09 Sep Nail Salons and Hygiene
Spring is here and, as the weather warms up, we trade in our winter boots and closed shoes for footwear to suit the season. If you’re looking down at your feet thinking you must book in for a much-needed pedicure this weekend, take heed. The Australian Podiatry Association has expressed concern over the incorrect practices of nail salons that have resulted in foot and nail problems for many customers who frequent these salons.
Hundreds of customers walk out of their chosen salon with infections — bacterial, viral and fungal – and no matter which salon you go to, there is always a risk of infection since many these places are hygiene hazards. The problem is, there is no way to verify if the instruments and equipment used at your local nail salon has been properly soaked and sterilised.
Think about it this way: Most nail salons won’t turn away paying customers, which means they often serve people who have nail infections or a foot fungus. Nail technicians also use callus-cutting tools, nail nippers, files and cuticle pushers which can often cut your skin, making you susceptible to infections thanks to broken skin.
Remember, fungi are tenacious – they could still lurk on your technician’s hands, inside nailpolish brushes and in foot soaking tubs. Speaking of foot tubs, pedicure baths at a salon are a breeding ground for foot diseases like tinea, foot fungus and blood-borne diseases. If a nail spa doesn’t clean its foot tubs thoroughly between each client, you could walk home with an infection. Foot fungus isn’t easily removed from the surfaces it grows on, so a light cleaning may not rid a tub of its presence.
Emery boards, pumice stones and toe separators can retain exfoliated skin particles, fungi, staph, bacteria and viruses, which can be transferred from one customer to the next.
The bottom line is, in Australia, the nail industry is not strictly regulated, so you do to be vigilant when you go to a nail salon and speak up if you’re not satisfied with their standards of cleanliness. Check that your local manicure/pedicure place thoroughly disinfects all their equipment and tools between each client. All wooden implements (files and cuticle sticks) must be disposed after every client. Metal tools must be scrubbed with a germ-killing soap and hot water, then metal tools are fully immersed and soaked in disinfectant while files are sprayed with disinfectant and left to dry. Only an autoclave (which sanitises with extreme heat) kills a 100 percent of all bacteria and viruses on metal instruments and only a handful of nail salons have this equipment as it is too expensive. Clean implements should be stored in a closed container or plastic bag after being sanitised. Foot tubs with spa jets need to be filled with hot water and hospital-grade disinfectant, run for 10 minutes, drained, sprayed with more disinfectant, and then wiped down between each customer. To minimise your risk, you could take your own set of instruments to be used at the salon.
Beauty parlours / nail salons are not required to be registered in NSW. However, NSW Health has Nail Treatment Hygiene Standards which they need to adhere to. Council environmental health officers routinely inspect hairdressing salons, beauty salons and premises that carry out skin penetration procedures. Environmental Health Officers are available to investigate consumer complaints. If you have any concerns regarding your local nail salon, please contact your local council health department to lodge a complaint or call 1300 066 055 to talk to your local Public Health Unit.
If you have developed a foot or nail infection after visiting a nail salon, please contact our podiatrists for a thorough assessment.