Pretty toes or medical woes? Who doesn’t love the way their feet look after a fresh pedicure? Although you may think you are practicing good hygiene by indulging in a foot spa treatment, you could be increasing your risk for infection.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, pedicure health risks include fungal infections and bacterial skin infections, including MRSA (Methicillin Staphylococcus Aureus), a potentially serious antibiotic-resistant staph infection.
Additionally, viruses, such as those that cause plantar warts, can be found in spas and pedicure facilities. I often see many of these conditions in my office.
How can you minimize your risks during a pedicure? Here are some useful tips:
- Check it out: A salon/spa may “look” clean, but keep in mind you can’t see a bacteria, virus, or fungal spore. The first thing I tell patients is to find out about the practices of the facility. Are they cleaning in between clients? How are they cleaning the instruments and footbaths? What measures do they use to minimize infections?
- Avoid crowds: Stay away from overcrowded salons. Go in the morning, preferably on a weekday. According to American Podiatric Association, salon footbaths are usually cleaner earlier in the day before they’ve been heavily used.
- Stop the bubbles/foot bath: Many of the microorganisms adhere to moist surfaces or the insides of the jets (even after the tub is cleaned!). This makes whirlpool baths a potential haven for germs, especially when the jets are turned on, encouraging the microorganisms to move from the nozzles to the tub, and infect your feet. Turn off the bubbles. Some of the newer facilities have protective liners for the footbaths, or foot baths without pipes and jets.
- BYOI: Bring your own instruments: Medical sterilization techniques may not be implemented and nail polishes may also be contaminated (double-dipping is an understatement!). Bring your own surgical steel instruments and polish to decrease contamination. Disposable tools, such as buffers and files, should be discarded between clients.
- Keep the stubble: Avoid shaving, waxing, and using depilatory creams on your legs and feet 24-hours beforehand. Small abrasions or cuts to skin can get infected. If you need to shave your legs, wait until after the pedicure.
- Avoid cutting skin and cuticles: The cuticles are there for a reason; they serve as protective barrier. Avoid cutting them as it can predispose one to infection. Also, the pedicurist should use a pumice stone or foot file rather than a blade or razor to remove calluses or hard, dry skin. Improper use of razors can lead to infections. Diabetics, smokers, people who are immunocompromised, or anyone suffering from peripheral arterial diseases should take extra precaution since cuts on the feet can lead to serious wounds and infections.
Finally, remember afterwards to check your feet after getting a pedicure. If you notice any skin changes, irritations or wounds go see your podiatrist. Taking a few extra precautions is a sure way to keeping your feet beautiful and healthy.