Hands and Feet

Pedicures: Be Cautious During Chemotherapy

+ CV Skinlabs Team

It’s a nice feeling to walk out of the salon with fresh, vibrant feet decorated with that perfect shade of polish. Nothing better accessorizes a favorite pair of sandals than a great pedicure! However, recent infection breakouts compelled us to warn you again-be sure you’re frequenting only high-quality salons, especially if you have, or are in remission from, cancer. If foot spas aren’t properly cleaned and disinfected, they can harbor dangerous bacteria.

The bugs that can live in footbaths are commonly found in dirt, dust, and water supplies-but they’re nasty little critters. According to “Nails Magazine,” California has had several outbreaks where people suffered pus-filled sores all over their lower legs. (The infection had to be treated with strong antibiotics.) The breakout looked something like insect bites, or pimples, that gradually grew in size and severity.

The cause was traced back to bacteria from pedicures performed weeks or even months before the sores showed up. Nearly 200 people were affected, and similar problems have now showed up in other states, including Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, and Arizona.

It’s not just that technicians aren’t cleaning the spas. Sometimes, they may not clean them frequently enough, but more often, they don’t clean them correctly. Proper cleaning involves several steps that include draining the tub, rinsing thoroughly, cleaning with the right surfactant, and disinfecting with a hospital-grade disinfectant. A more complete cleaning should be done every night (to clean filters), with thorough disinfecting every couple weeks. Companies should keep logs, to be sure the cleaning is completed as intended, and should be sure they’re using the right cleaners for the types of foot spas they have. Oftentimes, technicians are unaware of the manufacturer’s requirements, and use cleaners that aren’t strong enough to break down the oil buildup on the spa, including leftover lotion and skin oils. Bacteria can also become trapped in filters, jets, and drains, which need to be regularly flushed out.

If you’re going through cancer treatments, to safeguard your health, we suggest avoiding pedicure salons altogether. If you get a pedicure from a loved one, be sure that your spa is very clean, and don’t shave beforehand. Tiny nicks and cuts are perfect entryways for bugs. Even if you have insect bites, wait until they’ve healed.

When treatments are over and you go back to the salon, remain cautious. Mama’s Health recommends you ask the manager how often the footbaths are cleaned and what products are used to clean them. Don’t allow the technician to trim your toenails, and take your own tools for filing and cuticle-pushing. (No cuticle-cutting allowed!) Make sure the spa is licensed, and that technicians wash their hands frequently. If you have any doubts, leave the salon and find a better one. For anyone with a compromised or recovering immune system, pedicures can be a risky treatment, so either do them at home, or be positive that your salon is squeaky clean.

What do you think about pedicures? Do you have any important experiences to share?

Photo courtesy of Snap Village.