Recharge Medical Blog

Recharge Medical
Philippe T. Nguyen

Philippe T. Nguyen, MD
Chief Medical Officer

Pretty Nails = Health Risks?

What’s not to love about a cheap manipedi?

Okay, we get it, you’re on a budget. You’ve found a cute little salon with a cheap mani pedi. But at what cost? Everyone loves the great-looking nails you get with a pampering manicure and pedicure, and no one wants to spend a ton of money every few weeks. But there are often potential health risks from inexpensive nail salons.

The risk: your health

Because people want a $20 manicure, nail salons are often staffed with under-paid, under-trained, and under-supervised staff. Most salons do not have the resources to maintain proper infection control procedures. This leaves you vulnerable to infections and injury, especially those of you with medical conditions such as diabetes or neuropathy. Google reveals over 300,000 pages on the web when searching on nail salon infection.

Nail technicians that do not fully understand, for example, the anatomical structure of nails, or even proper infection control practices poses a danger to your health. Even when staff have been trained properly, it can be difficult to maintain good practices when they don’t have the resources needed and there is no one ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved.

The cheapest manipedis cut all the costs they think you can’t see

But, when you are paying only $40 for a manipedi, how could you expect more? Think about it: a normal manicure and pedicure requires almost one hour of a trained nail technician’s time plus the cost of materials, plus the cost of proper sterilization, and when you add in the overhead of doing business in big city like San Francisco, those costs quickly add up. Something has to give.

Sadly, what gives is often infection control measures that keep you healthy. Nail salons have to worry about their bottom line—staying in business so you can get your mani/pedi! Salons have to reduce costs to stay in business, which means no additional training for staff, bare minimum infection control expenditures, and often low hourly pay for nail technicians. Most salons survive with short periods of high-volume sales, with client turnaround so fast that no one could conduct proper infection control between clients. Think of your corner nail salon on a Saturday morning. And, when it comes to clients with health issues like diabetes or neuropathy, many salons simply don’t have the expertise to safely perform a manicure-pedicure.

Recharge Medical: get your nails done at a medical clinic

The nail clinic at Recharge is just that, a clinic—a place where people get medical help. Many clients love the spa-like experience of getting their nails done at Recharge and the relationships they develop with Danny and Ling. But, what really sets our services (and our staff!) apart is that we are also a medical clinic. Ling and Danny both have extensive training in anatomy, diseases, infection control, and nail treatments for people with health problems. Our infection control procedures are unrivaled for nail care. We use surgical autoclaves for tools, chlorhexidine prep scrubs, antiseptic technique, we never use acrylic nails or whirlpool chairs, and all of our services are tightly supervised by medical professionals. With this level of attention we cannot provide 20 manicures a day or a $40 mani-pedi. But, we can ensure the health and safety of every client and attend to clients’ individual health needs—all in our peaceful, spa-like setting.

12 tips to keep you safer at any salon





Never put your feet in a spa chair foot bath.

See Why we never use spa chair foot baths.


Never shave your legs before a pedicure.

It agitates hair follicles, which can then be an entry point for pathogens.


Don’t get acrylic nails.

See Why we don’t do acrylic or artificial nails.


Don’t let anyone overtrim or damage your cuticles.

Damaged cuticles can become portals for infections to enter your body.


After receiving nail polish, remove it after a few days to let your nails breathe.

You wouldn’t leave latex body paint on your body for two weeks, right? Your nails—and more importantly, the tissues under your nails—need to breathe, dry out, get sunlight, etc.


Learn about nail salon safety, then ask questions about the salon’s infection control practices and training.

If they don’t know how to respond or seem uncomfortable that you are asking, go somewhere else.


Learn what an autoclave is, and choose a salon that uses one.

This enables you to visually confirm that the tools used for your nail service are sterile.


Make sure all disposable items like nail files are new and clean.

Tools that cannot be autoclaved are not sterile even if washed, disinfected, or placed under a UV lamp. More details: nail salon safety.


Wash your hands and feet before the service.

To prevent harmful microorganisms from entering your body in case your skin is cut.


Make sure the nail technician washes his or her hands and wears new gloves.

Multiple levels of infection prevention reduce risk for both the patient and the nail technician.


Ask whether the salon’s practices are friendly to workers’ health and the environment. San Francisco has the Healthy Nail Salon Program. California has the California Health Nail Salon Cooperative. New York has the Healthy Nail Salons Coalition.

Participants in programs like these are committed to:

  • safe environments for their workers and guests (e.g., non-toxic nail polish)

  • better practices to protect our environment from harm.


Ask if they are OSHA compliant.

OSHA is a federal agency that regulates laws to protect the health of the staff and clients. These regulations ensure:

  • proper storage, handling, and disposal of chemicals

  • staff know what chemicals are being used and what possible health effects those chemicals might have on people

  • a safe working environment

  • a plan for emergency.

More reading

Feb 29, 2016

Nail salon sweeps in New York reveal abuses and regulatory challenges

The New York Times

May 22, 2015

How California’s ethical nail salons can teach New York to clean up its act

The Huffington Post

May 7, 2015

The price of nails

The New York Times

See all blog posts