Nail trends are constantly changing from the accent nail to ombre glitter, and aquarium nails to stiletto nails. While it may seem like a harmless luxury to pamper yourself on a $50 mani-pedi, you might be buying more than you think. Nail salons are home to more than just your favorite Essie color–they can be harboring serious health hazards. And unlike medical providers who are legally and ethically required to inform patients of the risks of each procedure, nail artists rarely, if ever, provide their patrons with enough information to understand that a monthly $30 lacquer may mean a $30,000 hospital bill, amputation, or death.
Nail salons can be the source of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other infectious agents including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. Patrons can contract these biologic hazards from salons that re-use utensils and instruments without properly cleaning them between patrons or ineffectively clean equipment.
While sharper tools like nail clippers can cause noticeable cuts, inviting infection, filing nails and removing cuticles cause microtraumas which can expose patrons to pathogens. Salons can trim down the transmission of pathogens by utilizing an autoclave, a sterilizer used to clean surgical instruments at hospitals, to sterilize tools between every patron. Alternatively, salons can reduce transmission by providing each patron with a new sterile pack of tools for each appointment.
Salons should take care to sterilize instruments as well as equipment shared by multiple patrons. Improperly cleaned foot baths are a common source of fungal infections, where fungus takes advantage of the moist dark environment and replicates. Foot fungus is very common and can be treated with topical medications. However, when topical medication fails to control the fungus, oral anti-fungals such as itraconazole or terbinafine may be required. A typical course of oral antifungal medications can take months to complete because the medication eliminates infection in the growing nail and is successful when the contaminated nail is completely grown out. Oral antifungal medication have a myriad of side effects including rashes and liver damage and individuals with congestive heart failure or liver disease may be ineligible to take oral antifungals.
Bacteria and fungus from unclean nail tools can contribute to other serious conditions such as thrombophlebitis, osteomyelitis, and sepsis which require extensive and expensive medical attention to treat or cure. Patients with diabetes, vascular disease, and other underlying medical conditions are at greater risk of debilitation after an infection. In certain cases, surgical intervention, including amputation, is required to cure infection.