Dr. Dana's Top 10 Salon Safety Tips

My patients and closest friends are always asking me if I am pro mani-pedi and what nail salon is cleanest?  My answer is simple.  I believe that everyone should be able to enjoy a relaxing manicure and pedicure, after all when our hands and feet are manicured we feel put-together, in control and ready for anything.  As a dermatologist, surgeon, and mother I like to keep my nails short and clean while never compromising on style.  However, nail care MUST be done in a healthy and safe way.  I like to tell my patients that they need to take their health into their own hands.  Why?  According to NYC Public Advocate Letitia James’s policy report in September 2014:

 • When the Department of State inspected New York’s salons from 2008 to 2012, they found a majority — 56 percent — to be in violation of health and safety rules.

• Customers have been infected with hepatitis and staph infections due to unclean conditions in nail salons.

• There are no regulations governing proper ventilation in salons.

• Nearly 75 percent of nail salons in the U.S. don’t comply with standards for disinfecting nail equipment. This includes reusing nail files and failing to sanitize foot baths. The latter can cause staph infections, hepatitis and bacterial infections.

While most of us want to turn a blind eye to these statistics, it is my job and mission to educate my patients and friends so that you can continue to enjoy salon services but do so in a healthy and ultimately beautiful way.  I go to salons and you too can and should enjoy your next mani pedi. With the help of my top ten salon safety tips, you are now armed with information and ready to kick back, relax and be healthy and beautiful.


 1.  Cuticle oil dropper vs. brushCuticle oil must be dropped as opposed to brushed onto a client’s cuticles.  Cuticle oil brushes are not sanitary to use on multiple clients because oils can easily harbor organisms such as bacteria and fungus.

 2.  Emery Board – This is a one time use item and should be used on only one client and then discarded!  Porous emery boards can harbor organisms such as bacteria and fungus. 

 3.  Buffing Block – These tools can be miracle workers for buffing out superficial nail alterations or for polishing the nail to a beautiful shine but be careful that your nail technician is using the right grit for your nails!  Buffing grits vary like sandpaper grades and many of the buffers out there are meant for acrylics and not natural nails.  This is a one time use item and should be used on only one client and then discarded!  Porous buffing blocks can harbor organisms such as bacteria and fungus.

 4.  Orange Sticks – These harmless looking double sided sticks often have a sharp tip on one end that is used for cleaning under the nail and a blunt tip on the other end used for pushing back at the cuticle.  Be careful with cleaning under the nail as a sharp object under the nail can cause the nail to separate from the nail bed.  In salons these tools should be one time use only!

 5.  Toe separators – Although great for keeping your toenails from smudging your perfect pedi, these foamy devices can harbor organisms such as bacteria and fungus and should be disposed after use.

 6.  Whirlpool footbaths – I apologize in advance for this one, you are not going to like what you hear.  You should never place your feet in a salon foot spa that has jets.  It is impossible to clean in the space behind the jets and these baths are supposed to be disinfected by using a 10-minute bleach bath in between every client.  These tubs can therefore put you at risk for acquiring a bacterial or fungal infection.  In an extreme case, there was a death reported secondary to a pedicure in the state of Texas when a woman acquired a staph infection from a pedicure footbath.  Alternative options do exist.  Do not be embarrassed to ask for a plastic basin to soak your feet in.  You can also visit salons that only use basins without jets or you can always request a dry pedicure.  

 7.  Hand washing – This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised!  Your nail technician should always wash his or her hands before and after attending to you. 

 8.  Ventilation – Have you ever walked into a salon and been overwhelmed by the smell of chemicals in the air?  While there may be some of you out there like Jennifer Lawrence's character Rosalyn in American Hustle who love the smell of a really sticky top coat, salons are supposed to have special ventilation systems to ensure the health and safety of both the salon workers and the salon clients.  A super, toxic smell is never a good sign!

