Shaving your legs before a pedicure—and thereby sparing an innocent stranger from having to touch your prickly calves—seems like a no-brainer. But what may seem like a simple act of hygiene (and courtesy) could actually be setting you up for a nasty infection, according to Georgia-based dermatologist and American Academy of Dermatology Fellow Dr. Lauren Ploch.
“Shaving the legs may cause microfissures (like tiny nicks) in the skin, increasing your risk of infection after the pedicure,” Ploch explains.
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If bacteria, fungi, or viruses are lurking in an improperly cleaned pedicure tub, Ploch says, they can “take advantage of breaks in our skin barrier” and result in an infection.
Worst-case scenario, she says, is that you end up with a bacterial infection, such as one caused by staphylococcus aureus–which, if not treated with antibiotics, penetrates deep into the skin and finds its way into the bloodstream.
Most spa-related infections, however, would be relatively minor if treated early, she says.
Still, “the scary part,” Ploch says, is that you can’t always tell if your salon is cleaning its equipment well. “A basin may look perfectly clean, but it may harbor bacteria, fungi, and viruses,” she says.
To play it safe, both Ploch and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend simply waiting to shave your legs until after your pedicure. You should also stay away from the spa if you have a blister or other broken skin on your feet or lower legs, Ploch says.
“I recommend waiting until the skin has healed completely (one to two weeks) or doing a pedicure at home,” Ploch adds.