You want to be sure you don’t walk out of the salon with more than you bargained for, like an infection.
Tips for getting a clean, safe, and great manicure or pedicure:
Play health inspector:
The old trick of looking in the bathroom and the kitchen before ordering a meal in a restaurant is the same for nails. Make sure the spa is spotless and look for an autoclave, which is a heat sterilizer that looks like an ice cream machine with a blue light inside.
Tools that have been heated in an autoclave are best; tools that have been soaking in clear anti-bacterial solution are probably clean; a cloudy solution is a tip-off that it needs to be changed.
Don’t be shy or embarrassed about asking if tools are sterilized or if they have been soaked in antiseptic. If your manicurist drops a tool on floor, ask her to resterilize.
Look for individually wrapped instruments like those found in a doctor’s office and see that they are unwrapped in front of you, or better yet, bring your own each time. Some salons will store them for you.
The technician should wash his or her hands and use fresh towels. Your hands and/or feet should be washed or swabbed with an anti-bacterial solution, too. Some dermatologists even warn that bottles of nail polish can harbor germs from a variety of clients. The polish should go up to the cuticle but never touch the skin.
If you have hangnails, ask the manicurist to trim them, but stay away from the cuticle. The cuticle protects bacteria from entering nail and skin, so ask the manicurist to push them back instead of cutting. If you can’t get to a manicurist, moisten the area with lotion or cream and then gently clip the hangnail off, but never close to the skin.
Aim for perfection:
Be specific about the length you want: short and visible over the tips of the fingers. An oval or “squoval” shape (square with rounded edges) is foolproof and looks the most natural and modern.
Before polish is applied, make sure your nails are swabbed with remover to take off the hand lotion and any oil residue. That’s the only way the polish will last.
Patience is a virtue: To expedite your drying time, dip wet fingernails in ice water for a minute or so. The cold water works to constrict and harden the polish. To minimize your pedicure drying time somewhat, you can use a fast-drying polish or leave the topcoat application for the following day. In the winter, when it’s a matter of socks versus frostbite, put on a coat of oil after an hour of drying and wrap your toes in Saran Wrap.
Keeping the color:
At the salon, have your wallet and car keys out and your jacket on before your nails are painted.
Let polish dry thoroughly for 20 minutes.
Avoid fast-drying topcoats because while it dries the polish quicker, it tends to make polish more prone to chipping because it seals the outermost layer before the rest of the layers dry naturally.
After nails are somewhat dry, apply a drop of oil to each nail.