You’ve seen the signs. Podiatrists opening nail salons, a push for medical nail tech certifications, and alarmist media stories combine to communicate a consistent (if disputable) message: The average nail salon isn’t a safe place. If you speak to podiatrists, they’ll confirm the inherent risk in getting a pedicure, particularly for patients with diabetes. “But, of course, our feet need to be groomed,” says Dr. Lisa Klemeyer, podiatrist and owner of Aesthetic Family and Podiatry in Sarasota, Fla. Does that mean diabetic patients are held hostage to the podiatrist’s office to ensure good grooming? Of course not.

As nail techs, we know diabetic patients can be pampered and cared for without risk under the careful eye of a knowledgeable nail professional. That’s you. But how do you let your diabetic clients know you’ve got their back? You need to tell them. The conversation may go something like this:

You: I see from your intake form that you have diabetes. Thank you for letting me know, so I can make your pedicure more comfortable and personalized.

Client: What do you mean? What difference does my diabetes make with having a pedicure?

You: Well, it makes no difference as far as how wonderful and relaxed you’ll feel, or how beautiful your feet will look when you leave. However, as your nail tech, it means I need to be more gentle during the massage and be more aware of water temperature. Diabetes can reduce blood circulation and even cause neuropathy. When that happens, the skin is less sensitive, and a client may not be able to sense if the water is too hot, or the massage is too deep, or even if the file makes an abrasion on the skin.

Client: What are you most concerned about?

You: Foot infections are one of the most common health risks in people with diabetes. That’s why I’ll use a gentle file and keep your nails straight to reduce the possibility of them cutting into the skin as they grow. That can happen if they’re too short or too rounded on the sides. I’ll also use a sloughing lotion rather than a scrub, because a salt or sugar scrub may be rough on the skin. After the massage, I’ll make sure no lotion or moisture is trapped between your toes. Basically, it means you get a little extra attention and TLC.

Client: I had no idea of all of that. I’m glad you told me about it because it’ll make a difference in how I file or apply lotion when I’m at home.

You: I’m glad to hear it. It’s important to me that my clients understand I act as their advocate so they can sit back and relax during their nail services. Everything we do in the salon is focused on safety and sanitation. We’re committed to educating our clients about what we do — and what they can do — to remove any risk that could be present in nail care services.


Get It in Writing

Every client should fill out an intake form that asks for medical conditions. If you don’t have one, you can download a consultation form at Begin asking clients to fill them out immediately. Also, add a sign in a highly visible area that asks clients to alert you of any changes in health conditions, including heart issues, diabetes, or pregnancy.

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