When something seems fishy, don't get a pedicure

November 28, 2018 Providence Health Team

Fish pedicures may pose a risk of infection.

Regular pedicures can be risky if the salon or tools are not clean.

Women with certain medical conditions should take extra precautions.

Tiny fish nibbling the dead skin off your feet during a pedicure may give you shivers even before you hear that a woman's toenails started coming apart after having one.  There are several issues with these so-called "fish pedicures" aside from the creatures causing damage by biting into the nails: the fish are known to carry disease-causing bacteria and there are several reported cases of foot infection, problems that are exacerbated by the fact that the fish and the containers they are swimming in generally aren't cleaned or sanitized between clients.

Of course, while fish pedicures may be a pretty dicey proposition when it comes to the health of your feet, regular pedicures can also pose risks if the proper precautions aren't taken. There are, however, certain steps you can take to ensure you end up putting your best foot forward.

A good pedicure starts at home. Remove your nail polish on your own before your pedicure. This means you can moisturize your feet with a soothing lotion and prevent the drying out effect polish remover can have on your nails. Also, hold off on shaving your legs the day of your appointment — nicks and cuts can be a breeding ground for infection. Wait until the pedicure is done and you can shave afterwards.

Thoroughly check out the salon. There's a lot you can tell about a salon just by looking at it. The salon itself should be clean, as well as each station. Nail technicians' licences should be prominently displayed and they should practice proper hygiene: washing their hands, cleaning and disinfecting pedicure spa tubs between uses, and either sanitizing their tools after each use or opening a brand-new set of tools for every client. Get to the salon a little early to watch the technicians in action, and if you have any questions, just ask. You can also take the extra precaution of bringing your own tools — just remember that you'll be the one responsible for sanitizing them after each use.

Don't be afraid to speak up. Before the pedicure starts, tell the nail technician your specific requests such as to not push or cut the cuticle (that can increase risk of infection), to gently use a pumice stone so it doesn't break the skin on the heel, and to avoid cutting toenails in a way that could lead to an ingrown nail. If at any time you feel discomfort or are concerned about cleanliness or safety, don't hesitate to tell the technician.

Take extra care if you have diabetes. People with diabetes need to take care of their feet but must be very careful to minimize any chance of infection; nerve damage in the feet can also make pedicures problematic because a person may not feel a cut.

If women have diabetes, they should let their nail technician know pre-pedicure so they can take any necessary measures; of course, customers also should make doubly sure that the salon follows best practices when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing.

Clients with diabetes may also want to get their nails done at a medical spa or with a technician who has experience in the area.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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