Keeping nails, hands, feet healthy

nail kit

My nice blue toes posing with my newly owned nail kit.

I had my nails done recently, probably for the first time ever in Oregon. (When I lived in Oregon right after college I didn’t have a lot of money and rarely had a manicure and at that point had never had a pedicure.)

Last week as I was getting ready to dip my toes in the warm water I was asked if I had my nail kit. I had no idea what I was being asked.

It was explained to me that it is Oregon law to have my own nail kit, which consists of nail file, toe separators, foot scrubby cleaning thing (yup, that’s an official name for it–kidding!), aka pumice, and a nail buffer. It cost me just 2 bucks and I need to bring it with me every time (or pay 2 bucks every time).

After I got home I started the research on being the owner of my own nail kit.

From what I read I believe the law went into effect in Oregon in 2007.

Oregon.gov Board of Cosmetology website, which states that Oregon launched a public education campaign called Safe Salons, says, in other states, bacterial skin infection outbreaks — due to improper cleaning and disinfection of foot spas — harmed hundreds of nail salon clients, notably in northern California.  The Oregon Health Licensing Office, however, has received only four complaints related to similar bacterial infections since 2003.

From the Oregon Health Licensing Office, Safe Salons goal is to raise consumer awareness of salon health and safety issues and to reinforce in Oregon’s more than 29,000 individual practitioners (in barbering, esthetics, hair design and nail technology) at nearly 5,000 salons statewide the necessity of following state safety and health requirements meant to protect both consumers and practitioners.

I am all for safety when it comes to salon health, especially at the nail salon.

But what I am a little confused by is that I have understood infections to mostly come from unclean tubs/foot spas and tools, which cut, trim and clean the nails and cuticles. (Oh, but I am learning more as I research and read. So read on.)

From U.S. News Health article, I found online, Robert Spalding, a Tennessee podiatrist and author of “Death by Pedicure,” says about 75 percent of salons in the U.S. don’t follow state protocol for disinfection. While it’s impossible to be completely sterile, salons should sterilize their tools using an autoclave –  a machine used in medical environments, which produces ​steam and pressure for disinfecting equipment.

Also from the U.S. News Health article, Dennis Shavelson,​ a podiatrist in New York City​, says infections can stem from dull nail files, but sharp instruments are especially concerning​.

From How Stuff Works: If a spa doesn’t regularly clean its foot tubs between each client, the odds of leaving the spa with a fungal infection you didn’t walk in with increase.

From my research it sounds like all tools can cause an infection. Dull nail files can cause infections. Pumice stones can spread warts. Ewww! Uncleaned or not well-cleaned tubs can spread infection as can tools that aren’t cleaned properly.

If the nail salon you go to reuses tools, such as nail clippers, cuticle trimmers and tubs, make sure they clean them properly and well. With my own nail kit I am not endangering myself or others with reuse of some of the tools.

And I am aware of my regular salons and how they clean and disinfect.

That being said I have gotten cut before. And one time I did get a skin infection on my thumb. I am not certain I got it at my previous regular nail salon (and they use an autoclave and clean their tubs properly). But the nurse and doctor at my doctor’s office both asked me if I got manicures …

The best we can do is be educated, pay attention to how our salons clean and go to licensed salons. I am all for a cheap mani/pedi but not if it causes me risk of infection. (In rare cases, those infections can cause death.)

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