 9.  Pumices – We are not huge fans of these volcanic derived stones that are often used as abrasives for removing callus.  Although they can work well for callus removal, they are extremely porous, cannot be disinfected and once they become wet they become the perfect place for molds, bacteria and fungus to flourish.  Instead use a file with removable grit or a stainless steel file that can be disinfected after each use.

 10. The "foot razor" - Used to remove calluses, is illegal in many states and should be!  Salon workers are not medically trained to deal with accidental mishaps that can occur with these blades such as cuts or lacerations.  Additionally, if these blades are reused they can transfer serious infections between clients.  Protect Yourself: Use a callous solution or heel cream at home to safely break down hardened skin.  Callus can also be safely removed at the salon with a removable grit file or a stainless steel file that can be disinfected after each use.




Male Nail Care - Is There Such A Thing?

I am very popular at dinner parties.  Inevitably, the typical scenario is several people know or learn that I am a dermatologist and at some point during the evening I am oh so subtlety motioned into a dark corridor or to a far reaching powder room where I am asked to view a suspicious mole on a leg, an odd and persistent rash on someone’s chest, or commonly an abnormal looking toenail.  Modesty does not usually come into play during these intimate interactions and very often these bathroom consults veer off into additional personal anecdotes relating to prescriptions, sleep habits and sexual issues. 

Recently at a dinner party I was seated at a table with a healthy mix of hedge funders and art world.  Prepared for the usual discussions of the art bubble, where everyone is booked at Basel and the latest activist investor controversies, the conversation suddenly turned to me and my area of expertise – nails.  It soon became apparent that everyone at the table – (yes, the macho Wall Street guys too) was openly discussing their last pedicure experience. 

This was so much more interesting than the usual dinner party chatter and it was so enlightening to learn that men are not only engaging regularly in professional nail care but that they are talking about it openly and unapologetically.

Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the salon and beauty industry are taking notice.  Man cave stylized Hammer & Nails Salon, an all male salon that opened on Melrose Avenue in LA was the brain-child of Michael Elliot who observed that men want to feel groomed but don't necessarily feel comfortable walking into a female dominated and decorated space.  Per The New York Times, over half of the men’s treatments in the Essie nail area at the posh Samuel Shriqui Salon on the Upper East Side are finished with polish, usually clear.  And while men are currently favoring a naked nail, shiny buff or a simple coat of clear there is a definite new openness towards color.  Thanks to social media, celebrity culture has shared and embraced the “man-icure” trend.  From Snoop Dog’s nail art on Instagram to Brad Pitt’s rainbow stripe manicure that he recently sported at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, it is clear that nail care is no longer exclusively a female cultural norm.

Nail care is about being kempt and caring about your appearance, hygiene and health.  Soft feet and well manicured toenails are appreciated by any partner under the sheets.  For those who are still not ready to enter a nail salon, here are some tips that you can do at home to step up your hand and foot game.

 1) Invest in the right tools.  For a basic manicure and pedicure all that you will need is a new high quality fingernail clipper, toenail clipper, nail file and a cuticle nipper.  If you suspect that you may have toenail fungus, you will need two sets of implements and should see a dermatologist.

 2) Use the tools properly.  After clipping your nails use the file to smooth any sharp edges.  The cuticle nipper is only used when you have the occasional hang nail.  Hang nails should never be pulled off or bitten as they are a very common site for infections.  For general cuticle care simply push them back after a shower with a wash cloth and apply your favorite cuticle cream, balm or oil, especially in cold, dry weather.

3) Remember to clean your tools by rinsing them with antibacterial or dishwasher soap and then soaking them for 5 minutes in either Isopropyl alcohol or Ethyl Alcohol (70%-90%).  Swab the tip with alcohol before use.

As I wandered back to join the rest of the dinner party despite the fact that I had disappeared into a dark corridor with a mystery guest my husband had not batted an eye.  He knows the drill, he asks me how many consults I have done so far that evening and suggests that I send a bill in the morning…