The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

The Dangers of the Spa: Protecting Your Feet from Beauty Treatments

Posted by on Thursday, April 4th, 2013


Oh, the spa. It’s one of the great joys of living, especially in the summer months. There’s nothing like getting a fresh new pedicure that you can show off in your (supportive and sensible) peep-toe sandals. Trust me, fellas. Actually, if you’re a progressive fella, you may already know how good it feels to pamper yourself. Men are showing up at spas in record numbers this year looking for a buff and polish. Everyone looks better with clean, manicured nails. But there’s a dark side to all that shiny, sparkly fun. In the process of making you  more beautiful, beauty treatments may make you sick. Here’s how…


Infection of All Sorts

One clear and present danger lurks in whirlpools and on cuticle scissors, on nail files and in those sweet smelling lotions. Its name: infection. Infection is a general term for any invasion of a host’s tissues by a foreign organism. In spas we’re mostly talking about bacteria, fungi, and viruses (parasitic worms, while popular in Equatorial Guinea, aren’t typically found in your local New York City mani/pedi place). Infections take hold most easily when there’s a break in the skin’s protective barrier. And this happens all the time during beauty treatments. These infections are particularly dangerous for people with poor circulation, like from diabetes or heart disease.

Clipping nails may lead to cuts; buffing calluses may crack the skin; and simply soaking feet in warm water may soften healed scrapes or nicks, opening them up to potential invasion. And just think of all the feet who’ve used that whirlpool before! In many spas (despite regulations to the contrary) whirlpool baths aren’t thoroughly sterilized between each customer, especially on a busy weekend afternoon.


Depending on the type of infection you contract, your life could actually be in danger. Staph infections (particularly the drug resistant MRSA) are particularly dangerous. If you have a compromised immune system anyway, these infections can quickly become life-threatening. So avoid the foot soak and request a hot towel foot massage instead. You’ll reap the same relaxing benefits without the risk. Fungal infections while less dangerous may be ten times more difficult to cure. Toenail fungus is particularly hearty. It hides under the nail and often requires many months of topical treatment before it begins to relinquish its hold on your nail.


UV Drying Lamps

So you got the pedicure and your toes look amazing, now it’s time to dry them under the UV lamp. UV rays, even those in a seemingly innocuous dryer, are associated with skin cancer. The top of the feet are at risk anyway, since they’re a common site for burns (particularly when shoe-covered feet first emerge into the summer sun). If you must use a UV dryer, use sunscreen. You may feel silly applying it, but remember, your health is more important than a moment of embarrassment.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.