9 Red flags to look out for when visiting a nail salon

Sandal season is upon us, and that means it’s time to spruce up the tootsies for their grand debut. Pedicures are the ultimate treat for your feet, but only if you pick a clean, professional salon for your pampering service.

That can be easier said than done. If the spa or salon you choose isn’t sanitary, you could be putting yourself at risk for contracting an infection, not to mention — at minimum — you could walk away with bad headache or other unpleasant side effects.

I caught up with Deborah Lippmann, co-founder and creative director of her eponymous nail line, to get her professional insights on clean, safe nail care.

Here is what she had to say about the hallmarks of a clean nail salon and the red flags to watch out for before you settle in for your next manicure or pedicure.

1. The Storage Areas Are Dusty

Lippmann suggests asking the manicurist to open her drawer or rolling cart. Then, take a peek inside to see if there are dirty tools and dust.

“This can be a major indicator of the salon’s larger commitment to the health, sanitation and safety of the space,” she says.

2. The Pedicure Basin Doesn’t Have A Protective Cover

“If you are getting a pedicure, make sure the salon uses a protective piece of plastic over the basin and changes it before each new client,” Lippmann says.

3. The Technicians Look Unkempt

“Ideally, technicians should be dressed in professional clothing that does not restrict movement, closed shoes and their hair pulled back,” she says. Any overly casual or unkempt looks are red flags for the rest of the business.

4. The Tools Aren’t Properly Sanitized

Things like files, buffers and cuticle pushers can carry a lot of germs if they’re not cleaned or replaced between each manicure or pedicure. That’s why it’s always a good idea to bring your own.

“Before visiting a salon, put together your own nail kit and include a pusher, nipper, foot file, nail file, buffer, base/top coats and nail lacquers,” Lippmann suggests. “Otherwise, you run the risk of hygienic contamination if salons aren’t using proper sanitization, which is often the case.”

5. Your Polish Doesn’t Last Long

Lippmann warns that many salons compromise the product formulations with acetone. The acetone “can lessen the longevity and quality of the manicure.”

A simple solution is bringing your own nail polish. The colorful wall of nail polish bottles may be tempting, but your own collection is definitely pure and untainted.

6. Your Nail Technician Isn’t Well Informed

“Engage your manicurist, ask questions about the products and services to determine her level of education,” Lippmann says.

An informed technician is usually a good one you can trust. Additionally, make sure you clearly explain what you want and what you don’t.

7. The Salon Has A Strong Chemical Odor

A strong odor in a salon is a big red flag.

Lippmann warns, “If you are overpowered by the smell of nail polish, it’s probably not ventilated well, they are using harmful chemicals and you should leave!”

8. The Bathroom Is Dirty

Even if you don’t need to go, check out the bathroom. Lippmann says to look for anything that “seems dirty or unhygienic, which can be a sign of overall cleanliness problems.”

9. The Prices Are Too Good To Be True

It can be tempting to go to the salon that offers the cheapest main/pedi in town, but you will usually get what you pay for. Just because your hands and feet look good when you leave the salon, doesn’t mean it was a good — or a clean — service.

“Don’t be surprised after visiting a place that does not have the best sanitary practices, that your cuticles become inflamed, your manicure is peeling days later or you have a fungal infection on your foot,” she adds.

Keep an eye on your hands and feet to see how they look a few days later to determine if it’s worth a return visit.