Tips for A Safe Spa Experience

I remember when I was a teenager and had my first (and only!) cavity.  The dental assistant was friendly, but I froze when I saw her put her bare fingers on the needle just before it was plunged into my gums.  I’d hesitated too long, and the deed was done that resulted in a month of treating an infection that could have been avoided.

More recently, the place I used to visit for hair services had gradually become less attentive to cleanliness.  I really liked the people there, so I endured it until I couldn’t stick my head in the shampoo bowl one more time.  I haven’t been back, and fortunately I avoided any unwanted effects.

How many times have you gone to the nail salon, spa, or other personal services place and noticed hygiene that just wasn’t up to par?  You wanted to be polite so you didn’t say anything. Worse, you just let it slide and went on with the services you came for.  Like Russian Roulette, sooner or later you’ll be the one that pays the consequences.  Believe me, it’s not worth it!

spa fisheye

What Can Happen?

Nails:  According to often the infection is just in one nail but several may be affected. At first the infection is usually painless. The nail may look thickened and discoloured (often a greeny-yellow colour).  Guess you’ll be using that dark polish for a while, huh?


Various skin conditions can be acquired from foot spas more easily than you might imagine.  The results are not pretty.  Open wounds can appear on the skin of feet and legs. Initially they may look like insect bites, but they increase in size and severity over time, and sometimes result in pus and scarring.


With all that shampoo, the hair salon is super clean, right?  Wrong.  Unless proper cleaning is done, all kinds of nasty bugs are lurking. says “Everyone has bacteria on their skin (including staph), but you and your body live in harmony with it. Transfer this to another person with an open sore, and it may not be such a harmonious relationship. The infection can be as simple as a little irritation around a hair follicle, or as severe as an infection that could lead to serious illness.”

What To Look For

There are lots of tell tale signs.  Glance at the top and sides of the sink basins.  Are they shiny and free of haze or spots?  Or does it look like it got the kind of cleaning you gave the bathroom when you were six years old?  Are there used towels visible anywhere?  What about general appearance of the facility?  Is it tidy and fresh looking?

Remember, you’re risking your own well being here, so it’s okay to be a bit picky.  If the place doesn’t measure, skip the nice girl routine and be nice to yourself by finding another provider.

How To Avoid Nasty Results

Dr. Kally Papantoniou, a Cosmetic Dermatologist suggests the following guidelines for protecting yourself from unpleasant experiences with all providers of personal services:

  • Seek out a salon or spa that uses a heat autoclave to sterilize their instruments.
  • Don’t soak your feet in the foot-bath in the nail salon .
  • Bring your own nail filers/emery boards, and/or other nail tools if you desire.
  • Do not permit the use of any reusable instruments that are not sterilized.
  • Seek care quickly! If you do pick up what appears to be a wart, nail fungus, or another skin infection, do not delay seeking dermatological care.

safe spa experience

A Safe Spa Experience is A Happy One

It won’t matter if your nails or hair look great, or if you feel yummy after that massage.  If you have to deal with infections or rashes or who knows what later, the whole experience is pretty much ruined.  Do yourself a favor and insist on hygiene standards that protect you.


Salon  Frederic Bisson

Main image: Kevin Dooley

Linda Allen

I'm a serial entrepreneur, with a resume that makes me look like a Jane of all trades. Pretty sure we are all reluctant Messiahs, travelling through life planting seeds where ever we can. Hopefully, most of mine have been good ones! MA from Miami University (Ohio, not Florida), BA from Cal State.