Hands and Feet

Manicures During Chemotherapy: Tips to Stay Safe and Avoid Infection

+ Pamela Friedman

Chemotherapy raises the odds of infection. As we mentioned in our post about white blood cell count, chemo taxes the immune system and makes patients more susceptible to bugs and germs everywhere.

If you’re going through treatment, be hyper-vigilant about cleanliness, and avoid crowded and busy areas that may harbor extra bacteria. Did you know one of those places is the nail spa? It’s true-spas can be teeming with germs. According to CBSnews.com, “American Idol’s” Paula Abdul suffered an infection from a manicure that caused her to lose her thumbnail-and her immune system wasn’t compromised by cancer! So if you’re dying to get a new mani this summer, take a few precautions to keep yourself well.

First of all, don’t allow the technician to cut off your cuticles. They protect the nail bed from germs. Cutting them away leaves you open to infection, and puts you at risk from sharp cutting tools, so allow push-backs only, with a soft instrument.

Second, steer clear of artificial nails for now. As we mentioned in a former post, they’re rumored to carry more germs than natural nails (which have enough by themselves), because the space behind the acrylic nails and wraps harbor and trap bacteria. These bacteria are known to stick around even after careful hand washing, so spice up your own nails and leave the fake ones alone.

Next, invest in your own tools and non-toxic polishes, and always take them along! Avoid nail clippers completely, as they harbor a lot of germs and may cut open the skin. Stick to a file. Pack your own cuticle pusher and buffer as well, to protect yourself from community germs. Don’t forget the polish. Most nail spas pay little attention to the toxic chemicals present in polishes and polish removers-plus the bottles themselves can harbor germs-so follow the advice of our former post and purchase safer brands like Dr. Remedy Nail Products and Tate’s Natural Miracle Odorless Nail Polish Remover.

What about the spa? Most of us go to the one most conveniently located, but it’s wiser to do a little research to make sure you’re going to a quality place. If it looks dirty (check the restrooms and workstations), go somewhere else. Make sure state licenses are in plain view, and watch to see how frequently and thoroughly technicians sanitize their tools-and their own hands. Baths and sinks should be thoroughly cleaned with antibacterial products and plenty of water after every customer, else they can harbor germs, pieces of skin, and hair. Typically, those salons that are professional looking with licensed cosmetologists are safer than drop-in corner shops, but use your own judgment.

Finally, respect how you feel during the manicure. If anything hurts or stings, speak up. Don’t allow the technician to use anything sharp on you, including razors, blades, or callus files. Ask for those specialists who are particularly gentle, and mention your need for sensitive care. If you don’t feel comfortable at anytime, ask for another technician, or find another salon.

Of course, you can always set up your own manicure at home with a friend or loved one, and enjoy the same benefits. Essortment.com has some great general recommendations, and writer Janice Wee tells you how to host your next at-home manicure party.

Do you have tips on how to get pretty nails while avoiding infection? Please share your stories.

Photo courtesy of Edmund North Orchestra Boosters via Flickr.com.