Trips to the Nail Salon: Things to Know Before You Go

This image displays onychomycosis, a nail fungus infection.For most people, a manicure or pedicure is a chance to pamper oneself. Unfortunately, a trip to the nail salon is not without its dangers, such as the risk of infection or damage to the nails. Here are some things you should be aware of before you treat yourself.

Nail fungal infection, or onychomycosis, is an extremely common condition but one that can be difficult to treat. It often spreads from athlete’s foot, a superficial infection of the skin of the feet that frequently occurs in the setting of sweaty feet. Onychomycosis can also occur, however, from inoculation of the nails by instruments contaminated with fungus. While it is standard procedure for nail salons to disinfect their instruments with antiseptics that kill fungi, the safest way to avoid any risk of this infection is to bring your own manicure-pedicure kit with you.

Less commonly, skin infections can occur from contaminated water in whirlpool footbaths given before pedicures. These infections usually result in folliculitis, or inflammation around the hair follicles, on the lower legs. Some of these bacteria are common organisms, such as Staphylococcal and Pseudomonas species, and respond well to standard antibiotic therapy. In unusual cases, infection with organisms known as atypical mycobacteria can occur. This usually results in more severe infection, with furuncles, or “boils,” developing on the legs in the areas exposed to the foot baths. Atypical mycobacteria do not respond well to standard antibiotics given for skin infections. Infection with atypical mycobacteria is extremely uncommon, but it can be caused by poor and improper cleaning of the whirlpool filters.

Infection of the nail fold, known as paronychia, from bacteria and/or yeast is also fairly common. Getting pedicures and manicures increases the risk of this type of infection due to removal of the cuticle, which protects the nail fold from invasion by microorganisms.

Nail trauma
Different nail changes can occur from trauma to the actual nail, or to the nail matrix (nail bed)/nail fold from which the nail forms. White lines or dots in the nails can occur from trauma to the matrix. Ridges and texture changes as well as separation of the nail from the underlying nail bed are all changes that can occur from damage to the actual nail caused by filing and other trauma.

Published on 03/07/2011 | Last updated on 10/18/2018