We’ve all heard horror stories of pedicures gone wrong — unsanitary salons, foot fungus, even staph infections — and it’s hard not to be paranoid that we’re risking our health every time you sit down for a toe touch-up. Earlier this month, my foot got a small cut during a pedicure, and I spent the next several hours positively convinced I was a ticking infection time bomb, frantically texting every med student I knew for advice. Obviously, I turned out just fine (though I’ve switched to a cleaner salon), but was any of my worry even warranted in the first place? Save for the occasional fear-mongering evening news story, are pedicures actually dangerous? To calm our fears, we consulted a professional, Trevor Prior, Podiatrist for Vionic Shoes. Prior is a UK-based podiatric surgeon who has been in practice for over 25 years.

YouBeauty: What can we do to protect ourselves and prevent health risks when we get pedicures? If something feels off after the pedicure, what should we do about it?

Prior: Only see a pedicurist for a basic manicure and not for treatment – if you have a specific complaint see a podiatrist for a professional opinion. Check that they have appropriate qualifications/training and ask what method of sterilization they use for their equipment. An autoclave (this is high pressure steam sterilization) is the best, although there should be at least chemical sterilization or the use of disposable instruments. One option is to buy your own equipment and take it with you.

The cuticle at the base of the nail (the thin layer of skin that goes onto the nail) is best left alone although common to be trimmed back in a pedicure. Leaving this alone and only having the nails cut straight across the end (i.e. not down the sides which can predispose to infection) can all reduce risk. Also, be certain that any footbaths used can be adequately sterilized – this can be difficult with the whirlpool type.

If you are concerned after a pedicure then seek the opinion of a podiatrist or your general practitioner.

We regularly hear stories on the news about women coming down with life-threatening infections after getting pedicures. How much truth is there to that?

It is rare for healthy people to get a life-threatening infection if good infection control procedure is followed. If you have any medical conditions/take a medication that increases your susceptibility to infection, then you should seek professional care.

Is there anything else women who get pedicures should know?

A professional pedicurist should ask you questions about your medical history etc. If they ask you questions about your health, any previous problems/infections and check the circulation to your feet, then you can be more confident that you have a good practitioner.

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