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Woman enjoying foot massage

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As we prepare for the official end of summer, which is September 23, we will have to prepare for our toes to go back into socks and shoes to be hidden away until springtime. Fall and wintertime is often filled with a lot of neglect when it comes to our feet, and they can definitely stand some TLC in the form of a pedicure. However, finding the right nail salon, an affordable one that doesn’t have a packed schedule at that, isn’t always easy, and because of such issues, some women often take their dollars and their toes to less than clean businesses. For the record, just because there aren’t overflowing trash cans and rings around sinks in an establishment doesn’t mean you’re automatically in the clear at certain salons and spas.

“Pedicures are completely fine as long as the salon is hygienic,” says Miguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare in Manhattan. “I suggest ensuring that the pedicurist uses new utensils on your foot to ensure you don’t contact any fungus or bacteria that could lead to athlete’s foot or plantar warts.”

Experts like Cunha say that before you get too comfortable in a space, keep your eye out for anything that could be a breeding ground for bacteria, as the organisms can cause damaged toenails and cuticles.

“Make sure that there is no sign of foreign debris before you dip your feet in,” he said of soaking tubs. “Do the finger test if you’re unsure. Swipe your finger through the water and make sure that there is no debris collected on your finger. As Dr. Cunha joked, “If it’s suspicious, it ain’t delicious.”

But sometimes, even in the cleanest nail salons, nail techs can end up cutting your skin while trying to clip your cuticles. Dr. Cunha doesn’t recommend allowing your cuticles to be cut because your cuticles provide protection from potential infections and ingrown nails. 

However, if you choose to allow such maintenance and you end up with a sore toenail due to a pedicurist’s utensils cutting your skin, you should act fast to clean the area with an antiseptic.

“Anytime you get a cut on your cuticles, you should always pay attention to it,” he said. “Make sure to immediately apply Betadine to dry out any possible bacteria and monitor it throughout the healing process. If you have a shellfish allergy, we recommend that you avoid using Betadine.”

And even after a good experience getting a pedicure, many of us just go home and stare in awe at our freshly painted and tamed toes. However, it is encouraged that you provide some at-home care to your toenails when you leave the salon to help deal with issues nail techs can’t always solve, including calluses, fungal buildup, blisters and foot pain.

“To eliminate calluses, I often recommend that my patients soak their feet in four parts water and one part apple cider vinegar with three table spoons of Epsom Salt for 20 minutes. This helps break down the dry skin. Afterwards, apply castor oil, tea tree oil, or eucalyptus oil, which are natural anti-fungals, directly to the callus for five to 10 minutes and then exfoliate with a pumice stone,” he said.

“Epsom salts can help with blisters because they contain magnesium, which can reduce swelling and pain associated with blisters. Magnesium can help irrigate, cleanse, and dry out blisters, which also helps reduce the painful rawness of blisters while expediting the healing time.”

All that being said, if you’re able to find a nail salon or spa that you feel caters well, and hygienically, to your feet, Dr. Cunha says the benefits of a good soak in their baths are substantial.

“Soaking your feet helps to relax muscles and reduce pain and strain because it helps promote circulation of the feet,” he said. “Going to a sanitary foot spa may also help in detoxification of the feet by promoting the transfer of toxins to the lymphatic system and kidneys, which helps improve the health of your feet but also of the body. The effects of soaking your feet includes reducing of headaches and stress, ultimately helping your disposition and overall health.”

So don’t be afraid to make that next mani-pedi appointment, just as long as you’re going to a place that isn’t reusing the same utensils without proper cleaning or leaves you soaking in a bath of bacteria. Take the time to seek out a salon or spa that will take your nail health, and overall well-being seriously, and not just take your money.

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