Most people either have a nail salon horror story, or they know someone who has had one. As someone whose nail upkeep could at best be described as “minimal” (at worst “negligent”), I fall into the latter category. There’s nothing quite like your friend texting you unsolicited pictures of her infected cuticles to make you not want to go to a nail salon. (See also: tales I’ve heard of nail fungus.) But that doesn’t mean you need to forego manicures altogether. There are a few ways to tell if your nail salon is running a tight ship—meaning sanitary and clean.
“To ensure your manicurist is using healthy and clean tools, you should ask how the tools are being sanitized,” says Evelyn Lim, chief educator of Paintbox. I cannot stress this enough, but in what world is it okay to reuse tools that have literally been shaving and cutting part of someone’s body without sanitizing them? No world. Your salon should absolutely not be doing this. It seems like a no-brainer, but apparently this is a thing that happens. “Tools should be scrubbed with germicidal soap and submerged in hospital grade Barbicide for 10 minutes as a standard,” Lim adds. What’s more, many nail salons have UV sterilizing equipment in plain sight, which can help to kill bacteria that lurk on reused tools. Look for those, too.
She adds that a major red flag your nail salon isn’t clean: If you see them reusing disposable tools, like buffers and files and anything else that’s been used with another customer. “Keep an eye out to see if the team is cleaning the station in between services,” Lim adds, because they should be.
To be extra cautious, because really, you can’t be careful enough: You can also bring your own tools, which helps to limit the bacterial exposure you’d be getting to… your own. This isn’t, of course, free rein to just skip out on cleaning your own tools. After each appointment, give them a nice scrub down at home using the nail salon approved method. And most importantly: “If you ever feel uncomfortable, speak up,” Lim says. Now, you just have to pick your color (no pressure).