Summertime exposes your feet and toes more frequently. Professional pedicures can help your toes look their best and pamper your feet, but too often poor sanitation practices, shared tools, and the work of overzealous nail technicians can result in skin injuries or infections.
Pedicure problems can happen to anyone, but if you have type 2 diabetes, you need to be especially careful about protecting your feet. An infection can raise your blood sugar levels, which, in turn, can interfere with proper healing and increase your risk of serious complications like ulcers or even amputation.
Before you schedule a pedicure, check with your physician to make sure it’s okay to have one. Once you get the green light, do your feet a favor and learn what to look for — and what to avoid — at nail salons. Taking a few basic precautions can significantly reduce infection risks and lead to a safer, more pleasant experience.
Know when to postpone a pedicure. If you currently have any infections, cuts, or open sores on your legs, feet, or toenails, skip the salon since these will make you even more vulnerable to problems. Instead, contact your physician for a referral to a podiatrist or other professional who is medically trained to care for feet.
Avoid shaving your legs for a day or two before your pedicure. Shaving can leave tiny nicks in your skin (even if you can’t see them) and increase the chance of infection. It’s fine to shave afterward.
Stick with a salon that is clean and practices impeccable sanitation. Tell the manager you have diabetes and ask about their sterilization procedures; reputable salons will be more than happy to show you how they operate. Foot baths should be cleaned and disinfected between customers. Clippers and other tools should be washed and sanitized in a disinfecting solution or a surgical autoclave, which uses pressurized steam to sterilize instruments.
Better yet, invest in your own nail kit and bring it with you. Though it’s unlikely that you will get an infection from shared nail polish, play it safe and bring your own.
Make a morning appointment. If you can, schedule your appointment early in the day so that you are one of the first customers.
Let your technician know you have diabetes before the pedicure begins. Ask them to be very gentle and avoid doing anything that can scratch or injure the skin. Don’t hesitate to speak up if you don’t like what the technician is doing — your health is too important.
Keep the technician informed of protective practices. Ask the technician not to cut nails too short, as this can encourage ingrown toenails and lead to infection. Make sure toenail edges are not sharp; they should be rounded off with a file.
Skip any services that can injure the skin. Never allow the technician to cut your cuticles or use any sharp instruments on your skin or under your toenails. Instead, after your feet have been soaking for a few minutes and the skin around your toes is soft, cuticles can be gently pushed back with an orange stick.
Request gentle pampering. Pumice stones or abrasive tools are okay for calluses and rough areas, but ask the technician to be very gentle. Vigorous scrubbing is not necessary and can easily scratch or leave microscopic tears in the skin, making you more susceptible to infection.
After your pedicure is finished, keep an eye on your feet and legs for any signs of redness or infection. If you notice anything unusual, call your doctor right away.