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Nail Shop Secrets that Damage your Fingernail Health
by Tammy Tatum

  • Content Type:
  • Education/Information,
  • Content Focus:
  • Personal Care,
  • Skincare/Cosmetics

Most nail salons are clean and reputable, and provide manicure services without issue.  In fact,  the nail industry is booming, with Americans having spent $8.3 billion on salon services who left the salon satisfied.  However, there are some things you should consider before you make your next manicure or pedicure appointment.  

Is it really clean?  

Podiatrist Dr. Robert Spalding, author of   Death by Pedicure says, "at this time an estimated 1 million unsuspecting clients walk out of their chosen salon with infections - bacterial, viral and fungal."  WHHHHAAAATTTT?  What's even worse, is that you can walk out of your favorite nail shop, happy with your baby soft feet and your manicure only to discover months (yes that is plural as in more than one) that you have a nasty fungal infection in your nail.  

His research claims that 75% of salons in the United States don't follow their own State's disinfection protocols.  Yikes!  

The truth of the matter is,  there is only one way to sterilize manicure and pedicure tools properly  which is with a machine called an Autoclave.  This machine is the same one used in hospitals to sterilize surgical tools.  Unfortunately, they are expensive, and most salons do not have  one.  Only Texas, New York and Iowa, have regulations that require sterilization of manicure tools with an Autoclave.  

So, if nail shops aren't using an Autoclave to clean their tools, you must be wondering, what are they using?  I am so glad you asked.  Many nail salons use a U.V. Light Box or disinfecting chemicals to sterilize with.  While better than nothing, these methods are not 100% effective.  Plus, you know that white residue you see on emery boards at the salon?  Well, that means that nail file has been used on someone else before you.    Things like emery boards, buffers and pumice stones cannot be sterilized.  Instead a fresh one should be used on each client.  Even toe separators and those silly flipflops are being reused - and if that doesn't give you willies, nothing will.  

Your best bet?  Bring your own manicure tools and supplies, including toe spreaders and flip flops.  


Each person that walks through the door of the nail shop is a paying customer to the salon owner and the manicurist.  Even if that person has a nail infection or a fungus and should be referred to a doctor or a specialist.  Additionally, often manicurist do not know underlying health issues that could be spread via salon tools and foot baths.  

Dr. Spalding says, "there are millions of people whose immune systems are compromised by diabetes, HIV, hepatitis, cancer and other infective organisms.  The greats danger of the nail salon is the transmission of infection from one client to another."    Many people are dangerously susceptible to infections caused by receiving nail salon spa treatments; such as a manicure or pedicure.  

Be aware that there is a risk, and if you have an infection, skip the salon visit until your condition is treated and you are no longer contagious.  

 The hidden dangers of shaving

Okay, so no one wants to get a pedicure, where your legs get massaged, looking like a gorilla.  OR maybe you do!   When you shave your legs, you cause micro openings on your skin, which then allows fungi, bacteria or viruses into your body.  Don't believe me?  Try shaving your legs, and then apply a salt scrub.  Feel that burning sensation - well, that is the salt in an open wound.    Skip the shave before going to the salon, in fact it is recommended that you wait at least two days after shaving before getting a pedicure.  

Dr. Spalding says, "Breaks in the skin can be micro or highly visible."  Breaks can be caused by you, and are usually things like bitten or torn cuticles, bug bites and the ever-famous paper cuts.  However, even the most skilled manicurist can cause a scratch or cut when using nail clippers, files or drills.  Just  because you aren't bleeding, doesn't mean there isn't an opening for bacteria, germs,  or fungi to get in.   

Remember the time you went to the salon and the manicurist used a drill to smooth your nails?  Well, if you're like me, on more than one occasion, my nails got really, really hot.  If you felt heat on your nails like I did, it means your skin surface was broken.  

don't play with SCISSORS or other sharp instruments 

Having baby soft feet with no calluses is not normal, or healthy.  Calluses serve a purpose; they protect your feet.   They should never be cut or shaved.  In the past, manicurist used a tool called a "Credo Blade" to remove calluses.  The Credo Blade is a surgical instrument.  Most states have outlawed their use, however, with little enforcement of industry regulations, there are still salons that use this deadly tool on customer's feet.  

Another dangerous tool that should be avoided is the rasp, which kind of looks like a big cheese grater to me.  Just an FYI - it's not.  Regardless, it should also not be used to cut down your callouses.  

Removing calluses is counterproductive, because unless you are willing to change your footwear, calluses will return.  Your best bet is to smooth down your calluses using a pumice stone during your shower, and even then, you should be gentle. 

Along the same line as don't shave down your calluses, please for the love of all that is good and right, stop letting  manicurist cut your cuticles.      Your cuticle is an important part of your nail and plays a big role in keeping your nails healthy.  It  protects new nail growth from getting infections and should be gently pushed back and treated to cuticle oil on a regular basis.  If you struggle with nail health, look at your cuticles, the issue probably starts there. 

Don't look into the light

Let's talk about those Blue UV-A lights.  So, you probably won't get skin cancer from sticking your hands into one of these machines a couple of times each month.  However, you are causing skin damage, which leads to premature aging of your skin.  I don't know about you, but I don't want any more wrinkles or sunspots then necessary.   

The issue with UV-A lights is there is little to no regulations on the lamp's bulbs wattage.   Irradiance varies from machine to machine, and there is no way to know exactly how much UV-A exposure you are receiving.  

Researchers suggest an easy solution.  Before you put your hands into a UV-A light machine, apply some sun block to your hands.  This will help limit your exposure to harmful UV-A lights.   

5 FREE is the goal

Finally,  I want to expose the truth about your exposure to harmful toxins in gel, dips, acrylics and polishes.  Why do you think many nail salon technicians now wear a face mask?  Because there are lots of toxins in the chemicals they are applying to your nails.  Those products not only put off orders but, small particles are also released into the air when your nails are being buffed and filed.  

Dips and acrylic powders are another source of cross contamination between customers.  Just look at it this way, when you dip your nail into a container it has already had lots of other fingernails in there.  YUP!  It's kind of like double-dipping.  You know, when someone takes a chip, dips it into the dip, takes a bite and then dips into the dip again.  In a word, "gross."    Products that are used on multiple clients are a source for spreading infections and fungus.    Don't be embarrassed to bring your own polish into the salon.  

Always look for 5 FREE which means the 5  most used toxins in nail products have been eliminated.  


These 6 hidden dangers should put you on the path to  keeping your nails healthy and happy.  I would love to share more tips and tricks on how to take care of your nails, be sure to sign up for my exclusive VIP group on Facebook by clicking this link.   FAST FIVE VIP's


About the Contributor

Tammy Tatum / Independent Stylist

Color Street Pensacola, FL

Hi my name is Tammy and I am a recovered Gel Polish user. Happily I have recovered and am Gel free for the last year. Since kicking the Gel habit, I have recovered countless hours spent in the salon, and my nails are once again, happy, healthy and beautiful. I learned everything I could about nail health, and my mission is to help you have beautiful healthy nails without wasting your time and money.
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The views expressed in this article belong to the article contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NDSR™ or