Many people enjoy going to the nail salon to receive a manicure, pedicure, nail enhancements or even skin care. However, when choosing to visit a nail salon it is important to be aware of potential health risks that commonly occur in the salon environment.
Most of the risks people are exposed to at the nail salon are caused by unsanitary conditions, which ultimately result in a fungal or bacterial infection in or under the nail or skin. These infections can be serious and in a few cases have even caused death. The most common cause of infection is the use of contaminated tools. If the salon does not properly sterilize its surgical tools and instruments after using them on a customer - leaving them open to the air or reusing them without first disinfecting them - fungal or bacterial microbes can easily be transferred between multiple individuals. If anyone who comes in contact with unsterilized tools has open cuts or other minor injuries, they are even more susceptible to infection due to the ease with which germs can enter through the broken skin.
In addition to unsterilized tools, the warm, wet environments of foot baths and pedicure tubs are also a breeding ground for bacteria. Improperly cleaned salon foot baths are commonly found to contain colonies of mycobacteria. This bacterium can cause many different kinds of infections and maladies, including athlete’s foot, MRSA, warts, and boils. Mycobacterial infections have a high antibiotic resistance and are often very difficult to treat, making them especially dangerous to contract. In some cases, people who contracted mycobacterial infections from unsanitary foot baths or tubs acquired such a serious infection that they needed amputations, skin grafts, or removal of large quantities of muscle and tissue from the infected area.
In order to avoid infections from dirty tools and equipment, look for a nail salon that sterilizes its instruments with steam or ultraviolet radiation. Both of these methods readily kill microbes and do so more efficiently than liquid disinfectant. For pedicures, a salon that scrubs its foot baths and disinfects them for at least ten minutes between each customer is also a good choice.
While poor sanitation remains a major issue in terms of salon health hazards, there is another often-overlooked source of danger. Artificial nails, which are made of acrylic and applied to the natural nail with glue, can be a source of many problems. The nail matrix, from which the natural nail grows, can have an adverse reaction to the adhesive used and become damaged. This will cause the new nail being produced to have an abnormal shape, or become secondarily infected. In some cases, the whole nail may fall off. Infections are also common in individuals who wear acrylic nails for long periods of time, especially if their hands often get wet. Water can become trapped between the real nail and the acrylic nail, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Luckily, such infections are usually easy to treat and can be combated with removal of the artificial nail, the use of antiseptic cream, or a course of antibiotics.
Some nail salons also attach their acrylic nails with a liquid called methyl methacrylate (MMA). MMA is toxic to the skin and nails and has been implicated in damage not only to nails but also to vital organs such as the kidney, liver, and lungs. Although MMA is now classified as a poison by the FDA, some budget nail salons continue to use it due to its low cost. Choose a nail salon that discloses the chemicals used to apply their artificial nails.