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Pedicures & Toenail Fungus

By Barb Nefer ; Updated July 18, 2017

A pedicure is usually considered to be a way to pamper your toes. You relax while your feet soak in a soothing hot bath. Then, a technician skillfully shapes your toenails and applies nail polish in your choice of color. She may even add a cute little design. Unfortunately, you may get more than just pretty toes at some salons and spas. You can pick up toenail fungus from a pedicure if the salon is dirty or the technicians do not follow proper sanitary procedures.


Toenail fungus happens when an organism called onychomycosis attacks one or more nails. Initially you may notice a spot, and your toenail will get dull, distorted and thick over time. It will get brittle and crumble easily, and you will notice dark discoloration as material builds up underneath the nail.


Fungal infections of the toenail occur when the nail is exposed to the fungus and it is able to invade the area. Pedicures set up the ideal condition for transmission of the fungus if the salon does not take precautions, OurHealthNetwork states. It thrives in warm, damp conditions, and can be passed along by using contaminated instruments. The technician might use clippers, an emery board, blade or other tool on someone who already has an infection. Then, he passes it on to an uninfected client by reusing those tools without disinfection them, Mayrav Saar of the "Orange County Register" warns.

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Time Frame

The toenail fungus will start to develop quickly after exposure, although you may not notice it for several weeks. It may start out as an innocent spot, so you will not realize there is a bigger problem until it starts to distort the nail.


Toenail fungus can be cured, but it usually takes time and often requires a doctor's care. There are over-the-counter (OTC) ointments and creams, but they are ineffective for many people. You can get an oral medication from your doctor, such as terbinafine or itraconazole, if OTC methods do not work. You will have to take the pills for up to 12 weeks, but it will take longer for a complete cure because your nail must grow out completely to eliminate all signs of the fungus.


You can prevent toenail fungus caused by a pedicure by choosing a salon very carefully. Saar says to look around for risk factors and signs of uncleanliness. For example, technicians should not use tools if they are dropped and should not use the same tools on more than one patron without properly disinfecting them. You should leave immediately if you observe any activity that might increase your risk of getting an infection at the salon. Check with the Better Business Bureau when considering a new spa to see if there have been any complaints by previous customers. OurHealthNetwork advises bringing your own tools for the technician to use if you want to be especially cautious.


You may not be the only person to get a toenail fungus from your pedicure if the spa is regularly engaging in unsanitary practices. Report the problem to your local health department or other appropriate authorities.

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