Can I get a pedicure if I have toe fungus? Toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, is a common fungal infection of the toenails that can cause thickening, discoloration, brittleness, and distortion of the nails. It affects up to 14% of adults and is notoriously difficult to treat. Many people with toenail fungus feel self-conscious about the appearance of their feet and want to get pedicures to make their toes look nicer. But is it safe to get a pedicure when you have an active fungal nail infection?
Toenail fungus is caused by microscopic organisms called dermatophytes that thrive in warm, moist environments like showers, pools, and inside shoes and socks. The fungi can enter through tiny separations or cuts in the nail bed and feed on the keratin protein that makes up the nail plate. As the fungus grows, the nails become discolored, thickened, and crumbly. Debris can collect underneath the nail, and there may be an unpleasant odor.
Common symptoms of toenail fungus include:
If ignored, the infection can spread to other toenails and even fingernails. It can also infect the skin around the nails.
There are several causes and risk factors for developing toenail fungus:
Toenail fungus can be stubborn to treat because the fungi bury deep into the nail bed where topical medications have difficulty reaching. Oral medications are more effective but carry risks of side effects like nausea or liver damage.
Getting regular pedicures may seem like a good way to make toenail fungus less noticeable. However, there are risks associated with exposing the fungus to pedicure tools and tubs:
For these reasons, most medical professionals recommend treating toenail fungus before exposing feet to public pedicure tubs and tools.
Here is a more in-depth look at the risks and why having a pedicure with active toenail fungus is inadvisable:
Toenail fungus is highly contagious and spreads easily through microscopic fungal spores. These spores can lodge in pedicure equipment like foot tubs, files, clippers, and scrub brushes. If proper sterilization does not occur between clients, the fungus can be transmitted from your feet to the next person.
Fungal spores are difficult to eradicate from porous tools and foot bath jets. Even if surface disinfection occurs, microscopic spores deep in the tools can survive to infect the next client. Toenail fungus can be stubborn to treat, so exposing others is an ethical concern.
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While pedicures trim away dead nail matter and make the nails appear smoother temporarily, they do not address the root cause. Filing and shaping the infected nail plate can worsen its condition in these ways:
You essentially end up spreading the fungal infection across more nail surface area. This worsens the appearance, odor, and condition over time as the fungus colonizes the nail bed more extensively.
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Reputable nail salons do not accept clients with known contagious nail infections. Pedicure technicians are trained to recognize the visual signs of fungal nails - thickening, brittleness, debris, and discoloration. Upon noticing these symptoms, most will politely refuse service and explain why.
The reasons for refusal include:
Some salons may allow filing or trimming infected nails as long as they do not immerse your feet in the shared foot baths. But many will not work on active infections at all to avoid liability. It is best to get clearance from toenail fungus before booking pedicures.
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Having toenail fungus can feel embarrassing and lower self-confidence in wearing open-toed shoes. But exposing your condition publicly during pedicures can also cause embarrassment in other ways:
Saving yourself from unease and anxiety requires clearing up the fungal infection through medical treatment first. Do not put yourself in awkward situations at the nail salon before you are ready.
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If you decide to get a pedicure before clearing up the fungal infection completely, take these precautions:
Look for nail salons that demonstrate strict sanitation practices and use autoclaves or other sterilization methods between clients. Avoid salons that do not seem clean or neglect disinfecting pedicure chairs and tubs.
However, taking precautions is not a foolproof way to get a completely safe pedicure with active toenail fungus. Here is a closer look at why these measures have limitations:
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Letting the salon know about your toenail fungus upfront is courteous and ethical. However, many reputable establishments will still politely refuse service due to the risks. Do not expect that disclosure alone will make them willing to book the appointment.
Simply avoiding trimming or filing the nails helps but does not eliminate risks entirely. Fungal spores can still spread from your feet to the pedicure chair, foot massager, and technician's hands. Opting out of high-risk procedures reduces but does not remove the contagion concern.
Bringing your own freshly sanitized nail files, clippers, etc. prevents sharing of tools. However, fungal spores can still spread to the foot tub, jet streams, chair, and the technician. So while it reduces some risk, it is not a complete solution.
Shower shoes prevent direct contact between your bare feet and the shared foot tub. But the water still becomes contaminated with fungal spores that can recirculate in the jets of the tub. The spores also deposit on the tub floor and walls to infect the next client.
Using antifungal sprays or creams right after a pedicure may suppress the infection slightly. However, it does not have time to actually penetrate and treat the nail bed before the appointment ends. At best, it may slow the worsening of the infection but not cure it.
Thoroughly cleaning your own nail files, callus shavers, etc. after the appointment prevents transferring contagions back home. However, it does not stop the spread of fungus during the pedicure itself. Proper disinfection only reduces some risks.
