Pedicures: A Patient’s Perspective
Recently, I went to a local nail salon for a pedicure. Instead of researching the salon, I chose the one closest to my office and hoped they were reputable and used what is called “best practices” (meeting strict safety guidelines). When I arrived, I happily noticed a state rating of “A.” Every chair but one was taken, also a good sign. I was invited to “pick any color” of nail polish from the racks on the wall and take a seat.
The word pedicure comes from the Latin "pedis," meaning foot and cura meaning care—and indeed, I did feel well cared for. I sat in a large massage chair, rolled my pant legs up and placed my feet in the foot bath full of warm blue water. As I sat back, the massage chair kicked in by softly beating against my head—it felt like a child’s fists. Those little fists then worked down my back, beating and rolling with greater intensity. It was very relaxing, but I was intent on watching the pedicure procedure.
My pedicurist, Sue, clipped, filed and buffed my toenails with sterilized tools. She softened my cuticles, pushed them back and deftly nipped off all the excess skin. Then came the creamy, lotion-y experience as my feet and legs were exfoliated and massaged with multiple creams. Sue grabbed what looked like a cheese grater on a stick and scrubbed vigorously all over my feet to remove calluses. A pumice stone covered in lotion was the final softening tool.
Just before painting my nails, Sue slipped a rubber spacer between my toes. Originally, I had chosen a deep pink nail polish, but Sue convinced me to get white tips (a/k/a “French manicure”). She was quick and efficient as she painted the tips of my toenails white, neatened up the edges with a wide paint brush and acetone remover, and finally applied a coat of pink-tinted clear polish. Lovely!
She carefully placed a pair of flimsy flip flops on my feet and escorted me to the “drying” table. There were three of us at the table, and we happily chatted about previous pedicure experiences. I paid Sue the $40 fee plus a $5 tip.
Is it Safe?
I visited the salon as part of my research for this feature, and ended up feeling wonderfully pampered and…pretty. I understand why all the seats were full! The pedicure industry has increased dramatically over the last 15 years, with approximately 200,000 nail salons located in the United States.
When getting a professional pedicure, it’s important to visit a salon that uses best practices; this means, among other things, that practitioners sterilize their tools; they don’t just clean them. Check for the state rating posted on the wall. At the salon I visited, the pedicurists wore gloves throughout the process and took them off only when it came time to apply polish. Some experts recommend visiting a salon early in the day when spas are cleanest.
Foot spa and metal tools should be sanitized after each customer. Some salons use disposable tub liners, which is the safest practice. If you have any open sores on your feet or legs, don’t use the foot spa at all. Bacteria, fungi and viruses can grow in foot spas and cause infection.
Don’t let anyone use a razor on calluses, as this can also lead to infection.
Make sure your toenails are cut square, not oval, to avoid ingrown toenails. Lotions and oils should be in applicator bottles or droppers so the only thing that touches the skin is the lotion itself.
Pedicures are a delightful experience and make your feet look and feel great. But for me, they’re a treat—so for now, I’ll pick up a few tools and continue my foot care at home.
International Pedicure Association: http://www.pedicureassociation.org/
— Patty Boyd, IPFH