Clients expect nail techs to identify and recommend treatment for a wide variety of nail disorders and diseases. Though this expectation is understandable, techs are constrained legally, limited to beautifying the nail and leaving the rest to those with a medical degree. However, it’s important for your sake and the safety of your clients to recognize potential problems — even if you have to tread carefully when you’re talking with your clients about how to fix them. Warts may be one of those problems.
While all warts originate from some form of HPV, the most likely types a nail tech will see are called common warts, plantar warts (on the bottom of the feet), and flat warts (often on the face; sometimes on the hand). All three are contagious, which means in order to prevent the spread of them in your salon, you’ll need to discuss what precautions you’ll take. That conversation may sound something like this:
You: Oh, I haven’t noticed this before. It looks like it could be a wart. Have you had it diagnosed?
Client: No, I haven’t had it checked. I know it’s a wart, and I’m keeping an eye on it. I’m hoping it will just go away.
You: Sometimes the body’s immune system can fight off a wart, but until then, they are really contagious. As a nail tech, I can’t confirm a condition, but what I should do is treat this as if it’s a wart. We can still complete your nail service, but I’d recommend before your next appointment, you contact your doctor to see what the best treatment for that is. She may recommend at-home care, or she may want to treat it in the office. Everything available over-the-counter is made from salicylic acid, which may work for you. However, she may want to use something stronger; she could even need to freeze it off.
Client: If I don’t go see a doctor, will you still do my nails?
You: I can wear gloves so I know it won’t affect me, and I’ll take steps to protect my clients. I’ll use either disposable files or implements that can be disinfected with hospital-grade agents. After your pedicure, I’ll thoroughly clean the basin and disinfect the pedicure bowl with the same disinfectant. Though, honestly, I do that after every client anyway.
So, yes, I can still make your nails beautiful. However, a wart is a virus, so you can unwittingly spread it to other people. A person can pick up the virus not only from direct contact with the wart, but also by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces — places you’ve touched where the virus has found a home. In fact, if you don’t get this treated by the time you come back for your next appointment, I’d ask that you cover it before you come into the salon.
Client: Yeah, you have a point. I didn’t realize I could spread it.
You: It’s true. And besides spreading the virus to others, you could spread it to other parts of your hand or your body. The condition is treatable, but it can take a few months to go away, so I recommend you get it checked as soon as you can and find out the best way to get rid of it. In the meantime, you may want to stop by a drugstore and show the pharmacist. He or she may be able to recommend an over-the-counter product that could help.