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by Laurie Wertich Reviewed by A Woman's Health 10/2021

Do you know how to choose the right pedicure? You want to walk away with fancy feet, not infected feet.

Most of us don’t associate pedicures with bacteria and infection, but indeed pedicures do come with a few risks, including fungal infections and bacterial skin infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which is a potentially serious antibiotic-resistant staph infection. In 2000, one infamous outbreak in a California nail salon left over 100 customers with mycobacterial infections that were the result of a potpourri of skin debris trapped in the whirlpool tubs’ drainage systems. These episodes are rare, but they do indicate that it’s wise to take some precautions.

You don’t have to shun the salon—and pretty feet—forever. Just be sure to take some precautions and choose a salon with excellent hygiene standards. Follow these simple steps and you’ll walk away with all of the perks and none of the disasters.

Before You Go

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  • Do not shave or wax your legs prior to a pedicure. Tiny cuts and micro-abrasions create an easy pathway for bacteria and fungus to enter through the skin and into the bloodstream.
  • Do not get a pedicure if you have bug bites, scabs, poison ivy, or any other abrasions.
  • Do schedule your pedicure for first thing in the morning—after the tools have been in disinfectant all night long.

Choosing a Salon

  • Ask questions about the salon’s disinfectant procedures. Footbaths should be drained and disinfected between customers and every night. Instruments should be sterilized or heated in an autoclave.
  • Examine the cleanliness of the salon. The best way to do this is with a quick visit to the bathroom. If the bathroom is not clean, the salon likely does not maintain good hygiene elsewhere either. Does the salon appear sanitary? Do you see technicians draining and scrubbing footbaths when they finish a pedicure? In reality, it takes about 10 minutes for disinfectant to work—how quickly are they turning over customers?
  • Do not allow the technician to cut your cuticles or use a razor-type tool to smooth your feet. Both of these things can allow bacteria and fungus to enter.

After your Pedicure

  • Check your skin for infection in the days following your pedicure. An itchy foot or flaky, discolored toenail could indicate a fungal infection, whereas a red, swollen, or painful sore could be the sign of a bacterial infection.
  • Visit a podiatrist of primary care physician immediately if you suspect an infection. Left untreated, bacterial infections can become quite serious.