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At the start of 2000, the day spa industry saw an increase in safety concerns about the popular pedicure leading to the advent of the waterless pedicure. Since its induction, the waterless pedicure is said to have many benefits to both the customers and to business owners, with the most important benefit being its safety.

The most notable product used during pedicures is the pedicure spa chair, a basin like product in which customers soak their feet in hot water to help soften feet. Because the basin is shared by many customers, its cleanliness is key to safety. Pipes circulating water serve as a perfect catchall for debris. In 2003, foot spa manufacturers developed a new pipeless spa. However, maintaining and cleaning said spas still requires labor-intensive cleaning. The difficulty in cleaning led to a number of salons neglecting the practice all together.

The lagging cleaning of foot spas came to new light after seventy-four spa patrons of Fancy Nails, a salon in Watsonville, CA, developed oozing lesions on various parts of their body—most notably the legs—leaving permanent marks and scars. Further outbreaks were reported in San Jose, CA in 2003 and 2004, and one Sunnyvale mother alleged pedispa chairs are directly responsible for the death of her daughter. Bohn and Bohn LLD, Attorney’s at Law served as legal counsel for the patrons in a law suit against various salons, manufacturers, and suppliers for their personal injury. Their law suit sought monetary compensation and enforcement of changes in industry practices on disinfection and instruction of disinfection for pedispa chairs. So far they have won $2.919 million for the original Fancy Nails patrons.

Since the outbreaks and subsequent law suits, state and federal regulators have moved to protect spa consumers from the deadly bacteria, most notably mycobacterium fortuitum. Inspections of several salons have brought up a host of improper disinfection practices and infected salon chairs. The source of the infections was found to be the accumulation of debris such as skin and hair, trapped behind the screens of the salon’s whirlpool pedicure spas. The State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology of California, which regulates the salon industry, launched further investigations into the licensure of salons.

After the bad press of the average pedicure, many spa makers switched to a pipeless pedicure foot spa, but even these proved difficult to clean. Lovers of pedicures need not give up on the practice entirely, though, as spas across the country have adopted the new waterless pedicure method. Sol Oasis, another salon situated in California, is said to be the starter of the waterless pedicures. Waterless pedicures replace the need for soaking feet in basins with steamed towels kept in a sanitizer. The tools used are cleaned in an autoclave and disposable products such as files and toe separators are given to the customer. Some salons place the utensils in bags and encourage their customers to return with them to avoid an extra charge. The entire process is sanitary.

The move from the traditional pedicure to the waterless pedicure is a cost effective move for spa owners. Average salon costs include the foot spa, which can range from the low hundreds into the tens of thousands; the maintenance and installation of the chair; and water and sewage fees. The cost of foot spa cleaners ranges from and can exceed $28 to $70 per gallon.  Not to mention these chemicals are harmful to the environment. An annual statistics report published in 2010 by Nails Magazine reported that of surveyed salons, 87.2% of salons owners reported owning spas chairs. With such a great number of spas owning and reusing chairs, cleanliness is an important factors. Spa owners are becoming green in an effort to cut cost and maintain cleanliness. The same survey says 65.1% of salon owners have reduced the amount of water used. The average salon uses 12-15 gallons of water per pedicure and with the national average of tap water being $2.00 per 1,000 gallons, cutting water saves salons thousands of gallons of water per month.

Even with the negative press, many salons continue to offer the traditional pedicure. Done correctly, a traditional pedicure can still be a safe, pleasurable experience, however, consumers are encouraged to examine the cleanliness of the salon of their choice or seek the alternative. As the popularity of the waterless pedicure grows, they become more readily available. A quick internet search will produce a number of salons offering this service. Spa goers should also search for green spas or eco-friendly salons since they are most likely to offer the waterless pedicure.

Pedicured Feet on Flowers in GBB Blog on Waterless Pedicures

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