Are your mani/pedis sanitary?

Getting a mani pedi is meant to be relaxing, but are you being too relaxed about your spa hygiene?  We spoke to podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, and dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner to get to the bottom of nail salon dangers–you’ll never believe what they had to say! Read below for their expert advice on how to stay protected while being pampered.


Do your research.

“When you go to a nail salon, you should make sure it is licensed by the state,” says  Dr. Joshua Zeichner. “You want to make sure that you choose a salon that uses clean instruments [which] should be sterilized between customers. You need to ask the salon what method they use.”


Avoid the “Wednesday special.”

“I warn my patients against the ‘Wednesday special,’ or that day where they have a mani/pedi for $20 or $30,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera. “There’s a lot more traffic through the salon on that day.  If you have the choice, go in the morning when things are a little bit cleaner, and the technicians aren’t tired.”

“If prices are too cheap, there may be a reason, and it may be too good to be true,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner. I personally recommend quality over a good deal. Do your research on the salon before going to one featured on a website deal.  It may be a quality salon, but you need to research it first.”


BYOT! Bring your own tools.

“I really recommend bringing your own tools,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera. “Most places will have a little drawer where you can store them, and sometimes they’ll even have a kit they sell. This helps prevent transferring bacteria and molds and viruses from one person to another. If you want to take it a step further, you can bring the tools home and disinfect them yourself. The best way to do that is to use betadine, which is a brown solution you can get over the counter at any drugstore in the first aid aisle. It does a great job of killing viruses.”

Dr. Joshua Zeichner agrees and suggests you also bring your own nail polish. “This ensures that it a new, clean and high quality. Old nail polish, or a bottle filled with a no-name brand polish can be drying and can cause damage to the nails.”


Don’t shave your legs!

“If you have any little cuts on you, or if you just shaved your legs a few hours ago or even that day, your skin is susceptible to infection,” warns Dr. Jacqueline Sutera. “You’re putting your open skin into water that may already contain bacteria, a virus or fungus from someone else. I’ve actually seen people get folliculitis, an infection around the pore where your hair comes out; and cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin.”


Use whirlpools with caution.

“If you soak your feet in a whirlpool and it was not disinfected well, you’re putting yourself at risk for any germs that are living in it from the people before you,”  says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera.  She recommends spas that use a triple filtration system, like her go-to salon,  New York Diva Nail Salon.  “They filter the water that comes into and out of the basin, so that it doesn’t get recirculated somehow, in the drain and in the piping.”

“Whirlpool basins that are attached to chairs are difficult to clean. Bacteria can grow within the jets and filters. It can cause skin infections leading to non-healing boils on the legs,” adds Dr. Joshua Zeichner.

To prevent this from happening, Dr. Sutera suggests using a liner for the basin. Dr. Zeichner says, “It is best to soak your feet in a basin of water separate from the one attached to the chair.”


Say no to these tools.

“[Turn down] foot files,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera. “There’s no great way to clean them. Dr. Sutera also advises again callus cutters. “They are actually illegal in the state of New York and New Jersey,” she says. “It’s not okay for them to be cutting at your skin with an instrument. There are no real regulations, and nail technicians don’t know how deep to go or if that callus isn’t really a callus, but some kind of wart, skin tumor or lesion.”

“Don’t let the manicurist cut your cuticles,” adds Dr. Zeichner. “Cuticles protect the nails from getting infections at the base of the nail where it grows out of the skin. Instead, have them push back skin.”

Furthermore, Dr. Sutera advises against going to nail salons to get ingrown toenails removed. “That’s a surgical procedure covered by insurance and needs to be done by a podiatrist,” she says.


See a doctor if…

“The most common [diseases contracted in nail salons] are fungus, warts, and bacterial infections,” says Dr. Jacqueline Sutera. “I get people with ingrown toenails that [are infected] because the [nail technicians] were too aggressive. If you think that you have any of these infections, go see a doctor right away because some of these conditions can be contagious or get worse. In some cases, if you’re diabetic, if you have poor circulation, or other medical problems you can actually end up in the hospital with a bacterial infection that started as a little ingrown toenail.”

“Any non-healing wound, cut, or infection should be checked out by your dermatologist,” adds  Dr. Joshua Zeichner. He goes on to explain how you might spot these conditions, “Mycobacterial infections look like red, tender nodules on the legs. Athletes foot presents itself with scaling of the skin on the bottom of the feet or maceration of skin between the toes. Nail fungus can look like a white or yellow discoloration of the nail, along with nail thickening.”

