Is your nail salon safe?


Keep nails looking – and feeling – good by being choosy about where you get your next mani/pedi

A trip to the nail salon is usually associated with something positive, be it a special occasion or mid-week treat.

But while most establishments follow strict cleanliness and disinfection guidelines, others throw caution to the wind – putting you at risk for unsightly (not to mention painful) nail fungus, bacterial infections, plantar’s warts and more.

So what can you do to prevent a potential mani/pedi predicament?

First, look for the following when visiting a salon:

  1. Does your nail technician have the necessary experience and/or license, if required?
  2. Are the stations clean?
  3. Does the nail technician wash her hands between clients?
  4. Are there dirty tools lying around?
  5. How well do they clean their tools?

Next, consider the following advice from board-certified dermatologist Phoebe Rich, MD, FAAD, a clinical adjunct professor of dermatology at Oregon Health Science University in Portland:

  • Wait to shave your lower legs until at least 24 hours after getting a pedicure
  • Consider purchasing your own tools and bringing them with you to the salon
  • Check that the pedicure foot baths and filters are thoroughly disinfected between uses
  • Avoid reapplying the same color if nails have become yellowed and discolored from polish
  • Steer clear of strengthening polishes, which may make nails more prone to breakage
  • Do not wear artificial nails to cover up nail problems (e.g. fungal infections or brittle nails)

Finally, if the salon does not appear clean…choose another one! And if you have any symptoms of infection or questions and concerns about caring for your nails, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.

Gel manicures: Nail friend or foe?


If you’re like me and have jumped on the gel manicure bandwagon in an attempt to find a quick-drying, more durable substitute for traditional nail polish, you may soon be on the hunt for another alternative.

Dermatologists are concerned that this latest nail fad can cause problems, such as nail thinning associated with brittleness, peeling and cracking, especially with frequent use. And, what’s more, it can camouflage nail disease if done repeatedly.

“In general, any manicure left in place for an extended period of time is not a good idea because you are not seeing what is going on underneath the nail polish,” said Chris Adigun, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York.

In fact, in one study, women who had reported nail weakness, brittleness and thinning from gel manicures were examined by dermatologists, who attributed these symptoms to the gel manicures. It’s unclear, however, whether these side effects are due to the chemicals in the gel nail polish or the skin-irritating acetone soaks used for removal of the polish.

Dr. Adigun noted that while occasional gel manicure doesn’t pose a serious threat to nail health, she does advise women who frequently receive these manicures to be aware of the potential risks with repeated use. And for women who experience nail problems due to gel manicures, she offered a few helpful gel manicure “diet” tips:

  • Limit the frequency of gel manicures to decrease consequences of chemical and physical trauma
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on hands to minimize UV exposure during the curing process
  • Ask manicurists not to push the cuticle to avoid potential inflammation, infection and dryness
  • Rehydrate nails daily with petroleum jelly to reverse signs of brittleness, thinning or chipping
  • Refrain from using tools or chipping gel nail polish with other nails to remove polish
  • Decrease skin irritation by only soaking nails in acetone, instead of whole hands or fingers
  • See a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any unusual changes to your nails

“As is the case with most things, moderation is the key when it comes to gel manicures,” said Dr. Adigun. “If you get [gel manicures] regularly, you need to be aware of the possible consequences and see a board-certified dermatologist if a persistent nail problem develops.”