At the first sign of summer, women everywhere kick off the thick socks and heavy boots of winter in favor of strappy summer sandals, flip-flops and sun-kissed bare feet. Before you expose your toes, however, it's best to hit the nail salon to give your lower digits a bit of cosmetic attention. After all, nothing ruins a great pair of open-toed shoes more quickly than ragged, overgrown nails and dry, callused skin. With more than 50,000 nail salons in the U.S. alone, you should have no problem scoring an appointment for that start-of-summer mani-pedi. Get the most out of your visit and learn to avoid potential problems with our list of the top 5 things you should do before going to the nail salon.
Do Your Research
When it comes to choosing a nail salon, many women focus on things like price, décor and service selection. Unfortunately, far too few take the time to consider how well the salon handles important health and safety precautions. A simple phone call and a few key questions can help reduce your risk of picking up serious infections, including stubborn fungal infections and more serious diseases like hepatitis.
Ask your salon whether they are licensed, and be sure to look for the license during your appointment. Both the salon and each technician should be licensed by the state. Next, find out how the salon sterilizes tools; while liquid solutions are generally sufficient, an autoclave is your best protection against disease. Finally, ask about the footbaths used for pedicures. Stick to salons that use pipeless footbaths, as models with water pipes tend to harbor germs and are tough to clean. Above all, avoid any nail salon where staff seem unwilling or unable to answer your health and safety questions. A good salon will happily answer these questions and help ease your worries so you can enjoy your mani-pedi to the fullest.
Fight Fungal Infections
Bothered by a greenish hue beneath your nails? That discoloration is a sure sign of a bacteria or fungal infection, a condition that plagues more than 2.5 million Americans each year. If you schedule your mani-pedi while you're displaying symptoms, you could easily spread the infection to other customers.
While you may find a manicurist who's willing to overlook this problem, most on-the-level nail salons will refuse to treat you if your nails show signs of an infection. Sure, you may be relieved to find a place to get your nails done before a big date, but if they're letting you come in with green nails, who knows what other health and safety steps they're skipping? Play it safe and visit your doctor for treatment before you head for the nail salon. Your fellow customers will thank you.
Pick Up a Personal Nail Kit
Nail technicians typically use the same set of clippers, files and other nail-sculpting tools on every client. That means that improper sterilization can leave you exposed to all kinds of nasty diseases, from hepatitis to staph infections. While sterilizing solutions and autoclaves are generally effective at keeping tools clean, these methods aren't perfect.
To minimize your odds of picking up an infection, put together your own nail kit that you take with you to the salon. Include fingernail and toenail clippers, nail buffers, a couple of files and a cuticle stick, along with any other specialty tools you need to create your favorite style. Many clients carry these kits with them each time they get a manicure, though some nicer salons will store customers' supplies, much like a sushi restaurant holds sets of chopsticks for repeat clients. Don't have time to put together a nail kit before your appointment? Call ahead and find out if your favorite salon sells individual tools for clients who prefer not to use the house set.
Follow Your Nose
Nail salons rely on some pretty serious chemicals to dress up your nails, including formaldehyde, toluene and other known toxins. Long-term exposure to these chemicals can cause birth defects and cancer in salon workers and customers, while even short-term exposure may lead to nausea, headaches and respiratory irritation.
While it's virtually impossible to find a salon that's completely free of chemicals, you can take steps to limit your exposure. Avoid salons with overpowering odors and choose locations with adequate ventilation that allows you to breathe freely. Steer clear of establishments that leave jars of chemicals open and uncovered, as this allows dangerous fumes to continuously pollute the air. If your favorite salon doesn't pass the smell test, don't hesitate to speak up; you'll not only protect your own health, but also help make conditions better for the salon's workers.
Check Your Skin For Cuts
Most clients leave the salon with a set of perfectly polished nails, but some may leave with something far more sinister. In recent years, stories of serious infections and diseases have plagued nail salons across the country. To reduce your odds of picking up a scary infection, check your hands, feet and legs for cuts before you head to the salon. Any openings in your skin make it easier for germs to settle in, leaving you susceptible to illness. If you spot any cuts, scratches or bug bites, reschedule your appointment and give these wounds a chance to heal. It's also best to skip shaving or waxing for two days before your appointment, as hair removal can also leave small nicks or other openings in the skin that allow unwanted bacteria in.
You can't just judge a nail polish by its color. You have to consider its name, too.
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