For these reasons, waiting until the toenail fungus clears up remains the safest approach before getting professional pedicures. The precautions help but are not foolproof.
While pedicures may temporarily improve the appearance of fungal nails, true treatment requires addressing the underlying infection. See a podiatrist or dermatologist for proper diagnosis and prescription medications.
Common medical treatments for toenail fungus include:
Over-the-counter options are generally not as effective as prescription medications for treating stubborn fungal nail infections. Natural antifungal remedies like tea tree oil can help mild cases when caught early.
Here is more detail on the medical treatment options for toenail fungus:
Oral antifungal pills like terbinafine or itraconazole are the most effective way to treat stubborn fungal nail infections. They work by circulating in the bloodstream to reach nail beds. The medication stops the fungi from growing by disrupting their cell membranes.
A typical course is 6 weeks for fingernails and 12 weeks for toenails. Lab monitoring checks for liver toxicity, a potential side effect. Oral medication also interacts with certain other drugs. Success rates are 70-80% but recurrence is still possible.
Prescription medicated polishes and solutions like ciclopirox or efinaconazole are brushed on affected nails daily. These are weaker than oral medication but have almost no side effects. However, they only treat the surface of nails while fungal spores lie deeper.
Topicals take up to 48 weeks to show results. The success rate is lower at 55-65%. But they are safer for people who cannot take oral antifungals. Combining topical and oral medication has the highest efficacy.
This uses a photosensitizing agent applied to nails along with specialized lasers tuned to a specific wavelength. The chemicals make fungal cells sensitive while the laser activates them to produce free radicals that destroy the infection.
Advantages are no side effects and a shorter 6-week treatment duration. However, the lasers do not penetrate the whole nail plate to reach deep fungal spores. Recurrence risk is higher than oral medication. Multiple sessions are often needed.
In severe cases where the nail is highly damaged and infected, partial or complete surgical avulsion may be done. This is the removal of part or all of the nail to eradicate the infection. The nail bed is treated and allowed to regrow a new, healthy nail.
This has the highest cure rate but is invasive. It requires local anesthesia and causes pain and difficulty walking until the nail partially regrows. Oral medication is typically tried first before resorting to nail removal surgery in stubborn cases.
Seeing a podiatrist promptly once you notice symptoms allows early treatment before the infection worsens. Prescription medications, laser therapy, and nail removal provide higher success rates than over-the-counter options.
After completing treatment, take steps to prevent fungal reinfection and maintain healthy nails and feet:
Here are some additional tips for preventing recurrence of toenail fungus after successful treatment:
Wear waterproof shower sandals in locker rooms, pool decks, gym showers, and hotel bathrooms. These damp shared spaces harbor fungal spores. Never walk barefoot in public wet areas. At home, disinfect bathroom floors regularly.
After each use, clean nail files, clippers, and callus removers by first scrubbing away debris then disinfecting with an antimicrobial spray or isopropyl alcohol. Store the disinfected tools in a clean, dry case to avoid recontamination. Never share pedicure tools with others.
Practice meticulous foot hygiene by washing and drying feet well, especially between toes. Use an antifungal body wash in the shower. Apply antifungal powder after bathing and inside socks and shoes. Wear moisture-wicking socks to absorb sweat. Change socks at least daily, or more often if very sweaty.
Spray exposed feet and the insides of shoes with antimicrobial sprays containing ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus, or thymol. These botanical extracts have natural antifungal properties to suppress growth. Spray twice daily and allow feet to fully air dry before putting on socks.
See a dermatologist for any athlete’s foot, ringworm, or other fungal skin infections on the feet and body. Treat with medicated topical creams. Untreated skin fungi can spread to toenails and reinfect them after clearing nail fungus. Keep skin infections at bay.
Get regular checkups to keep diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other immunity-lowering conditions well-controlled. Poor circulation and weakened immune response allow recurrent toenail fungal infections. Treat underlying illnesses for long-term nail health. Staying vigilant against toenail fungus prevents embarrassment and discomfort down the line. Make toenail health a routine part of your foot care regimen.
When your toenail fungus has fully cleared up, finding a pedicure salon you can trust is crucial for preventing reinfection. Look for these signs of a reputable, sanitary nail salon:
Avoid salons with clutter, grime, or any evidence of unsanitary practices. Only have your pedicure done by a technician specially trained in nail health and safety.
Here are more tips for identifying nail salons with stringent hygiene standards:
The salon should demonstrate sanitizing pedicure chairs, foot tubs, and tools between clients via autoclaving, UV-C sterilizing, or hospital-grade disinfectant use. All surfaces, implements, and callus shavers must undergo thorough disinfection protocols.
