Woman says pedicure left her with ‘shooting pain like knives’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cindy Dillon spent almost two months recovering from her last pedicure.

“I bent over and saw this terrible, terrible burn on my foot,” she said.

Dillon believes the burn came from the gel a nail tech was using to remove calluses on the bottom of her foot. That same gel was accidentally dripped on top of her foot, which was then wrapped in hot towels and plastic for 15 minutes.

The next day, a doctor diagnosed the burn as second- or third-degree.

Although the Kansas salon denied it did anything wrong, infections from pedicures and manicures are more common than most people realize, said Dr. Daniel Aires, head of dermatology at the University of Kansas Health System.

“I've seen oozing pus. I've seen bright red painful fingers. I've seen people who have had to lose part of a finger,” Aires said. “I've seen it all.”

Aires hates acrylic nails, which he said can lead to fungal infections. He's also not a fan of cuticle clippers. Aires said cuticles protect your nails. They should never be removed.

Related: Secrets from the salon 

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12 Things Your Nail Salon Doesn't Want You to Know
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12 Things Your Nail Salon Doesn't Want You to Know

YOU ARE ALWAYS AT RISK

Podiatrist Dr. Robert Spalding, author of "Death by Pedicure," states that "at this time, an estimated one million unsuspecting clients walk out of their chosen salon with infections -- bacterial, viral and fungal." And no matter which salon you go to, there is always a risk of infection. He claims that in his research "75 percent of salons in the United States are not following their own state protocols for disinfections," which includes not mixing their disinfectant solutions properly on a daily basis, not soaking their instruments appropriately, and using counterfeit products to reduce costs (for example Windex substituted for Barbicide), says the doctor. And the problem is that there is no way to really "verify an instrument has been properly soaked and sterilized," without watching the process.

By: Total Beauty

THEY DON'T TURN AWAY CUSTOMERS AWAY

Like most businesses, most nail salons won't turn away paying costumers. Which means that people who are sick, have nail infections or foot fungus are being worked on next to you instead of being referred to an appropriate medical professional.

Dr. Spalding says that the greatest danger of the nail salon is "The transmission of infection from one client to another." And with "millions of people whose immune systems are compromised by diabetes, HIV, cancer, hepatitis and other infective organisms" booking services offered in nail salons, many are dangerously susceptible to infection, warns the doctor.

THEY SWAP AND DILUTE BOTTLES

In her long history as a nail technician, celebrity manicurist Jin Soon Choi, owner of Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spas in New York City, says she has heard of many salons filling expensive lotion bottles with a cheap generic lotion. That way the salons can charge you more for the manicure by claiming to use prestige products, but in reality are just deceiving you.

Similarly, she says that some salons will dilute nail polish bottles that have become clumpy from old age or from too much air exposure with nail polish remover. This action compromises the quality of the polish, which will make the formula chip easier once on your nails. To ensure the life of your color and to protect any possible germ spreading, tote your own bottles.

By: Total Beauty

JUST BECAUSE THERE IS NO BLOOD, DOESN'T MEAN YOU HAVEN'T BEEN CUT

"Breaks in the skin can be microscopic or highly visible," says Dr. Spalding. They can either come in with the client via "cuts, scratches, hangnails, bitten nails, insect bites, paper cuts, split cuticles -- or be created in the salon," he says. "Nail techs using callus-cutting tools and nail nippers, files, cuticle pushers, and electric burrs and drills, can and do scratch and nick skin," sometimes drawing blood and sometimes not. But just because no blood is visible, doesn't mean these "portals of entry" aren't susceptible to infective organisms, the doctor advises.

If you've ever had your nails filed and it momentarily feels "too hot in the corner for even a second," then you've had the surface layer of your skin broken -- leaving it open for infection.

By: Total Beauty

ALL COSTS ARE NOT INCLUDED

Some salons will try to keep certain added costs a secret, says Choi. They try and up charge you for "nail strengtheners or base coats" and won't tell you until it's time to check out, she says. A quality nail salon will include all costs in the advertised price of the service, says Choi. So make sure to ask if all costs are included before soaking your hands or feet.

By: Total Beauty

THEY AREN'T TALKING ABOUT YOU

Some narcissists or paranoid customers might think that nail technicians are talking about them when they speak to each other in other languages across the room, but they aren't. Apparently they don't care to share with each other how lovely your nail beds are or how gross your big toe is. "In general, they mostly gossip about their family and friends and the shows they watched last night," says Choi.

 

By: Total Beauty

 

NOT ALL DISINFECTING SOLUTIONS ARE 100 PERCENT EFFECTIVE

"Some infective microorganisms are easy to kill [and] some are not," says the doctor. And unfortunately, he has seen "industry-wide confusion about the definition of the term 'sterilize.'"

