How Risky are Infections from the Nail Salon?

Who doesn’t love to treat themselves to a pampered pedicure and manicure. For some of us it’s a routine. We go to the salon every few weeks for our sweet mani/pedi. For others it’s a guilty pleasure, spending a little extra money on ourselves instead of groceries or back to school supplies. I used to fall somewhere in between before I stopped going all together. But never once did I think it might be dangerous or make me sick.


But there are plenty of reported cases of toe and nail infections from salons. While few have resulted in death, one woman developed a toe infection so bad she had to have her toenail removed. Another woman here in Arizona received a small cut on her finger at a salon last March. It became infected down to the bone and she was facing possible amputation.

You might be surprised to know that about 75 percent of salons in the U.S. don’t follow state protocol for disinfection (that’s 3 out 4!!!!). Salons are supposed to sterilize their tools using an autoclave –  a machine used in medical environments for disinfecting equipment.

But most nail salons use liquid disinfectants which only kill bacteria if the tools are allowed to soak for about 20 minutes. Too often instruments are removed early and used on the next client to save time.

Ever have the nail technician clip your cuticles a little too quickly and nick the skin? I have. She apologizes profusely, moves on and you figure it’s no big deal. But is it really a good idea to ignore it? 

Those little injuries that you can’t see and just disregard are actually the ones that can lead to big problems and maybe even land you in the hospital You can be exposed to things like Hepatitis B, MRSA, and other nasty infections if salons are not following proper disinfecting methods.    


I hate to ruin the wonderful ritual of soaking our feet in the warm, bubbling water while relaxing in a massage chair. But have you ever thought about the people who were soaking their feet before you? Nope, I haven’t either. I just blindly trust that those little foot baths have been properly sanitized.

But nail fungus can spread in a salon too if foot baths and instruments aren’t cleaned properly. A small study done by Rutgers University in 2017, revealed that an alarming 52 percent of the study participants developed skin rashes, nail issues or fungal infections after having gone to a salon a few times in the past year. Eek.

What you can do

If you think you have a fungus or an infection,  see a Podiatrist or your Doctor rather than risk losing a nail or something worse.

If you must go to a salon, I would follow this advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines on fungal nail infections.“Choose a salon that is clean and licensed by your state’s cosmetology board. Make sure the salon sterilizes its instruments (nail clippers, scissors, etc.) after each use, or, you can bring your own.”

Of course another alternative is to not go to the salon at all and do your mani/pedi at home. I haven’t been to the salon in almost a year. I use Color Street Nail Polish Strips which are real nail polish in the form of a strip. I use them on my fingers and toes and they seem to last forever.

The best part is I don’t have to worry about infection from contaminated tools or foot baths. Full transparency, I am a Color Street stylist but I wouldn’t even mention them if I didn’t think they were the most awesome way to do your nails safely and on a budget.

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