I’d like to think everyone should be able to enjoy a pedicure. The benefit of a good, leisurely one, with its careful attention and treatment to your toes and feet, including those pesky dry heels, plus a wonderful lotion massage of your legs, and then the soothing application of a hot towel, is almost impossible to describe.
Then comes the final, and obviously most exciting part for most folks. They apply nail polish to your newly pampered toenails with whatever colour you choose. When women really feel they’ll treat themselves, they’ll pay extra for toenail decoration above and beyond the basic colour.
Sadly, things don’t always turn out well with those mani/pedi treatments. While writing this I became aware of a violent altercation in one of the mainland salons in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
People can get pretty emotional about nails.
Beginnings of nail education!
My first pedicure happened a couple of years ago. It was fun, as my adult granddaughter was with me. I wriggled and squirmed at this unused to firm treatment of my feet. They were used to the occasional scrub from me, and I’d never tried out nail polish. It lasted some weeks, then the nails grew too long, I clipped them, and thought no more of it. My feet are usually in some old gardening shoes anyhow.
Pedicure as therapy...
The foot baths each sported a big sort of open plastic bag in them, so in a clean establishment gone are the days when you’d unknowingly be swilling your feet in other folks foot leavings, an unfortunate result of those tiny pipes being unable to be cleaned. Now, in a good place, your feet are fully contained; attention is paid to sterilization and other grimy details.
More about those nails!
Yesterday was the big day. I was the first customer again, although the salon filled very quickly with women longing for this pampering experience. It was so good! I didn’t even squirm too much with the very sweet little Vietnamese technician. She was superbly skilled at her job, and I was happy to see she was wearing gloves.
Right next to us was a male technician. I noticed he was wearing a face mask, and wondered why, as I couldn’t really see why that would be necessary. Clueless me.
I turned my attention to the rest of the large room, and noticed how many women were having their fingernails trimmed and polished. All the technicians working on them, male and female, wore face masks. Those manicures and fancy pedicures can be brutal to the workers in that environment. I’d just never been aware of the downside to the primping and polishing of nails before.
After the old nails have gone...
But the answer is obvious. It would be disturbing for the clients. The need for pampering overrides the need for health.
There are special vacuums for this very purpose right on the tables of nail technicians. Is noise again what precludes their use, again endangering the health of the workers, and the clients?
Another way you can protect yourself is to insist the tech must not cut your cuticles. They are there to protect the nail from infection. Instead they can just be gently pushed back
A downside beauty story
- Your nails do absorb toxins.
- Nail polish has some really bad, harmful ingredients. Stuff you’d never normally never dream of applying for your body to absorb.
- Studies now show nail polish can harm you many hours after applying it.
- Be courageous and sensible. Read the ingredients on the bottle - if you can find them. Most companies don’t specify them.
- One study was carried out on women who used nail polish regularly. It was proved that the majority of them had positive results after testing for a toxin called phosphate triphenyl.
- It affects the brain and nervous system, and also the digestive system. It controls your endocrine system and causes hormonal alterations.
- That color you love can contain formaldehyde, a chemical compound considered in nature as carcinogenic. Carcinogenic substances increase the development of cancerous cells in the human body.
- Another very harmful substance is toluene, an aromatic hydrocarbon. Toluene gets directly into mother’s milk during lactation and it can have a harmful effect on infant development.
- If you develop a sore throat about 10 hours after application of nail polish, know that might be a side effect.
On the Positive side
- There are some natural nail polish alternatives to prevent these effects and help manicurists and their clients avoid allergies, cancer, and hormone disruption. It might be worth your while to check online for them.
- You can’t blame nail polish for infections. Their chemicals will not support the growth of bacteria.
I started this article thinking about the fun enjoyment of my pedicure. I end it by feeling enormous sadness for the plight of those nail techs, who work long hours pampering the non- essential desires of others. In doing so, they earn money for their families, but they run enormous risks to their own health and that of their unborn children by being exposed to toxic substances 8-10 hours a day.
A nail-biting end to it all
You may have heard horror stories about nail infections, and sadly, all too often they can be true. It’s that easy to develop one, without proper disinfection and sterilization. Don’t be afraid to ask about the sterilization used in your nail place. Those UV sterilizers don’t kill bacteria. Special sterilization liquids must be used.
I’ve gone a bit further. I bought my own pedicure kit from the salon. It has everything that must be used, and I clean and sanitize the tools myself.
I will return for a pedicure. I’m glad I know more about the hidden dangers. I’m grateful to have a clean place for my pedicures. At the same time, I only trust my own efforts to deal with the lurking danger of nail infection.
As usual, I'd love to see your thoughts on this. Please feel free to comment, or share with your nail-conscious friends!