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Top 5 health risks at nail salons

Can your regularly scheduled mani/pedi make you sick?
health risks at nail salons

Imagine you’re unwinding from the day in your nail salon’s massage chair getting a pedicure. You’re in relaxation mode with your back being rubbed and feet being pampered, then–ouch! The nail technician accidentally nicked the skin near your toenail. The pain is only temporary, so you continue sticking your feet in and out of the water as directed and don’t worry about your nail technician using chemicals near the cut. Days later, you discover your perfectly pedicured toe is extremely infected.

Unfortunately, this is a reality for salon-goers. While there’s limited scholarly work about health risks at nail salons, scary stories have cropped up over the years, like a man losing his leg and dying after a pedicure and workers developing allergies to materials used in salons, leading the industry to revamp the standards in salons across the United States.

Nail fold infection

health risks at nail salons - cuticle cutting leads to nail fold infections

Nail technicians can be rough on your nails during a manicure and pedicure. With nail clipping, cuticle cutting and nail filing, it’s easy to get skin lesions. The most common infection caused by these cuts to your skin is paronychia, which is a bacterial infection of the hard skin surrounding your nail.

Follicular infection

health risks at nail salons - follicular infections from pedicure footbaths

Another common bacterial infection from injuries at nail salons is caused by species of nontuberculous mycobacteria, which is bacteria typically found in water, and are mostly associated with pedicure footbaths. If the mycobacteria enter the bloodstream through a skin wound, the follicles can become infected. According to a study on mycobacteria and footbaths, it’s recommended to avoid shaving your legs before getting a pedicure to prevent infection.

Contact dermatitis

health risks at nail salons - contact dermatitis

Products used in nail salons are not only harmful to nail technicians, they can also cause issues for customers as well. Acrylic nails, nail glue and nail polish can cause allergic contact dermatitis, a rash that appears after exposure to an allergen. Luckily, this can be easily avoided by being aware of products used at your salon and choosing an alternative to acrylic nails.



Plantar warts are another skin condition that can develop at nail salons. Like mycobacteria, plantar warts thrive in warm, moist environments and can be contracted through cuts in the skin.


health risks at nail salons - uv ray exposure causes cancer and aging

Drying your nails under the UV light seems like a no-brainer, but the consequences can be severe. Although long-term research is needed, dermatologists’ main concern with UV light is the possibility to develop skin cancer or tumors. Additionally, the areas of skin exposed to UV light is susceptible to aging.

If you’re concerned about health risks at nail salons, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends asking yourself the following questions, before your next appointment:

  • Does your nail technician have the necessary experience and/or license, if required?
  • Are the stations clean?
  • Does the nail technician wash his/her hands between clients?
  • Are there dirty tools lying around?

For more information, visit the American Academy of Dermatology for a guideline on manicure and pedicure safety or speak with your physician.

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