He says many nail techs think their instruments are sterilized, when, in fact, they "have no clue," because not all disinfectant solutions are powerful enough to kill all viruses. Therefore, when nail techs aren't informed of costumers' pre-existing medical conditions, they don't know how to properly disinfect for particular viruses. "These are medical situations," says the doctor, which manicure and pedicure-licensed technicians aren't trained for -- it's not in their job description and isn't their fault as they are "neither schooled nor licensed to work in the presence of blood or to maintain a surgically sterile environment," says the doctor.

 

By: Total Beauty

AN AUTOCLAVE IS THE ONLY SAFE BET FOR STERILIZATION

Many salons use Barbicide, UV light "sterilizer" boxes, or other chemical solutions to disinfect their tools, which is legal and standard, but not totally effective at killing all bacteria and infection. The only solution that works completely is an autoclave, a machine used to sterilize equipment and supplies using high pressure and steam, "which kills 100 percent of all infective organisms," says Dr. Spalding. But currently, only two states (Texas and Iowa) require autoclaves in nail salons by law, which means that "less than one percent of salons" use them regularly, he warns.

How can you find out if your salon is using an autoclave so that you're a 100 percent protected? First, ask the salon manager how they disinfect their tools and then look for the "color change pouches that the instruments are prepared in," says the doctor. The color changes on the bag once correct sterilization conditions have been met. This color change indicates that the object inside the package has been processed. Autoclave pouches are therefore sealed and should be opened in front of you.

 

By: Total Beauty

WHEN YOU SHAVE MATTERS

You shouldn't shave before getting a pedicure, says Choi, as pedicurists do not care if you have hair on your legs. Also, shaving your legs makes you more prone to infection as newly shaved legs have open pores (and often tiny nicks you can't see) that are susceptible to infectious diseases. So don't be wary of showing off some stubble at the salon, she says.

 

By: Total Beauty

YOU DON'T NEED YOUR CALLUSES REMOVED

Many salons will try and talk you into callous removal, as it is usually an additional service and charge. But Skyy Hadley, celebrity manicurist and owner of the As "U" Wish Nail Spa, says it is not always necessary. "If you're an athlete then you should never remove your calluses as these actually help level your performance. If you are not an athlete, you should have your calluses removed with a deep soak and scrub once they become thick and uncomfortable," she says.

If you do opt for callous removal, always choose scrubbing or a chemical remover. Never allow your nail technician to cut or shave the skin off your feet. "Cutting is cutting," and "not recommended," says Choi. Not to mention, the more you cut, the thicker the calluses will grow back, she advises.

 

By: Total Beauty

SOME TOOLS CAN'T BE SANITIZED

You can only put metal tools in the autoclave, says Choi. And as we stated before, only an autoclave kills a 100 percent of all bacteria and viruses. Nail salon tools like pumice stones, emery boards, nail buffers and foam toe separators need to be swapped out after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria. That's why you're best off bringing your own -- just in case the salon doesn't follow this practice. If you see any white residue on a nail file, it means it's been used on someone else.

 

By: Total Beauty

FOOTBATHS AREN'T YOUR FRIEND

"Whirlpool footbaths," though seemingly safe, are filled with city water, which may or may not be free of microbes, says the doctor and are typically difficult to clean. Even though most nail salons disinfect their tubs, researchers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention typically find bacteria that could cause boils and rashes in most according to the "New York Times." And it's extremely hard to bust these salons with having microbe growth, as many times salons aren't linked to the infections because boils can take as long as four months after a pedicure to develop.
 

 

By: Total Beauty

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Cleanliness is one of the most important parts of a cosmetology education. Experts like Lisa Steinhauser, the education leader at Paul Mitchell The School in Overland Park, Kansas, knows that not every nail tech follows the rules.

“They are filing with a nail file, and they put it back in their drawer,” Steinhauser said. “Well, those nail files are single use items. They can’t be sanitized. They need to be disposed of after each use. “

Fox 4 Problem Solver sent an undercover producer into a Kansas City, Missouri, nail salon where cleanliness didn’t appear to be the top priority. We even showed our findings to veteran nail salon owner Hai Dao of OPI Nails, also in KCMO.

“This salon is in bad shape,” Dao said, noticing the dirty towels on the floor and a nail tech who was resting her feet inside a pedicure basin.

Dao was also shocked by the amount of wear on the file and buffer that the nail tech was using. They’d obviously been used multiple times before, he said.

Plus, instead of soaking her tools in a disinfectant for 10 to 15 minutes, as required, the nail tech we filmed sprayed them with a liquid before using them.

Dao said if the tools aren't properly sanitized, any bacteria on them could be transferred to the next customer.

Avoiding a bad salon isn’t easy in Missouri. State inspections are not a public record. Salons don’t have to show them to you even if you ask to see them -- that’s something two state legislators didn’t even realize.

“When you called and said the public doesn't have access to inspection information that was actually kind of shocking,” said Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City. McCann Beatty said she planned to work to change the law, which has been on the books for more than a decade.

In Kansas, state inspection reports must be posted in the salon and disciplinary actions are posted online.

