Death by Pedicure

Believe it or not, pedicures (and manicures) can be dangerous to your health and in some cases, even deadly.  Our own Dr. Jennifer Barlow offers a few simple tips to protect you.

In my last blog I wrote about toenail fungus.  Today I will expand upon this in a discussion of pedicure safety.

In 2006, podiatrist Robert Spalding authored a book entitled Death by Pedicure.  While the title may seem far-fetched, the unfortunate reality is there have been several deaths in this country associated with infections contracted from pedicure salons.  Furthermore, countless non-fatal infections are picked up every day from pedicures. 

There are several basic ways to protect oneself from these infections.  Certainly the most basic is to do your own pedicure at home!  I have plenty of patients who enjoy salon pedicures, however, and this is what I tell them:

1)    If the salon doesn’t use sterile instruments, bring your own.  If they are sterile they should come out of a sterile pack from an autoclave, the same machine used to sterilize surgical instruments.  Podiatrist and Pilates instructor/studio owner in Pleasanton, CA, Colleen Schwartz, has instrument kits which can be purchased from her website,
2)    Pumice stones/emery boards should be disposable and never used from client to client.
3)    BYOP (bring your own polish)!  If polish is used on a client who has toenail fungus and then it is used on you, you have potentially been exposed.
4)    Don’t use pedicure chairs with pipes.  The pipes cannot be effectively cleaned and can transfer bacteria and fungi.  It is better to use a basin for soaking, preferably with a disposable liner.

I also have some patients who tell me they go to pedicure salons to get their foot calluses attended to.  Here is something to be aware of regarding calluses: they are not a skin problem per se.  Calluses have a mechanical cause and unless this is addressed, they will recur again and again.  They can be minimized with use of a foot orthotic that corrects the mechanical problem.  So if you have calluses, the best person to see is your podiatrist, not your pedicurist!  I also personally like to use an exfoliating salt scrub to minimize heel calluses, which I am prone to due to frequent wear of open-backed shoes (again, mechanical!)  I have tried many, but my favorite is made by The Grapeseed Company of Santa Barbara, which makes a product called Surf Sea Salt Foot Scrub

Here’s to safe foot care!

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