Choose salons where the staff are specifically trained on infectious disease control procedures for nail care. Many reputable establishments require employees to obtain licensing and certifications related to sanitation before allowing them to service clients. Techs should wash hands, wear gloves, and disinfect all areas between appointments.
Phone salons beforehand and inquire about their policies for clients with fungal infections and other contagious conditions. Reputable places will clearly explain their sterilization methods and refusal of high-risk clients until fully treated. This indicates they take training seriously.
Spend time reading online reviews, sorting from lowest to highest rating. Look for any mentions of unsanitary conditions, allergic reactions, or nail infections after visiting. Numerous complaints about cleanliness or illnesses indicate the salon lacks stringent protocols.
Upon entering a nail salon, observe the cleanliness of the premises and staff hygiene. Are tools properly stored and sterilized? Does the space look tidy and wiped down? Do workers wash hands and wear gloves? If anything appears dirty, avoid patronizing that establishment.
Ask trusted friends and relatives where they get pedicures after having good experiences. Or consult your doctor for recommended salons that cater to clients with past nail infections and prioritize safety. Do not simply choose the nearest spot without investigating. By vetting nail salons thoroughly using these tips, you can find a technician you can trust for regular pedicures without fear of reinfection. Do diligent research to protect your nail health.
Some additional precautions you can take when getting a pedicure after a fungal nail infection:
Here are some more tips for protecting yourself during post-infection pedicures:
For extra peace of mind, bring your own foot tub basin along with disinfectant soap. Soak feet in your sterilized personal tub instead of the salon's shared ones. This eliminates any contagion risks from previous clients.
Ask that brand new disposable pedicure liners be used in the foot tub and chair instead of reused ones. This provides a clean protective barrier between your feet and the equipment. Insist on fresh single-use liners to avoid cross-contamination.
Skip callus removal unless absolutely necessary. The abrasion opens skin and raises infection risks. If necessary, allow gentle treatment only on thick, cracked areas - not overall smoothing which can damage skin. Keep callus treatment conservative after fungal infections.
Ask to have your pedicure done at the end of the day after equipment has been disinfected from prior clients. This allows your feet to be the last ones using the tools before they are sterilized again, minimizing risks. Scheduling as the final appointment adds protection.
Keep at least 12 inches between your feet and those of other pedicure clients. Avoid soaking side-by-side in shared foot baths. Fungal spores can spread through water contact between patrons. Insist on spatial separation for safety. Stay vigilant even after clearing toenail fungus to prevent recurrence and protect your health. Take all reasonable precautions.
Maintaining healthy feet and nails between pedicures is also key for preventing recurrent fungal infections. Here are some tips:
Here are some more at-home foot care tips for maintaining toenail health after fungal infections:
Avoid keeping nail polish on perpetually. Remove it at least weekly to examine nails closely. Look for any recurring discoloration or thickening, catching reinfection early. Rotating different nail polish colors also allows inspection.
Gently massage toes and feet with a hydrating essential oil like jojoba, coconut, or vitamin E oil after bathing. This stimulates circulation to nail beds for improved health. Massage daily post-pedicure for healthy nails.
Do not use abrasive foot scrubs with ingredients like walnut shells or apricot kernels at home. These create micro-tears in skin that can allow fungus entry. Limit exfoliants to soft ingredients like oatmeal instead.
Replace nail files, clippers, cuticle scissors and other tools regularly so they do not accumulate microbes over time. Old, damaged tools also can tear nails. Invest in new high-quality tools every 2-3 months for safety.
Sprinkle antifungal baby powder inside shoes and socks to keep feet dry. Microwave the powder for 1 minute first to sanitize it, then allow it to cool before using. This kills any fungal spores lurking in the powder itself.
Good nail hygiene at home will maintain pedicure results. Inspect feet regularly and act quickly at any signs of recurrence. Make toenail health a priority.
Once the prescribed course of oral or topical medications is finished and nails appear completely clear of fungal debris and discoloration, it should be safe to resume getting professional pedicures. However, inform technicians of your past nail fungus and take reasonable precautions. With discipline and diligent foot care, you can keep toenail fungus at bay and enjoy beautiful feet.
Here are signs that indicate your toenail fungus has fully cleared up and pedicures should be low-risk:
Nails regain a pinkish translucent color without yellow, brown, white or green patches, streaks or spots. Even small discolored areas need further treatment before pedicure safety.
No accumulation of fungal fragments or opaque keratin debris under the nail plate. Nails should lift off the nail bed cleanly.
Nails feel smooth without crumbly, ragged edges or brittleness. Fragile, loose nails signal residual infection requiring more treatment.
