A Good Mani is Hard to Find Health Risks of Manis/Pedis

Though getting a mani/pedi(or even just one or the other) is a fun, relaxing activity, there are a lot of health risks involved, like coming into contact with bacteria and fungus. Though it doesn’t happen extremely often, a lot of salon patrons bring home an infection after getting their nails done. Unfortunately, a day at the spa may turn into a visit to the doctor’s office. There aren’t any exact numbers on how likely it is to get an infection or injury while visiting the salon, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the health risks associated with professional manicures and pedicures include viral infections such as HIV, hepatitis, and warts, and bacterial and fungal infections.To make sure your next salon visit is all smiles(during AND after), find out what the risks are and how you can make your mani/pedi experience as safe as possible.

Where The Dangers Lurk:

Whirlpool Foot Baths
The jets in whirlpool baths are a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. When the jets are turned on, all that bacteria is pushed into the water which can cause fungal, viral, or bacterial infections if any of that bacteria comes into contact with a cut or wound on one or both of your feet. Go to salons with pipeless foot baths or that use individual bath liners to prevent cross-contamination. Also, if you do go to a salon with jetted foot baths, don’t let them turn on the jets and wipe your feet and in between your toes dry directly afterwards to prevent fungus from settling in. Podiatrist Dr. Robert Spalding found that as many 75 percent of salons aren’t following disinfecting procedures.

Contaminated instruments are the number one cause of salon infections(the 75% statistic above includes tools, too). While manicurists and pedicurists are expected(and even required) to sanitize metal tools in between customers, not all do so. Or, if they do clean the tools, they don’t always do it properly. A good sign in a salon is if you see metal tools soaking in a blue liquid disinfectant. If it’s a non-metal tool(like a nail file or foot pumice), it should only be used on you. Some salons even let you take these tools home. It’s better to bring your own tools and keep an eye out to see if the tools they’re using look used. Research shows that between 95 and 100 percent of mani-pedi tools are re-used even if they are meant to be disposed of afterwards.

Shaved Legs
It might sound surprising, but you should never shave your legs before getting a pedicure. You’re more vulnerable to infections right after shaving your legs. The razor creates micro-tears in the skin that can allow bacteria in. One of the serious infections this can cause is cellulitis, a bacterial infection involving the inner layers of the skin. You should wait at least two days between a shave and getting a pedicure.

They might not seem like a big deal because they’re so minor when it comes to size and pain, but micro injuries at the salon(like nicked skin caused by nail filing or cuticle cutting, too sharp instruments, or cutting corns/callouses instead of shaving them) can lead to serious infections if they come into contact with unsanitary tools or foot baths or unwashed hands. You can request that technicians wear gloves when working on you and that they don’t use any sharp tools like a credo blade(a callous razor that is illegal for salons to use in most states).

UV Ray Exposure
While there are some cancer risks involved with light stations that emit UVA rays, it’s not very likely from a small amount exposure. What can occur, though, is skin damager. It only takes about eight to fourteen visits during a time period of 1 to 2 years to acquire damage like photo aging. Those with lighter skin are most at risk, but it’s best for anyone to apply sunscreen before placing your hands under the drying lamps.

Respiratory Irritation
If you have asthma or sensitivity to irritants, walking into the salon can trigger uncomfortable reactions. Nail salons are stocked with organic solvents(which can cause cancer and the irritation of the airways) and some use products with the “toxic trio;” toluene, formaldehyde and dubiety phthalate. If you don’t go in often, the chemicals might not do anything more than give you allergies, but if you do have regular appointments, these chemicals can be detrimental to your health.

More Safety Tips:

-Look for a prominently displayed state-issued operator’s license.
-Avoid going into the salon when they have a promotion going on; It’s usually more crowded at this time and the technicians have to work faster, which can lead to messy stations and not thorough enough sanitation of the tools and foot baths. It’s always best to go when business is slow.
-Bring your own tools and specify how you like your nails cut. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up if the manicurist/pedicurist is working too fast. You’ll avoid infection and micro-injuries that can lead to infections.
-Walk out of a salon if it’s cluttered. A pile of tools, trays, and linens attracts germs.
-Don’t go into a salon for a mani/pedi at all if you have diabetes, poor circulation, or immune disorders. You’re at a much higher risk for contracting an infection.

Dionne Evans

Dionne Evans, the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of HBS, is a graduate from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in Communication Arts. She has been a professional writer for over 7 years and loves everything food, beauty, and travel related. For more information on Dionne, visit:

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