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 they’re doing very carefully,” she says. “I had no idea you could get so sick from a pedicure.”
Most of us aren’t 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 that’s 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. “There’s 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, can’t scrutinize the businesses as carefully as they’d 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 they’re minor, like a nail file being re-used when it should have been tossed. But lots of times they’re real health hazards, like filthy foot spas.”
That’s 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. Here’s how to make sure all your beauty treatments are totally safe.