After taking antibiotics for 10 days, Joffe was fine, but the experience left her with more than a scarred toe. “I still get pedicures, but I now bring my own tools and watch what theyre doing very carefully,” she says. “I had no idea you could get so sick from a pedicure.”
Most of us arent aware of the potentially ugly side of manicures, pedicures, Botox injections, haircuts, or waxing. “We assume that if a salon is operating it must be safe, but thats not true,” says Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, who has studied salon infections and salon safety. “Theres lots to worry about, including poorly trained technicians and dirty or illegal instruments.”
Each state has its own rules for salon safety, but even those with the strictest standards, like California and Texas, cant scrutinize the businesses as carefully as theyd like. “Each of our 18 inspectors is responsible for 3,500 to 4,000 shops, which means most salons get inspected only about once every six yearsunless we get a complaint,” says James Jacobs, a supervising inspector with the California Bureau of Barbering and Cosmetology. “About 75% of the salons we inspect have violations. Sometimes theyre minor, like a nail file being re-used when it should have been tossed. But lots of times theyre real health hazards, like filthy foot spas.”
Thats bad news because, like hospitals, salons can harbor dangerous infection-causing bacteria and viruses, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and hepatitis B. That means it really is buyer beware, and the onus is on you to protect yourself. Heres how to make sure all your beauty treatments are totally safe.