How to Stay Safe at the Nail Salon

Edited by Sophia Savva

Do you love to get your nails done? Have you ever thought about the germ potential at your favourite salon? Did you know that nail salons can be some of the uncleanliest places, full of germs and bacteria? Many salons appear to be fresh and clean, but actually are not. You may have never had an unfortunate experience with a nail salon, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Being aware of the sanitation standards of the salon that you frequent could be the difference between a beautiful mani and a scary infection! 

There are a few common infections that can be contracted at nail salons.

Bacterial infections are most common. The Center for Disease Control confirmed in a study that 97 percent of foot baths tested at nail salons contained the bacteria M. fortuitum. This is a bug that can lead to a staph infection and cause boils and ulcers on the skin. These sores end up leaving behind dark purple scars that sometimes require laser surgery or skin grafts in order to fade their pigmentation.

Fungal infections are also a potential problem faced at nail salons. They grow on the surface of the skin, or even under the nail beds, and are very difficult to get rid of. Athlete’s foot and nail fungus are some of the most commonly contracted fungal infections after a salon visit. Fungal infections are commonly transmitted by the tools used by nail technicians if they are not disinfected properly after each use.

Viruses such as plantar warts can also be caught through the use of tools that are not properly sanitized. Warts are caused by the HPV virus, which commonly enters through small cuts or scratches in the top layer of the skin.

While they are by far the least common, blood borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C can also be transmitted by tools at the nail salon. If the person who got their nails done before you was scratched and bled on the nail utensil, you could potentially catch a blood borne disease (if they have one) if the tools were not properly cleaned and disinfected before they are used on you.

These are some scary things to think about, but the good news is there are many preventative steps that you can take to ensure that a nail salon is safe before you sit down for that mani pedi.

First, check for general cleanliness. Look around, does the salon look sanitary? Do the nail technicians clean their area between clients? Keeping the nail station clean is key in avoiding possible germs left by the previous client. If a salon’s appearance is neat and tidy, you may have reason to believe that their general sanitization practices are credible.

Can you see the tools the nail technicians are using? Do they have a brand new set of tools for each client? Do they use an autoclave to steam sterilize their tools after each use? If you are unsure what an autoclave looks like, it looks similar to a microwave. The tools go inside on a tray, and they are blasted with steam set at a very high temperature and pressure, killing off the germs. Using a liquid cleaner will not clean the tools well enough to kill all of the germs. If you see nail tools being cleaned with a cleaning solution – do not trust the salon!

Check if the foot baths have protective sanitation liner. Most salons do not have the time to properly sanitize their foot baths between guests. What’s worse, is that foot baths with jets harbour a mass of microorganisms inside their jets – yuck! Make sure that the salon you choose uses protective liners in their foot baths that they discard after each pedicure to ensure that you are avoiding all possible germs!

Finally, one of the best things you can do before you even set foot in a salon, is to check its reviews on social media! Always check to make sure that the salon has a good reputation, both for cleanliness, and for their work!

So with all of this new information, what nail salons around U of T are trustworthy? There are a few that really stand out from the rest. You can relax and enjoy your mani pedi at these salons knowing that you are safe from germs!

• Nails on Yonge: 415 Yonge Street

• BAR Nails and Spa: 88 Davenport Road

• Get Gelled Manicure Bar: 12 Irwin Avenue