You’d Be Surprised What Diseases You Can Get From Your Nail Salon

Woman in nail salon receiving pedicure

Woman in nail salon receiving pedicure | iStock.com/petrenkod

There are few better relaxation techniques then getting a clean manicure or pedicure. Most times you leave with perfectly clipped, filed, and polished nails. But there’s also the possibility you leave with a fungus you didn’t have before.

If nail salons don’t properly disinfect and clean their tools, they can become a hotbed for various diseases transmitted from malpractice like Hepatitis B, MRSA, and bacterial infections.

Take Molly Dannenmaier’s trip to her local salon in Texas. She gets a pedicure every three weeks and occasionally throws in a manicure if she feels like treating herself. She trusted the salon without question — until she and her friend both developed infections. “[My friend] got a terrible infection, and in fact had to have surgery to have her toenail removed. It’s never going to grow back,” Dannenmaier told U.S. News.

Dannenmaier’s horror story isn’t the first we’ve heard of salon visits gone wrong. Podiatrists and health professionals uncovered the health risks you should remain mindful of when you visit the salon.

Nail instrument puncture

A D.C. man contracted a life-threatening infection when a nail instrument punctured his toenail. He nearly lost a leg after acquiring the bacterial infection but luckily survived. What’s scarier than the idea of losing a limb? The potential spread of blood-borne diseases via nail instruments like clippers and files.

“Cutting into skin could cause secretions such as blood to get on nail instruments, and if another customer is exposed to that blood — if they get a cut in their skin, for example, and contaminated blood enters that cut—this is a potential route of transmission for diseases, theoretically including hepatitis or HIV,” Aaron E. Glatt, M.D., an infectious disease specialist, told Self.

Bacterial and fungal infections

The Centers for Disease Control released a concerning figure: 97% of nail salon footbaths tested in a study contained a bacteria that can cause scarring boils on the skin. Bacterial infections can spiral out of control and lead to other life-threatening infections like the aforementioned Hep B and MRSA.

“There’s a huge difference between a bacterial infection and a fungal infection,” Tennessee podiatrist Robert Spalding said. “A huge number of people walk in with nail fungus, and most state laws prohibit them to be served, but they are served anyway. That then causes a bigger problem on the bacterial level.”

Spalding also said nearly 75% of U.S. salons don’t follow the state protocol for disinfection. Many salons use liquid disinfectants to clean tools (think of the blue liquid jar your technician returns the tools to after picking at your hangnails) but that’s only effective if technicians soak the instruments for at least 20 minutes.

Fungal infections are an issue as well. “Fungal infections may infect the skin, like with athletes foot, or the nails, which can be extremely difficult to get rid of,” Rebecca Pruthi, M.D., a board certified podiatric physician, told Self. “You can also contract viruses from nail salons—the result of which may be plantar warts, caused by HPV. Plantar warts are not only unsightly, but they can become very painful and can spread to other parts of the body.”

Deola Sagoe / Clan - Backstage - Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015

Nail detail of models preparing backstage | Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Follow these best practices when you visit the salon

  • If you’re concerned about the instruments your salon uses, bring your own tools or inquire about the technicians’ disinfecting procedures. If your technician doesn’t already use plastic gloves, you can request they do.
  • If you think you could have a fungus, do not go to the salon to treat the problem. Try removing or treating it at home. If the fungus continues to grow, consult a podiatrist.
  •  Seek medical attention and consult if you get a cut or notice any type of rash or redness following a salon visit.

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