The salon Dillon went to in Kansas was cited on its last two inspections for not following proper sanitation procedures, including not cleaning the pedicure chair.

So how do you pick a good salon? Here’s what you should see: The pedicure bowl being cleaned with soap and water before being sprayed with a hospital-grade disinfectant.

It’s not required, but some salons even place a plastic liner inside the basin and put disinfected nail tools in a dated and sealed bag.

“The biggest advice I would ever give somebody if you go into a salon and something makes you feel uncomfortable -- get up and leave,” Steinhauser said. “Don't stay. Don't finish. Don't let that service continue."

Related: Germs in your own home

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18 things in your home that are covered with germs
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18 things in your home that are covered with germs

Sink: It’s where all your kitchen dirt goes (we hope). In fact, it’s home to as many as 500,000 bacteria per square inch. Spray it down often, clean out your food trap, and scrub with scouring powder like Bon Ami at least once a week.

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Cutting boards: Whether you’re chopping meat, veggies or fruit, your cutting board could be Ground Zero for foodborne illness. Prevent cross-contamination by dedicating one board to meats and another to produce. And always wash your board ASAP after using it—especially if you were working with raw meat. Researchers at UC Davis also recommend plastic cutting boards over wood, because they’re easiest to sanitize—they can go in the dishwasher. Clean a wooden cutting board with soap and warm water, dry it quickly, and seal it with butcher-block oil whenever you notice the wood is drying out.

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Countertops: All the action—chopping, mixing, drink-pouring—happens here, so of course they’re covered with little particles of everything. First off, cut the clutter to give crumbs and germs fewer places to hide. Then wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth after every meal.

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Fridge shelves and drawers: Your refrigerator is home to both raw and cooked foods, and if it’s disorganized, they probably come in contact now and then. Store raw meat in a plastic bag to serve as an extra barrier, and stop spoiled food from turning into science experiments by throwing it away as soon as you notice it. Another cool trick we use at our house: Empty and wipe down the shelves and drawers whenever you do a big grocery shop.

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Sponges: They’ve been banned from commercial kitchens—ban them from yours, too. But if you must use a sponge, rinse it with hot water after every swipe. At the end of every day, get it wet and nuke it in the microwave for a minute. Toss it after a few weeks (one week if you’re missing the daily sanitizing routine).

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Dish towels: If you rush through washing your hands, some germs may still be hanging out on them and you’ll transfer those germs to the dish towel. Change dish towels a few times a week, and wash them with hot water when you do the laundry.

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Makeup brushes: They touch your face every day, coming in contact with oils, bacteria and dead skin cells. Wash them with mild soap whenever you notice makeup buildup.

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Towels: Like dish towels, they pick up any germs left after a shower. Plus, if your bathroom has poor air circulation, towels may get musty if they stay damp too long. Wash them in hot water at least once a week.

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Tub: The equivalent of the kitchen sink for your bod, the tub takes in a lot of grime. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth every day and get rid of mold spots with baking soda or vinegar. (Find dozens more ways to clean with baking soda here.)

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​​​Floor around the toilet: It gets splashed, plain and simple. For starters, make sure to put the lid down every time you flush. Clean up noticeable spots right away and scrub with bathroom cleaner at least once a week.

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Faucet handles: You touch these before your hands are clean. ‘Nuff said. Wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth.

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Toothbrush holder: It’s all about gravity: Many of the germs on your toothbrush drip into the holder. Rinse it out daily—do double-duty while you’re brushing your teeth with the other hand. Then sanitize your toothbrush holder in the dishwasher (if it can take it) or give it a good scrub with soap and water.

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Electronics: Smartphones, keyboards, mice, the remote control (OK, let’s be real: 17 remote controls)—germy fingers come in contact with them all the time. In fact, the National Institutes of Health recently found that cellphones are 10 times dirtier than toilet seats. Wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth as often as possible. Don’t forget to remove any cases so you can clean underneath.

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Doorknobs, handles and light switches: Even if your hand only touches these items for a fraction of a second, that’s enough time to transfer bacteria. Once again, a quick wipe-down with a damp microfiber cloth will do.

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Shoe rack: Footwear is a huge culprit for bringing germs into your home, so it’s no surprise that their storage unit is a bacterial breeding ground. Put some elbow grease into cleaning this one and wipe it with bathroom cleaner—you never know what somebody stepped in.

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Carpets and rugs: Even if you’re using the no-shoes rule, carpets suck up every crumb, dead skin cell and germ that hits them. Vacuum weekly and spritz high-traffic areas with a carpet sanitizer. If you can toss rugs into the laundry, do it.

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Bags: Your purse holds money (super dirty!) and your kid’s lunch bag holds food (raise your hand if you ever forget to clean it out over the weekend). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning these to keep them in the best shape.

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Toys: No matter whose toys they are—your kid’s or the dog’s—they probably spend a lot of time in somebody’s mouth. Consider what they’re made of, then clean accordingly, tossing them in the laundry, dishwasher, or wiping with a cloth.

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