When To Visit A Podiatrist vs Pedicurist
The Debrief: 'Ask yourself, would you go and see your doctor for a tooth problem? No! You would go and see dentist. So why would you go to a beauty salon for a foot problem?’
A few weeks ago, I booked myself in for a last-minute pedicure before my beach holiday to the South of France. As the beauty therapist removed my chipped nail polish (and I started a mental checklist of the packing I had yet to start), there was an awkward silence.’Erm excuse me Catherine, but who did your last pedicure?’ As she hovered a lamp above my feet, I was horrified to see that every single one of my toes had a painful white mottle across the nail.
It turns out that the pretty coral polish I’d been wearing for weeks had been disguising a nasty nail infection beneath. As a beauty writer and someone who spends quite a bit of my disposable income on personal grooming, I must admit my pride was a little dented. As I waffled on to the therapist about my regular pedicures and daily cream applications (as a means of excusing my unsightly Shrek feet), she advised me that a pedicurist couldn’t cure these problems – it was a podiatrist I needed.
So off I went – mentally apologising for my toes to everyone I passed – for an appointment with Hiren Patel at his Flawless Feet clinic in Forest Hill. In just an hour’s consultation, the infection on my toes was treated, and the cracked heels I’d been trying to combat for months had disappeared. As pleased as I was to have found a solution, I also couldn’t help but feel frustrated that I hadn’t thought of paying a visit sooner – and that not a single previous pedicurist had recommended I do so.
So how does a podiatrist differ to a pedicurist and when should you seek their help?
‘The most common foot complaints podiatrists come across are corns, calluses, in-growing toe nails and verrucae,’ explains Hiren. ‘We are the experts in this field and being a regulated professional body, we ensure that all of the treatments we carry out are evidence based, and undertaken safely with strict infection control. Ask yourself, would you go and see your doctor for a tooth problem? No! You would go and see dentist. So why would you go to a beauty salon for a foot problem?’
My personal case of infection is also not uncommon. In fact, according to Hiren, podiatrists see more and more cases of damaged nails and fungal infections caused by traditional nail varnishes. This is due to the cocktail of harmful chemicals within them such as formaldehyde (a preservative), toluene (a solvent), parabens (synthetic preservatives) and camphor (which gives a glossy finish and prevents chipping) - all of which can make the nails dry, brittle and discoloured.
‘You can avoid this kind of damage by limiting the amount of time you wear polish on your nails and give them a break in-between coats’, says Hiren. ‘As podiatrists, we recommend patients change their polish every 10 days, and go without it for a few days before re-applying nail colour’.
If the thought of going bare-nailed for more than a few days fills you with horror, you may want to consider gentler products. Podiatrist-formulated nail polish brands such as Dr Remedy contain a blend of wheat protein, tea tree oil, garlic bulb extract, lavender and vitamin C and E, which makes them suitable for diabetics, pregnant women and even vegans. The bottles also look a lot like Chanel if you shop with your eyes.
So should you swear against your monthly pedicure for good? Hiren says not.
‘There is nothing wrong with going to a pedicurist,’ he says. ‘Just make sure the metal tools they use in the salon are sterilised between each client; a new blade is used when removing hard skin; and that they are never used for more than one person’.
It’s also always advisable to see a podiatrist if you have a compromised immune system due to a condition such as diabetes, HIV, or have a vascular disease or circulation problems.
Pria Bhamra, a freelance nail technician agrees that an initial consultation should always be undertaken to ensure your feet are healthy. ‘Before starting a pedicure, I check for fungal infections, ringworm, bacterial infections and some skin conditions such as psoriasis,’ says Pria. ‘As a nail technician, I’m not medically trained to deal with these types of 'contraindications' so I will always refer the client to a podiatrist or doctor.’
‘It’s also important to be aware of bad forms of practice such as excessively cutting the skin from around the cuticle,’ Pria continues. ‘This is dangerous as it doesn’t actually remove the cuticle, just the hyponechium which is the hard skin that protects the nail bed. When this is removed it can lead to severe infections’.
Top tips on keeping your feet beautiful this summer:
- Moisturise your feet daily with a high urea-content cream. This will help increase blood flow and keep them looking lovely.
- When using nail polish, ensure you prep the nails properly and always use a good base and top coat. This will help it last longer and stop the polish from staining.
- Use cuticle oil to hydrate dried-out cuticles. Apply twice a day for best results.
- Prevent and treat dry, cracked heels with a foot file or emery board. Avoid pumice stones as they are very unhygienic.
- Invest in a good pair of quality nail clippers and follow the contour of the nail when you trim. Never dig down the sides of the nail as this can cause in grown toe nails. File them if you find it easier.
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