Scared of nasty infections? 7 questions you should ask your salon

Speak up and be on the safe side when it comes to spa treatments.
Speak up and be on the safe side when it comes to spa treatments.

A spa visit should never make you go "ew".

We share a couple of horror stories about salon visits with nasty consequences. 

In November 2017 Health24 reported on a woman who experienced third-degree burn wounds from a routine pedicure when she received treatment to remove callouses from her foot.

This is, however, not our only spa horror story. In 2014 a woman from Texas, USA, contracted an infection after a routine pedicure. The infection was so severe that her toe had to be surgically removed. Apparently she contracted the infection from a foot bath.

While a fungal infection doesn't sound too serious, the risk remains that any infection can end up in your bloodstream, with severe health consequences. There is even the risk of contracting other infections such as hepatitis B, as indicated in a research survey published in the Canadian Journal of Health.

But don’t cancel your next spa appointment just yet. Make sure you stay safe by asking these questions during the course of your next visit.

1. 'What are your overall cleanliness and safety regulations and procedures?'

Do your research beforehand, read reviews, or physically pop into your salon or spa before you book your appointment. You will be able to gauge the overall cleanliness. Are the counter tops and mirrors clean? Are the towels fresh? How often are the magazines in the waiting area replaced? These items can create the perfect environment for germs if not discarded regularly. Pay attention to the details – they can be good indicators of the general cleanliness of the salon. 

You can also ask if the salon has the necessary certifications and check whether these are on display. 

 2. 'Could you cover that cut on your hand with a plaster?'

If your manicurist or therapist has an open wound or sore on her finger, bacteria could be transferred to you. Any cuts or wounds on their hands should be covered to ensure the hygiene of clients. And that's not the only concern. Are the therapists in your salon neatly and cleanly dressed? If not, it’s likely they may not take hygiene seriously while doing a manicure or pedicure. Their kits and equipment should also be neat and sterile. 

3. 'Do you use disposable equipment?'

Check whether the therapist is using disposable equipment such as nail files. If not, you should ask whether these items have been sanitised. And if you're still not convinced, bring your own nail file or clippers along. Bacterial infections spread like wildfire in nail salons when nail files are used on more than one client without being properly sanitised. 

A survey mentioned in a paper by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health in Canada investigated four nail salons providing manicure and pedicure services, where they analysed swab samples from randomly selected nail instruments. Results showed that all instruments (three from each salon) from three of the four salons were contaminated with micro-organisms, including Rhizopus arrhizus, Candida albicans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, as well as several micro-organisms from the Bacillus-species

The same survey revealed that most of the disposable equipment in the salons was reused. 

4. 'Are your footbaths cleaned regularly?'

Determine what type of footbaths are used for soaking your feet during a pedicure. Plastic foot basins may harbour nasty bacteria such as Mycobacterium fortuitum, a bacterium that occurs naturally in water and soil, and can cause severe boils and skin infections when entering the body through cuts and abrasions. The footbaths should be disinfected between customers, as well as at the end of every day.  

According to an article published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a shocking 97% of nail salon footbaths tested positive for Mycobacterium fortitium, which may cause boils and skin infections. Then there's also the risk of contracting fungal infections that are notoriously hard to get rid of.

You should not have your feet soaked if you have an open wound, if you recently shaved or waxed, or if you're unhappy with hygiene standards.

5. 'Do you use an autoclave to sterilise your equipment?'

An autoclave is a sterilisation device used in medical and dental institutions and more advanced nail salons. This device is guaranteed to kill any bug and is much more effective than disinfecting solutions regularly used in salons.

6. 'It hurts. Could you stop?'

You've probably experienced it before – the manicurist accidentally nicks your skin with the nail or cuticle clipper. It burns, but you suck it up as she carries on. It's perfectly okay to be wary if your skin is broken, as you could contract bacteria through the open wound.

Filing off acrylic nails can weaken the nail bed and create an infection risk. You can ask her not to do this if you're not comfortable with the procedure. 

7. 'Could I see the ingredient list of the products you use?'

Some gel nail polishes used during manicures contain a chemical called methyl acrylate, which can cause an allergic skin reaction, called contact dermatitis.

If you're concerned about developing an allergic reaction from any of the products used during a beauty treatment, whether it's a manicure or a facial, you have the right to ask about the products. Do your homework beforehand by investigating which products will be used during a certain treatment, and discuss any concerns with your therapist beforehand. 

Image credit: iStock

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