How You Can Avoid an Infection from a Salon Pedicure
It’s fresh into sandal season, and you need your feet to look great. So it’s off to the salon for a pedicure. But where you go can be the difference between pedi-heaven — or pedi-pain.
Springtime is the start of sandal season — not to mention prom, wedding and graduation time — and you want your feet to look their best. So you may be headed off to the salon for a pedicure.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Before you go, however, make sure the salon you choose is clean and that the staff routinely sterilizes the instruments. Speak up about the tools and methods you prefer. Otherwise, you may take home more than perfectly polished toes – you might end up with a skin or nail infection.
Podiatrist Joy Rowland, DPM, tells her patients to scope out the pedicure salon first. It’s important to make sure instruments used on your feet are sterilized. Foot baths or bowls should be cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant between clients, she says.
“Visit the place you want to go,” Dr. Rowland says. “As you’re in the waiting room, watch and see what they do. Make sure they bring out new instruments for each client and clean and disinfect their bowls after each use.”
If you can’t tell, Dr. Rowland says don’t be shy to ask about cleaning procedures. Make sure the salon uses a process called autoclaving, which is the method hospitals use for sterilizing surgical tools. If they do, you’re good to go, Dr. Rowland says.
It’s also important that the salon technicians don’t tear or cut your skin with the tools they use during a pedicure, Dr. Rowland says. Microorganisms in foot bowls can enter through a cut and cause an infection. So don’t ever put an open wound, which can include bug bites, scratches and cuts, into a foot bath.
“Sometimes the skin gets cut during the pedicure, then they put their feet inside the bowls. The bacteria from the legs, which is the natural flora from the skin, is swirling around inside the bowl and gets inside the cut. This can cause an infection inside the skin,” Dr. Rowland says.
It’s a good idea to ask the salon technician to avoid cutting your toenails too short, Dr. Rowland says. When a toenail is too short, it can result in an ingrown toenail or an infection.
Some salons use tools that look like cheese graters or metal files to remove dead, dry skin and calluses, but it’s best to avoid using rough instruments on your skin, Dr. Rowland says. Tools that look like sandpaper or brushes are softer on the skin, so ask for those at the salon instead.
“I do not recommend metal files,” she says. “I even tell my patients when they’re in the office that if they file their own calluses at home to please not use metal files because they can tear the skin.”
If pedicure tools aren’t sterilized properly you can get skin and nail infections, which may show up immediately or later — even months later. These include: