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Nail tips: make sure your salon is safe

Whether you occasionally indulge in a professional manicure or make your nail salon visits a weekly ritual, choose your salon carefully, warns the American Academy of Dermatology. Poorly trained and unlicensed technicians and those who use dirty instruments and cheap products are a cause of many health problems such as allergic reactions, nail damage and infections.

Does this mean you should cancel your next nail appointment? No, but you do need to recognize potential health hazards at your salon and take precautions.

The warning signs

If you experience itching, burning, redness, blistering or pain following a manicure or pedicure, you may be having an allergic reaction. Remove the product and seek treatment from a dermatologist. Some reactions may cause nail loss. The most common ingredients associated with allergic reaction include formaldehydes and resins found in some lacquers and hardeners and methylmethacrylate, or MMA, a chemical used in applying acrylic nails. Although the Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about MMA and several states have banned the chemical, some salons still use the product because it costs much less than safer alternatives. A telltale sign of MMA use is a very strong odor when acrylic nails are being applied.

You may want to think twice about getting acrylic nails. If the enhancements are too long, your nail may separate from the nail bed, leaving a warm, moist space for bacteria or fungus to grow.

You may also be at risk for nail damage or infection if your technician cuts or removes your cuticle. Vital to your nails’ health, the cuticle forms a seal between your nail and skin, blocking irritants and organisms. Don’t allow your cuticles to be cut, scraped or pushed back to the point where this seal is broken.

The most serious risk involves contracting infections such as nail fungus, warts, hepatitis B and C, staph and strep bacteria and athlete’s foot, plus yeast infections. Manicure tools—clippers, scissors, drills, callous-paring blades and razors—have the potential to transmit disease if they are not properly sterilized.

What can you do?

Examine your salon carefully for cleanliness. Observe whether technicians wash their hands between clients. Ask how equipment and footbaths are sanitized. No matter how clean the establishment appears, purchase your own set of tools and bring them along.