedicure, the line needs to keep moving. However, failing to properly sanitize the foot baths leaves room for bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot to form.

Never be afraid to speak up if you think your salon may not be hygienic enough, and you can also ask that the foot tub be wiped down before you step in. Salons are lurking with potentially deadly bacteria, viruses, and fungus, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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