By Meghan Overdeep
March 14, 2018
Southern Living Pedicure Tub Germs
Credit: UpperCut Images/Getty Images

A beauty salon pedicure should be a relaxing experience. In a perfect world, the only thing you should have to worry about once you sit down in the massage chair (aside from smudging your brand new paint job) is deciding which magazine to flip through while the technician goes to town. (Obviously it will be the latest issue of Southern Living.)

Unfortunately, that's not always the case. An accidental clipper nick or an overzealous callous treatment is all it takes to transform your peaceful pedi into a scary experience—especially when you consider all the germs that might be lurking around. That's right, even the nicest nail salons can be less-than-stellar in the hygiene department.

In a 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 97% of nail salon footbaths tested contained the bacteria Mycobacterium fortuitum, a highly contagious bug that can cause boils on the skin. And it's not alone.

"There are lots of possible infections that lurk inside the foot basin, including bacteria, fungi and wart viruses," Michele Green, a New York-based cosmetic dermatologist, told HuffPost. "If you get an infection following a pedicure, you should consult your dermatologist, since the area may need to be drained and you may need to be put on oral antibiotics."

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Green added that unclean instruments and dirty water could also put you at risk for a specific type of infection called a paronychia infection. This painful condition affects the nail bed and is accompanied by tender, red skin and pus-filled blisters. Ouch!

So what's a pedicure-loving gal (or guy) to do? The following expert-approved tips will help make sure your next nail salon trip is a healthy one.

Don't Shave: The American Academy of Dermatology advises you that "shave your lower legs after getting a pedicure, not before." That means not shaving your lower legs for at least 24 hours before you get a pedicure." Having a nick from shaving during a pedicure could put you at risk for an infection.

B.Y.O.N.K. (Bring Your Own Nail Kit): If you get regular pedicures, Green suggests investing in your own nail kit to bring to appointments. It's a good idea to call ahead to make sure they'll allow it, she added.

Opt Out of Cuticle Cutting: Gently pushing back cuticles to make your nails look longer and neater = good. Cutting cuticles = bad. "When your cuticles are pushed back or cut too aggressively it leaves the skin vulnerable to infection," Green explained to HuffPost. "Cut cuticles also grow back harder, creating a vicious cycle of unnecessary treatment, she added.

Find more information on manicure and pedicure safety on American Academy of Dermatology's website.