Phoenix Podiatrist, Dr. Shylaja Arya talks: 10 tips for a safe pedicure

Pedicure Tips

Prior to Covid-19 and even more so now, patients are asking whether or not it is safe to go get a pedicure at their local nail salon. Regionally “mask-up” policies are different around the United States, so I can’t speak to whether or not it’s safe to go to a nail salon everywhere. Without a doubt, the safest place to have your nails taken care of is by a licensed podiatrist. Especially if you have an ingrown toenail, Diabetes, nerve, skin, or blood-flow related issues. 

That being said, I understand--the classic “pedicure” is an experience. It’s warm water with essential oils, bubbles, maybe some champagne, pampering, massage, polish, and a feeling of “fresh” that feels so good when you leave--especially being bolstered up in the house this past year! 

I know you’ll stop reading this article if I tell you to never visit a nail salon again. So I’ve come up with some guidelines for a healthy pedicure.  Yes, you deserve your TLC after all!! Please don’t forget though- if you have concerns related to ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, Diabetes, nerve issues, blood flow issues, warts--those are all things you need to come see me for… your nail salon is not equipped nor should they attempt to provide foot care in these situations. If you have any questions, please call us at 602-309-8788. 

Remember, if you have any of the above health issues--you should check with your podiatrist or physician to see if a pedicure is appropriate for you. 

1. Check the set up

Make sure your soaking tub is lined with a fresh plastic shield or you watch someone sanitize it before letting them fill the tub with water. Also, be aware that your instruments are coming out of a disposable plastic pack-which indicates they have been sterilized prior to their use. Your tub should be free of debris and cracks.

2. Communicate

You’re meeting your nail technician here, wait to put in your headphones and tune out until you express what you want before they begin to ensure this is a safe pedicure. Before they begin, make sure you are both on the same page about the things I elaborate in steps 4-8 before they start working. This is the most important step to making sure you leave the nail salon infection free. 

3. Don’t shave before you go

I know you are looking out for your technician here, but being someone that has taken care of feet and legs for over 10 years...we have seen WAY worse than a little stubble on your legs.  Please, please, please avoid shaving. Fresh nicks can leave you susceptible to an infection. Remember, you are soaking in a tub that has everything that sloughs off your feet and legs. If you have a fresh cut that is soaking in that warm dirty water, you definitely put yourself at risk of getting bacteria trapped in the area. So just don’t do it! Hairy legs never hurt nobody. 

4.  Cuticle Rules

The cuticle of the nail refers to the skin that is at the base of your nail. It is very commonly trimmed, cut, pushed back for aesthetic reasons. So here’s the deal- the cuticle of the nail is our protective barriers against bacteria. It is the sealant that keeps bacteria and other bugs from getting under your nail. Your nail technician should not heavily cut or push them back. You can instruct them to trim them with a nipper, but tell them not to cut them away totally or push them back so there’s nothing there. This is one of the big reasons I treat base of the nail ingrown toenails, and sometimes this means the entire nail must be removed! (emoji of shocking face) Remember-less cuticle means more risk of infection. 

5.  Sharp tools to dig under the nail rules

Somehow debris gets under both our fingernails and toenails, no matter how clean or attentive we are. This can present as sock fuzz, toenail fungus, and whatever else. Please do not let your nail technician stab you with a tool under your nail with a sharp steel tool. They can use a blunt tool under the nail to gently brush away debris, but if they use something sharp and puncture your skin under the nail bed--you probably won’t realize it until it’s draining with pus a week later. Gentle is the key. Nothing should be aggressive about a pedicure. 

6.  Skip the Cheese Grater

Please don’t let them use a razor or something that looks like a torchure device to get callus off the bottom of your feet. You are just asking for an infection if they go too deep. A pumice stone or large grit sand-paper board are the best options. If you truly have bad callus build up, come see me at Arya Foot & Ankle. I guarantee I’ll do a better job and through a combination of manual and enzymatic debridement-we will fix this issue. 

7.  Toenails should be short and straight across

Make sure your nail tech knows-short and straight across. No V’s in the center, no digging for ingrown toenails on either edge, no deep rounding, no almond shape nails. Toenails are different than fingernails, and you put your feet in shoes. If your toenails are left too long, you are more susceptible to fungus. If they are too deeply rounded you will be more susceptible to ingrown toenails. Short. Straight. Simple.

8.  BYOP (Bring Your Own) Polish

Traditional nail polishes have a lot of chemicals, including some well known carcinogens that have also been linked to other health issues in women. In America, our products have chemicals that in Europe are 100% banned. So you have to be aware of what you’re putting on your nails, it gets absorbed into your blood stream through the nail plate. Look for polish that is at least “5 free” if not “10 free.”  This classification is based on new manufacturing companies skipping these toxic chemicals: DBP, Toluene, Camphor, Xylene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, TPHP, Colophonium, Silicones and Halides. Companies like Kapa Nui, Zoya, and Butter are just a few. (look for my nail polish review blog next!) 

9.  Dry between your toes

Toes are tightly crammed into shoes, and anyone who has toes that are close together or hammered are definitely at risk for getting an infection or “toe jam” in between their toes. Lace a piece of gauze or wash towel in between your toes to get them a little breathing room to dry off. 


I’ve seen a lot of things over the years, please stop covering up discolored thick toenails with nail polish assuming it’s going to go away. You could be hiding a fungus or yeast. Also your polish doesn’t allow your nail to breathe. If you’re not sure if that callus on the bottom of your foot is a wart or something else--don’t have your nail tech keep shaving it down. It is important to have these things evaluated by a physician or else they will get worse. Stop hiding, get in to see me--we’ll get you healthy and then you can do your TLC pedicures infection free. 

Remember to come see us at Arya Foot & Ankle if you have: ingrown toenails, fungal toenails, Diabetes, nerve issues, blood flow issues, warts. You can call to schedule at 602-309-8788 or book online at 

Dr. Shylaja Arya Dr. Arya is the owner of Arya Foot & Ankle, a podiatry practice that serves the greater Phoenix area with same day, Saturday, and lunch time appointments. She is a yoga instructor, tennis player, and shoe lover.

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