Our Portland Area-Podiatrists Discuss the Dangers That May Be Lurking at Your Favorite Nail Salon

Nail Salon Pedicure Infections | Portland-area podiatristsThe Portland-area podiatrists at Northwest Extremity Specialists understand the appeal of a pampering pedicure. However, you don’t want that mood-boosting self-care treat to put your foot health at risk. 

The tools used in many traditional nail salons cannot be fully sterilized between clients due to the porous nature of the materials. As a result, infections on the feet and nails can spread quickly in these environments. Our experienced podiatrists regularly treat patients for painful conditions caused by microbes lurking within whirlpool tubs, clippers, and foot files at nail salons. Contact us to schedule an appointment if you think you may have a foot infection caused by a recent pedicure. 

Why Nail Salons Can Be Problematic

Regardless of how friendly the staff are, how many polish colors you have to choose from, and how spa-like the facility feels, there are three factors that can lead to health and safety hazards at nail salons.

Lack of Proper Cleaning and Disinfection of Pedicure Equipment

The foot basins, pipe-free pedicure baths, and jetted tubs used in many nail salons cannot be fully sterilized between clients because the materials are porous. This allows fungi, bacteria, and viruses to spread from person to person in the warm water and thrive inside the pipes and jets. Even metal tools like clippers and files can retain microscopic debris in grooves.

Repeated Exposure to Contaminated Water and Tools

On a busy day at the salon, client after client will soak their feet in the same basin or tub. Micro tears in the skin from clipping or filing pave the way for infectious organisms to enter the body if tools are not properly disinfected. The longer the exposure, the higher the risk.

Injury to Nail Beds and Cuticles

Aggressive cutting, clipping, or filing around the delicate nail bed allows bacteria and fungi quick access underneath the nails to cause infection. As tools wear down with use, the risk of nicks and cuts increases.

Types of Foot Infections You Can Pick Up at Your Local Nail Salon

Fungal or bacterial nail infections are the most common, but pedicures can also spread plantar warts. 

Fungal Nail Infections 

The moist environment inside whirlpool tubs often breeds athlete’s foot fungus and more stubborn fungal organisms. They penetrate through tiny nicks and cracks in your toenails. Signs of a fungal nail infection might include:

  • Thick, distorted, or discolored toenails
  • Crumbly nail debris
  • White spots on nails

Fungal infections usually start at the tip or sides of the nail and then spread toward the cuticle as they progress. If left untreated, the infection can damage the nail bed.

Bacterial Infections

Pseudomonas, E. coli, Staph, and other bacteria lurk inside porous, unsterilized pedicure tools and tubs. These microbes can invade the skin and nails through microscopic openings, leading to painful inflammation and pus. Bacterial nail infections generally show up as:

  • Redness, swelling, and drainage around the toenails
  • Green nail discoloration
  • Foul smell

Bacterial infections require prompt antibiotic treatment.

Plantar Warts

The human papilloma virus (HPV) causes embarrassing plantar warts on the feet and toes. HPV strains thrive in the warm, moist folds of skin and quickly infect microscopic cuts from razors, clippers, or files. Usually dark little black dots, warts often crop up in clusters and have a rough cauliflower-like texture. If left untreated, warts can multiply and spread.

Ingrown Toenails From a Pedicure Can Also Increase Your Infection Risk

Improper nail trimming and grooming techniques at nail salons frequently lead to painful ingrown toenails. When the edges of the nails are cut too short or rounded off at the corners, the sharpened nail ends can dig into the skin and become embedded as they grow out. If the nails are pushed down into the fleshy toe beds during pedicures, this increases the risk of developing ingrown nails.

Attempting to hastily cut cuticles or file off thick calluses with unsafe tools and aggressive pressure can also damage nail folds. This allows the nails to pierce into adjacent skin. 

Ingrown nails become red, swollen, and painfully inflamed as debris accumulates beside the embedded nail edge. Infection often develops with oozing pus and drainage from the site. 

Play It Safe With Proper Pedicure Precautions

You should ask the salon staff detailed questions about their disinfection routines before your pedicure begins. Autoclaves use heat, pressure, and steam to sterilize equipment, killing dangerous microbes that could enter your bloodstream through small nicks and cuts. Do not trust claims that tools are "sanitized"—this only reduces some bacteria without eliminating viruses or stubborn spores. Insist on salons that use medical-grade autoclaves after each client without exception.

If you have corns or calluses, you should never allow a nail tech to attempt to remove them with razors or blades. This can lead to severe cuts that require stitches and increase the risk of complications like infections and permanent scars. A podiatrist can help you get your feet sandal-ready by safely dealing with unsightly corns and calluses. 

After your pedicure, be sure to pat your feet completely dry before putting socks and shoes back on. Damp toes make the ideal breeding ground for fungus. Ask for a clean towel at the salon and use a hair dryer on a cool setting to fully dry each toe crevice if needed.

We Provide Expert Treatment for Nail and Foot Infections

If you do notice any unusual changes in your nails or skin after a pedicure, you’ll want to visit our office as soon as possible. Our skilled Portland-area podiatrists offer advanced treatments to clear nail infections. Let us help you ensure your feet look and feel their very best.

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