For more information on nail salon safety regulations in your area, visit


images: Shutterstock, Nails In The Key Of Life: A Mobile Nail Salon,, The Daily Pennsylvanian

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0 Responses to “Are your mani/pedis sanitary?”

  1. Bendel3 says:

    To Mick, I go to a Korean owned Spa in Clifton NJ, that has a person just doing sterilization in a medical approved Autoclave. Each packet is opened just for you; for both your nails and all pedicures, and they have a new pumice replaced each time on pedicure file, do not use a blade for heels and you never get a “used” instrument for any part of your manicure or pedicure. I am a former nurse and a fanatic about my choice of salons, but this one is so sterile and does not rush you and a manicure and pedicure is $25 Monday through Sunday. But LCN gel manicures are more. You can find a salon that autoclaves all instruments; it just takes research, including walking in and observing that is what I did. Good luck!

  2. atlellie says:

    I absolutely agree. I refuse the “spa chairs” where people use the side arms and whirlpools that are immediately used after someone gets up and I do not see the girls wipe or wash out the tubs. They have anti bacterial bottles sitting next to each one so you see that but I have watched. I insist on the fresh bucket of water from a regular chair. Even then, I do not see them reach in the “disinfectors” ovens to pull out new tools. I will bring my own from now on. After reading the comments, I now see these are only for show! They are not sterilizers. We had a bit evening news show on tv regarding this very thing. Thank you for bringing it up.

  3. deestea says:

    I also picked up a nasty toe fungus after getting a pedicure, and an ingrown toenail. I treated both on my own. I tried quite a few methods to get rid of the toe fungus, then someone told me about using Vicks Salve, and it worked great. I put a glob of Vicks on my toenail every night and then put on white cotton socks to sleep in. It took a while, but my toenail is now fungus free and even went back to it’s normal shape, which I didn’t think would ever happen because it had become so thick and yellow. I will never go back to a shop for a pedicure! Yuck!

  4. Barbara F. says:

    I have been seeing a podiatrist for SEVERAL years for treatment for “onychomycosis”…. simply put…Nail fungus. I have only seen minimal progress. I traced my infection to a salon that I tried (after heavy recommendations) after my regular technician moved out of state. BIG MISTAKE. My toenails look horrible now. The fungus is “supposedly” getting better after about 7 years of my doctor trying different treatments. However, my nails are still darkened, thick, and thick dead skin forms under the nails and has, on occasion, caused a nail to separate from the toe. I cannot stress enough… Know your salon AND their practices for between clients sterilization.

  5. Mick says:

    This just saddens me because I love to have my toes done. I have never been to a salon that uses liners or that auto-claves their instuments – the equipment is too expensive, so they don’t do it. Every salon I know uses nippers, pumice stones, and “shavers” to clean away dead skin.
    I can relate to Maci’s plight. I got fungus after dropping a piece of furniture on my toe and it took forever to clear up. It might have healed okay had I not been getting pedicures at the time.
    The only solution is to simply not go – this and ultraviolet tanning salons – off the list. Back to scrunching over to haphazardly polish toes because unpolished is not an option in open-toe sandals Florida.

  6. Patricia says:

    Be aware that sanitizing is NOT the same as sterilizing. Soaking implements in a sanitizing liquid does not kill ALL bacteria and spores.
    The only true method to achieve total aseptic conditions is sterilizing with steam under pressure in a medical grade autoclave after scrubbing and soaking implements. Many salons use a box with UV lights and call it a sterilizer….It is not! Make sure you ask to see the sterilizing device. All files, manicure sticks, and buffing products should be single use and disposable.
    Most states don’t require salons to utilize the above methods.

  7. Sarah Baldwin says:

    Can anyone recommend a good tool kit to bring with me to a salon?

    • Stephanie says:

      I got a wonderful kit-pedipack at

      I use it every time I go!

  8. Maci says:

    After a pedi at a very nice, seemingly sanitary nail salon – I have been battling nail fungus for a year ( finally winning after expensive laser treatments etc.)

    Assume that the person ahead of you had a fungus and act accordingly – it is probably true!

    Although I can’t do as good a job, from now on no pedis for me. I had heard about this but always thought it couldn’t happen and for years it did not. But, it only takes once and it is really a big problem.

    • BLK says:

      I, too, am battling a nail fungus that I just discovered last month. No more manis/pedis for me!


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