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Nail Fungus Fears & Professional Manicures

By Amalah

Dear Amy,
Help! I am 44 years old and I have NEVER had a manicure or pedicure. Why, you ask? Well, I am TERRIFIED of catching something from a nail shop (fungus, hepatitis, the plague, you get the picture). My husband and I attend a Christmas event every year for his work which is pretty formal. I can handle the stress of finding a dress, shoes and handbag but let’s just say my hands and feet leave much to be desired I basically deal with situation by sitting on my hands and keeping my feet tucked under the table. My question is how can I find a salon that can guarantee me that they will not infect me with diseases?
the mani-pedi virgin Denise

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve gotten manicures and pedicures everywhere — from high-end fahhhncy spas to the diviest little combination laundromat-n-VHS-rental-nail-salon you have ever seen in your life, and NEVER, EVER ended up with any disease or fungus. (Or perhaps the mental image I just gave you made things worse.)
The truth is, though, that your fears are not completely unfounded. Because yes, it is totally possible to catch a nail fungus from a manicure and pedicure. But it’s totally possible to avoid it, provided you do the tiniest basic research or pre-appointment scoping out of the place ahead of time.
Things you want to see (besides, obviously, a CLEAN, brightly-lit area):
1) Rows of mostly full, still-fresh bottles of polish. If the polish selection is chock full of more than half-empty, crusty and color-separated bottles, EW.
2) Some type of sanitizer being used in the pedicure process. 99% of salons will either squirt your feet or add something to the water to sanitize everything — it’s as much for their technician’s protection as yours.
3) Speaking of technicians…take a look at their hands. How do THEIR nails look? What about their skin? Some redness can be normal (they are exposed to a LOT of water and lotions and the work can cause a fair amount of chafing), but…you know. Their hands SHOULD look healthy and well-cared for. Yellowed nails, peeling skin, raised patches of blisters? EW.
4) All metal instruments should be stored in a cleaning/antiseptic solution — similar to what they use at the dentist. If you’re truly phobic, go ahead and ask how often the liquid is changed out and the instruments are given a good scrub.
5) Speaking of dentists — you know how they keep diplomas and such on their walls? Nail and beauty salons have stuff like this too. Work permits, health inspection certificates, all sorts of other official government-y documents need to be prominently displayed and up-to-date, certifying that they’ve been found to be up to code.
mani%20pedi%20set.jpgA lot of salons these days will actually ask that new clients buy their own packet of instruments — files, buffers, cuticle scissors, toe separators, etc. This stuff gets put in a box and labeled with your name, and is then ONLY used for you. Call around until you find a salon that offers this option, or…
Just bring your own instruments anyway! Buy a professional manicure/pedicure kit on your own and bring it along. I see women do it all the time — they bring everything down to their own base coat and polish. Something like this set from Sephora contains everything they use at a salon — that you can sterilize to your little heart’s content before and after your appointments, OR buckle down and learn the fine art of salon-quality at-home manicures and pedicures.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Another tip…check with your Health Department online. They have listings of complaints against businesses and actually have rules for which salon tools are acceptable specifically to prevent disease and infections. In Virginia, a certain type of foot scraper has been made illegal because it uses a blade and can spread bad things. I’ve had hundreds of pedicures in all sorts of places and have never had a problem though. Just be informed and if your gut says no, go with it!


If it’s any consolation, I HAVE gotten nail fungus from a dirty clammy handed dude at my local nail shop, and all I had to do was soak my pinkie nail in vinegar for like 10 minutes, every night for a week and it went away, never to be seen again. It’s TOTALLY worth the risk! And I’m a major germaphobe. 🙂