Nails resume a normal flat shape without excess curvature, warping or thickening of the nail plate. Proper reattachment to nail bed.
No pain, sensitivity or foul odors around nails. These symptoms disappear with successful anti-fungal treatment.
Finished the full round of oral antifungal tablets or topical solution applications over the prescribed duration indicated by your doctor - typically 3 months or more.
Your physician examines nails in follow-up and confirms the fungus appears clinically resolved. Get their clearance before exposing nails to pedicure risks. Stay vigilant post-treatment for any signs of recurrence. But with your doctor's all-clear, you can finally treat yourself to that long-awaited pedicure and show off beautiful, healthy toes!
Getting regular pedicures can be an excellent way to maintain beautiful, healthy looking feet - but only when you are certain to protect your safety and the safety of others. If you are currently battling an active toenail fungus infection, holding off on professional nail care remains the wisest choice.
Rather than risk worsening the stubborn infection or exposing others, use the waiting time to care for your feet at home. Seek proper medical treatment to fully eliminate the fungal overgrowth. Be meticulous about foot hygiene while completing the medication course. With consistency and patience, you can get toenail fungus under control.
Once the doctor confirms you have clear, infection-free nails again, do your diligent research to find a thoroughly vetted, sanitary pedicure salon. Look for stringent sterilization practices and technicians specifically trained in pedicure health. Build a relationship with one reputable place. Continue preventive foot care between appointments. Address any recurring athlete’s foot immediately. And enjoy the confidence boost of beautiful feet, free of fungal infections at last. With some discipline and TLC, your toes will be summer-ready in no time.
No, medical professionals strongly advise against getting professional pedicures when you currently have an active toenail fungus infection. There is a high risk of spreading the contagious fungus to salon equipment and other clients. It can also worsen your condition. Get treated first before pedicures.
Avoid clipping, filing, buffing or removing parts of the infected nail, which can worsen it. Do not get pedicures, wear occlusive nail polish 24/7, or use public showers barefoot. Don’t keep wearing tight shoes perpetually. And never share nail tools with family.
Do not get a pedicure if you currently have toenail fungus, warts, ingrown nails, bleeding/inflamed skin or any contagious foot condition. Wait until the infection fully clears up. Also postpone if you have open cuts, recent foot surgery, or diabetes complications affecting feet.
Avoid wearing colored polish constantly, as it can worsen fungal toenails by trapping moisture under nails. Go polish-free a few times a week to let nails breathe and inspect condition. When polishing infected nails, use an antifungal base coat first to help treatment penetrate.
Habits that can worsen toenail fungus include excessive sweating in shoes, walking barefoot in damp public areas, picking at nails, constantly wearing nail polish, sharing pedicure tools, and delaying medical treatment. Diabetes and poor circulation also exacerbate it.
Exposing untreated fungal nails to swimming pools, dirty shower floors, and moist locker rooms spreads infection. Tight-fitting shoes, socks, and hosiery also worsen fungus by creating a warm, moist environment. Picking at nails, chronic nail polish use, and pedicures also aggravate the condition.
Prescription oral antifungal medication taken for 12 weeks kills stubborn toenail fungus faster than topical treatments alone. Combining oral medication like terbinafine with prescription ointment like efinaconazole speeds up fungus elimination. Laser therapy also works faster than creams.
The number one cause of toenail fungus is athlete’s foot. The infection, medically known as tinea pedis, spreads fungal spores from the skin to the nail bed. Other common causes include frequent moisture exposure, walking barefoot in wet public areas, diabetes, and nail injuries.
Leaving toenail fungus unchecked for too long allows it to spread across all nails and even to fingernails and skin. It can lead to worsening nail discoloration, thickening, crumbling, and distortion. Long-term infections increase likelihood of complicating bacterial infections and foot pain.
Active fungal, bacterial or viral nail and foot infections like wart outbreaks would restrict you from safe pedicure services. Open cuts, recent foot surgery, uncontrolled diabetes, and conditions causing poor circulation would also make pedicures inadvisable due to infection risks.
The healthiest pedicure avoids cutting cuticles, trimming nails, or scrubbing calluses which can damage skin barriers to germs. Focus only on soaking in sanitized tubs with disinfected jets, followed by gentle lower leg and foot massage. Freshly sanitized pumice stones gently smooth rough areas. Then relax with light nail buffing and polishing.
No, wait until athlete’s foot is fully treated and resolved before getting a pedicure. The fungal infection is highly contagious and risks spreading to pedicure tools and tubs. Make sure no scaling, itching, redness or peeling skin remains between the toes or on soles before booking pedicure appointments.