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How to Stay Safe at the Nail Salon

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While the chances you'll get an infection at a nail salon are pretty low, it takes only one to make you wish you were more cautious in selecting a salon. Risks include nail fungus, bacterial infections, plantar's warts and even herpes.

To insure you're safe, make sure your salon follows the following procedures and make sure you know what to watch for.

Don't Get Those Cuticles Cut

Your cuticles naturally protect your nail bed from bacteria. Since that's their purpose, it's best they be left alone or pushed back with an orange stick with its tip covered in a piece of cotton.

Salon Visits Should Never Be Painful

If your manicure or pedicure hurts, make sure to tell the technician. At no time should the procedure hurt or sting.

Bring Your Own Tools to the Salon

It's a great idea to purchase your own nail tools, both steel instruments (clean them with hydrogen peroxide) and non-metal tools. Files, buffers, nail brushes and orange sticks are made of porous materials, which more easily harbor bacteria. Since wood products can't be sterilized, these tools should be used only once.

Beware These Tools at Your Salon

Don't allow credo blades, razors, callus graters and cuticle cutters to be used during a visit. Again, these can cut skin allowing bacteria to enter.

Look Around for Warning Signs

Glance around the salon. If there is dust, debris or clippings on the floor or caught in corners, that's a warning sign that cleanliness is not of utmost importance.

Also look for the salon's license, which should be posted on the wall along with the technician's licenses.

Check Into Proper Sterilization Techniques

Many salons use UV sterilizers, which look like toaster ovens, to sterilize tools. These won't kill bacteria.

The best way to sterilize tools is with an autoclave or disinfectant labeled "tuberculocidal." Disinfectant is the turquoise-colored water in glasses usually kept at stations. If you're really concerned about sterilization, ask to see the bottle the disinfectant comes in and make sure it's properly labeled.

Still concerned? Get your manis and pedis done a medi-spas, which are overseen by a physician.

Are Footbaths an Infection Risk?

Foot baths in salons are a debatable as a health risk. According to Kevin Winthrop, MD, in a 2002 article on WebMD, you're not likely to get an infection from a footbath because salon technicians clean them after every use.

But some experts state simply cleaning footbaths after every use is not safe enough. They believe debris caught in the mesh catch under the drain can be a health hazard. They suggest salons use plastic liners or Hefty bags in their footbaths.

So what should you watch for? Footbaths should be washed with hot, soapy water and sprayed with a disinfectant after each use, according to an article on nail salon saftey in the December, 2006, issue of Self Magazine.

Really concerned? Bring your own tub liner.

How to Wage a Complaint

If you suspect that your salon is violating your state's laws, you can file a complaint with your state's cosmetology licensing board. Check out NICTesting.org for a list of contacts by state.

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