Getting a manicure or a pedicure is like playing Russian roulette. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a nasty fungal nail infection that could ruin your nails!
This warning comes from Dr. Marta J. VanBeek, assistant professor, Department of Dermatology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine in Iowa City, who said that while most nail salons conscientiously keep their places clean, some are perfect breeding grounds of stubborn fungi that can compromise your health.
“Look at the salon with cleanliness in mind and ask yourself these questions: Are the stations clean? Does the nail technician wash her hands between clients? Are there dirty implements lying around? If the salon does not appear clean, then move on,” VanBeek said.
Her advice is timely considering the growth of the salon industry that serves millions of people worldwide. In 1995 alone, Americans spent an estimated $5.2 billion on nail services, half a billion more than in 1994, according to the Nails 1995 Fact Book. During that time, there were over 34,000 nails salons across the country – an increase of 2,000 over the previous year.
Today, there are more than 50,000 nail salons in the United States with women (and some men) spending more than $6 billion a year on nail care and cosmetics. That figure doesn’t include the number of beauty salons that offer nail services.
People often go to these salons for artificial nails which are the most requested service, the Fact Book said. At the No. 2 slot are manicures followed by nail jewelry and nail art. Unfortunately, these beauty services harbor an ugly secret: they can give you a bad case of fungal nail infections that are common in the elderly and can spread rapidly from one family member to another.
Removing the cuticle is usually the first step in getting a manicure or a pedicure. New York dermatologists Drs. Herbert P. Goodheart of Mount Sinai Hospital and Hendrik Uyttendaele of Columbia University Medical Center said this is not a good idea since it can lead to inflammation and infections of the surrounding tissue and nail root, and cause permanent nail deformities.
“The cuticle is a barrier that protects the skin and the delicate nail matrix, or ‘root’ of the nail. Pushing back on the cuticle can injure it and expose the paronychium or skin fold around the nail, to bacteria and result in infection,” VanBeek said.
Unclean instruments are another cause for concern. While the states regulate their respective salons and their technicians, they can’t always monitor what’s happening in your area unless something goes wrong. And often it does. In 2000, over 100 infections were traced to footbaths used in nail salons.
“Unclean implements are especially dangerous if the skin around the nail is broken. This can occur with overzealous manicuring – if, for example, too much of the cuticle is cut or pushed back too far. If the cuticle is cut or separated from the fingernail, infectious agents can get into the exposed area,” explained Paula Kurtzweil of the US Food and Drug Administration.
To avoid trouble, see your doctor at the first sign of infection. Many antifungal medications are available but they are generally expensive, contain harsh chemicals that can do more harm than good, and may affect your heart and your liver. One notable exception is Somasin AFS, an all-natural fungus fighter made from a powerful herbal blend that destroys persistent fungal infections in just seven days.