Heading into a nail salon can sometimes be a bit of a gamble. Not just in the sense that the technicians may or may not be able to deliver a high-quality manicure or pull off the design you're going for, but in terms of offering a hygienic setting. Let's face it: nail salons can be germ warzones. There are bare feet everywhere, tools that have the potential to draw blood (even if only by accident), and ample opportunity for double dipping (quite literally). To ensure you're in a clean and reputable nail salon, follow this advice.
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Tools are sanitized in an autoclave machine
The thought of sharing cuticle clippers, cuticle pushers, and nail clippers with your entire neighborhood doesn't sound very appealing, right? That's basically what happens when the tools aren't sanitized in between customers. Brittany Boyce, a celebrity nail artist, says that all tools should be sanitized in what's called an autoclave machine. "Autoclave machines use press and high temperature to sterilize metal tools and they are the most sanitary way to reduce infections," she explains. "Salons usually put tools into a color-changing packet to put into the autoclave, so that's how you can tell they've been sterilized." Pro tip: don't be shy to ask what method they use if you don't see an autoclave. And there's zero shame in bringing your own tools!
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The nail files and buffers are fresh
On that note, Boyce says that disposable nail files and buffers shouldn't be reused on guests. A brand new one should be used each and every time, so speak up if you see one that looks questionable. Again, you can always bring your own products if you want to be extra cautious. A sign that they don't re-use is that they offer you the file or buffer at the end of your service.
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It doesn't smell like a laboratory
Sure, acetone has a scent and we've yet to meet a nail polish that smells, well, good. Still, it should be easy to breathe inside a nail salon. "When you walk in, there shouldn't be an overpowering chemical smell. It can be a sign that there is poor ventilation," says Dave Crisalli, founder and CEO of Prose, a boutique nail "experience" with locations across the country. If you want to avoid strong chemical scents entirely, then select a salon (such as Prose) that doesn't do acrylic work, which tends to be the biggest culprit.
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The pedicure tubs are lined (and cleaned between uses)
Feet aren't exactly the most sanitary things. Stringent cleaning procedures ought to be in place so that tubs are completely sanitary when a new guest dips their feet. A lining is a must, but salons that go the extra mile get a gold star. "The pedicure tubs should be scrubbed with antibacterial soap, thoroughly rinsed with water, and soaked with disinfectant and water for at least 10 minutes," says Boyce. She adds that many nails salons have jetted tubs which may seem like a nice perk but ultimately, they can be a nightmare to properly disinfect. Avoid them if you can.