Salon Safe: Don't Go To the Nail Salon Without Me!

Know what may lurk at the nail salon between the buffers and shapers? Here's when to indulge your nail art junkie and when to take your tips somewhere else.

Photography by Anthea Simms

Photography by Anthea Simms

Nail art is a hot beauty trend, but did you know that Canada’s federal government still hasn’t regulated our country’s rapidly growing manicure industry?

Provincial regulations across Canada differ. Some municipalities like Toronto have a long history of nail salon inspections, and have recently commenced efforts to implement bylaws that will further protect the safety of customers. But if you live in an area where no bylaws exist, you can still get a dazzling—and safe—mani or pedi by being a proactive customer. Cecilia Alterman, Supervisor of Personal Service Settings with Toronto Public Health, offers five tips for your next trip to the salon:

1. Don’t shave or wax your legs 24-hours before a visit. Removing leg hair nicks your skin and causes pores to open, creating entry points for bacteria during a pedicure. “If [a dirty foot bath] contains mycobacterium and it goes into those open sores, it could cause a major infection,” says Alterman.

2. Ask about cleanliness. Foot spas should be cleaned and disinfected after each customer. Metal instruments such as clippers and nippers should be washed with soap and water, dried and then placed in a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution for at least 10 minutes to ensure disinfection. At the start of your manicure, nail instruments should be presented to you in a clean tray, box or container, dry and ready to use. And make sure that your manicurist washes her hands before she begins your session.


Left: Not your mother’s French manicure at Donna Karan. Right: Photo by Norman Wong.

3. Demand single-use, pre-packaged tools. Any instrument that’s spongy or wooden—pumice stones, nail files—should be tossed in the trash after each customer. “They should be brand new, and used on only one client,” says Alterman. “If you’ve seen that these tools have been used before, consider it a red flag.” Credo blades should also be new, pre-packaged and disposed in an approved sharps container after a single use.

4. Beware of UV light ‘sterilizers’. Don’t be fooled by these tiny boxes illuminated by a purple UV bulb. “They do nothing; it’s just a light in a box,” says Alterman. If instruments are presented to you in such a box, ask the proprietor about their disinfection process. “If they’re using that UV sterilizer to clean and disinfect, run out of there and call the health department because that’s unacceptable,” says Alterman.

5. Avoid under-the-radar home salons listed on Kijiji or Craigslist. “These places haven’t been inspected,” says Alterman. ‘Underground’ nail salon providers could have dubious disinfection routines, and offer sub-par services. Stick with the professionals and protect your investment and your health.


Practice Safe Nailing: Sally Hansen and Cuccio Manicure/Pedicure Tools by Ivan Engler. Sephora 3-in-1 Cuticle Tool.