By Rehan Iqbal
Manicures and pedicures are wonderful, relaxing treats, but if improperly done they can open the door to a vast array of infections and maladies. This is especially true if you have diabetes because even a minor nick or cut can easily escalate into a life-threatening condition. In this article, we will share some smart practices to help you evaluate the quality of manicure and pedicure salons and take proper precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Read on to learn more.
Is It Really Possible To Get A Safe Pedicure for Diabetics?
Many diabetes experts recommend that their patients avoid having a pedicure because the risk of complication is so high. Lots of people contract viral, bacterial or fungal infections from the pedicure experience. For diabetics, these problems can take a long time to resolve because people with diabetes often heal slowly. If you have problems such as neuropathy, very thick calluses or curved nails, it’s probably smarter to have your nails trimmed by your podiatrist.
On the flip side of that coin, good foot care is very important for diabetics, so having regular, professional pedicures could contribute to excellent diabetic care. To determine whether getting a professional pedicure is the right decision for you, have a talk with your doctor or podiatrist. He or she will be able to evaluate your situation and give you sound advice.
Choosing the Right Spa or Salon
When looking for a good facility to provide professional foot care for diabetics, you are always better off choosing a “medi-spa”. These salons are supervised by a podiatrist or general practitioner. The treatments are administered by trained nurses or nursing assistants. All equipment is cleaned using standard medical sterilization procedures.
The professional medical personnel you will find at a medi-spa are knowledgeable in manicure and pedicure procedures for people with diabetes. This includes gentle massage techniques and correct skin cleansing and moisturizing techniques.
Another very good reason to choose a medi-spa over a standard salon is that your insurance may very well cover your treatment. Be sure to check. It may just be a matter of getting a referral from your doctor or your podiatrist.
Investigate the Spa Before Making An Appointment
Take a little time to visit spas, look them over and ask lots of good questions. You’ll want to be well-informed regarding the licensing policies, cleaning techniques and chair-side manner of the staff at the spa you choose.
Look the establishment over and get a “feel” for it. Observe a pedicure if possible. Find out how often foot baths are cleaned and how this is done. Ask about the general cleaning of the establishment and especially the cleaning of manicure and pedicure tools.
The very best establishments treat their tools as medical equipment. They are cleaned thoroughly between clients by being scrubbed with soap and hot water, soaked in disinfectant and sterilized with heat in an autoclave. For complete information regarding how manicure and pedicure equipment should be sterilized between uses, see this interesting article:
“Guidelines for Cleaning & Disinfecting Manicure & Other Nail Enhancement Equipment & Supplies”
Bring Your Own Kit
If you are unable to find a spa that follows the practices described above, you should bring your own manicure and pedicure tools and equipment. Here’s what you’ll need:
- High quality, stainless steel nail clippers.
- Diabetic front nail nippers for toenails and thicker nails.
- Diamond file for foot calluses. This is better than a pumice stone because it can be sterilized.
- Packet of disposable emery boards for single use or diamond nail file to be sterilized between uses.
- Buffing brick for nails to be sterilized with thorough brushing and 5 minutes immersion in rubbing alcohol following each use.
- Packet of disposable orange stick cuticle pushers for single use or stainless steel cuticle pusher to be sterilized between uses.
- Your favorite hand and foot cream and/or cuticle oil.
- Your own polish. This is important as many salons share containers of polish and brushes amongst their clientèle.
If you’d prefer not to bring your own equipment, seek out a salon that uses entirely new tools and equipment for each customer. This equipment should come in sealed packaging that is opened in front of you.
Be Very Careful About Broken Skin
As you are probably well aware, a tiny cut or nick can end up causing very serious infection for people with diabetes. This is why it is so important that all implements used in manicures and pedicures be thoroughly sterilized between uses.
It is important to avoid getting nicked, and it is important to avoid going to the spa or salon with an existing injury. Be sure that your technician knows that you are diabetic. Don’t allow the tech to aggressively clean under your nails or to clip your cuticles. Nails should be cleaned gently and cuticles pushed back gently to prevent injury.
Be sure the tech does not clip or file your nails too short as this may cause irritation. Your technician should trim your toenails straight across rather than curving the corners. This helps prevent ingrown toenails, which can be very painful and are subject to infection.
Never let your technician cut calluses away or use a shared implement to file away your calluses. Always bring your own diamond foot file or insist on individual use implements. Don’t allow the use of any chemical callus removers as they can burn your skin deeply and this may cause serious complications.
Don’t be shy about asking your tech to be gentle. Many are quite vigorous in filing calluses, cleaning under nails and so on. This is not appropriate and could cause you real injury. This is also true of very vigorous massage. Let your tech know that you prefer a gentler technique.
If anything about your foot spa treatment causes discomfort, speak up. Remember that you are the customer and this experience is meant to be pleasant, relaxing and safe for you. If it doesn’t fulfill your expectations, leave.
What About Foot Spas?
In general, it is not a good idea to soak your feet because long exposure to warm water can make your skin more susceptible to picking up bacteria and fungus. If you are going to go for a foot soak, it’s a good idea to schedule for the first appointment of the day so that you know the foot spa has been cleaned and left to air out overnight. It’s even better to reserve your foot spa experience for home and use your own foot spa that no one else has ever used.
If you absolutely must have the foot spa experience at the salon, avoid shaving your legs for a couple of days before your appointment. A small shaving nick may go unnoticed, but it could severely compromise your skin’s ability to keep out germs and fungus. If you have any injury on your feet or lower legs, postpone your appointment until it has healed.
If you experience peripheral neuropathy, be sure to tell the tech and ask him or her not to make your foot bath too hot. It should be 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Before putting your feet into a foot bath, feel the water with your fingertip to make certain it is not too hot for your feet.
If the salon has a built-in foot spa, don’t use it. It’s better to use basin or pipeless foot baths because they can be more thoroughly sterilized. Another option is a “hot towel pedicure”. In this procedure, your feet are wrapped in hot, wet towels, which can be thoroughly washed and dried between uses. This is a very safe option. Just be sure the towels are not too hot.
Maintain Your Feet Between Spa Visits
In between professional treatments be sure to take good care of your feet. This will make your spa visits more effective and less likely to be potentially dangerous. Remember to follow best practices to keep your own foot care equipment safe and clean.
Be sure to keep your feet clean and moisturized with high quality, hypoallergenic products. Avoid using moisturizer between your toes as this can lead to fungal infection. Generally speaking, it’s best to use unscented, hypoallergenic products to avoid the potential for irritation which could lead to skin damage and complications.
If you use a foot spa at home, be sure to give your feet plenty of time to air out afterward to avoid the development of foot fungus. Keep your foot spa clean, too, by washing it thoroughly, taking it apart and leaving it in the open air and light to dry thoroughly before storing it away.
Have a Safe, Relaxing Experience!
Getting a professional pedicure can be a very relaxing and positive addition to diabetic foot care. Play it safe by taking the time to find a spa that has impeccable hygiene practices and a professional, licensed staff. Advocate for your own preferences and needs and take good care of your feet between sessions. These smart practices will help you have the most enjoyable, most beneficial and safest professional pedicure experience.