The price of a pedicure or manicure may be higher than you think. Two US studies recently found that it’s not just salon employees who can experience adverse health effects – salon goers can also walk away with more than just beautiful nails.

In one small study, 52 percent of respondents said they had experienced one or more adverse skin symptoms, including minor irritations and fungal issues such as warts and athlete’s foot, after visiting a nail salon. Twelve percent reported respiratory problems.

One of the issues in Australia is that nail therapists aren’t required to have formal qualifications. “There is concern that nail salons are run by people who have no training in nail anatomy or sterilisation techniques,” explains Associate Professor Anne Howard of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.

The common ailments dermatologists treat as a result of professional manicures or pedicures, Howard explains, are bacterial infections around the nails, tinea, allergic contact dermatitis and cuticle damage. “The cuticle of the nail is protective of the delicate nail matrix and should not be damaged or destroyed,” she says.

There is also some suggestion that the UV lamps used to harden gel nail polish may be harmful. The Australasian Journal of Dermatology recently published an article claiming there have been observational reports linking these lamps to the development of skin cancer on the hand in Ireland.

More research is needed to confirm the link, but the article recommended everyone should apply sunscreen before heading out for a mani/pedi. Meanwhile, the second study US study reported that the majority of nail technicians they surveyed said they had work-related eye, nose, throat and skin problems – and fewer than half reported using protective equipment (such as gloves and masks) during manicures, believing they were essential only when applying artificial nails.

The study leader Lindsey Milich suggests avoiding drinking from open containers (“particles from nail filings can end up in your cup”) and making sure footbaths are cleaned and asking if you can bring your own supplies.

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