7 Pedicure Red Flags a Podiatrist Wants You to Know About

GRAMGetting a pedicure is one of the most relaxing and affordable beauty services you can get. But they’re not quite as zen-inducing if they leave you with a yeast infection. To ensure you get a clean and safe pedicure, Suzanne Levine, DPM, a podiatrist in New York City, says she should watch out for a few pedicure red flags.

“We’ve seen a lot of ingrown toenails, nail fungus, and warts after pedicures,” says Dr. Levine. To avoid these problems, it is important to go to a place that follows good hygiene protocols. Read on for the seven red flags to be aware of before your next pedicure. Depending on the severity of the problem and how you’re feeling, seeing any of the above is enough to prompt your nail technician to change what he’s doing or, in some cases, to walk away altogether.

7 Pedicure Red Flags to Watch Out For

1. The space is dirty

“The first thing you do is the look-and-see test,” says Dr. Levine, which means you want to tune in to what’s going on in space and make sure things look clean. If there’s visible dirt and grime or any open food, for example, that’s usually a sign that things aren’t as hygienic as they should be. If this is the case, his best bet is to find a different salon.

2. You don’t see the certifications

All states require pedicurists to be licensed, and most salons post their certifications on the wall so clients can easily confirm that they are legitimate. “Check and see if they really are specifically trained and if they are nail technicians,” says Dr. Levine. If they’re not certified, that means they haven’t received the proper training to understand the proper and hygienic way of doing things, and they’re more likely to do any of the following, which can lead to problems like infections.

3. The bathtub is not well prepared

“When you soak your feet in the tub, make sure they’re wearing a single-use plastic cover that’s changed between clients,” she says, adding that it’s also important to make sure tubs are cleaned between uses (yes, even if they are covered in plastic). Understandably, it is not good to share foot water with another person. Unlike, say, pool water, this water contains no self-cleaning ingredients. Since the technician is removing dead skin from people’s feet, all the possible fungus and bacteria on the feet are left floating in the tub (which is as gross as it sounds). If your bathtub isn’t cleaned properly and filled with fresh water, you’re at risk of catching whatever you may have.

4. Your hands are not clean

Keep an eye on what your nail technician is doing as he moves from treating the previous client’s feet to treating your own. Did they wash their hands? And if they are wearing gloves, did they change them for a new pair? If not, it’s the same situation as the pedicure water: you may be getting fungus and bacteria from your previous client’s feet.

5. Cannot tell if the instruments are new or sterilized

When your technician sits down with his tools, be sure to take your instruments out of a bag. Porous items such as polishers and non-metallic files must be new for each client, as it is impossible to disinfect them. And metal instruments must be in a bag after cold sterilization between clients. If they’re not following these steps between clients, then again, yeast and bacteria “pass from client to client, from point A to point B, so that’s a problem,” Dr. Levne says.

6. They are trying to use a scalpel

“To use a blade in New York State, you have to be a doctor,” says Dr. Levine. “Unfortunately, a lot of med spas use blades and it’s dangerous.” He adds that for people who have diabetes, vascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, or other comorbidities, one wrong move with a scalpel (which can easily happen in an untrained hand) can cause a host of problems, including infection.

Although this law is not the same from state to state, it is a good rule of thumb to follow wherever you are and make sure your technician is not using a scalpel. (And FWIW, don’t try to use one on yourself at home!)

7. They want to cut your cuticles/file the sides of your nails

“I wouldn’t have them cut the cuticles of the nails, especially the toenails, or cut the sides of the nails. That’s out of line,” says Dr. Levine. “That can cause some real problems, so you don’t want them to do that. The best thing to do is get massaged.” [your feet]maybe push back the cuticles and cut the nail straight.” When they cut through the cuticles and get to the sides of the nail, there is an increased risk of ingrown nails and infections.

Skip the salon altogether and try an at-home pedicure:

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