Client Health

Something to Talk About: Foot Odor

You talk to your clients about nearly everything — but this is different. How do you talk to a client about foot odor? Well, now we’re getting personal.

Nail techs are in a unique position. Who else gets that close to a person’s feet, a body part often regarded as untouchable by the masses? But here you are, day after day, pampering women and helping them look beautiful. For the most part, there’s no issue. Clients soak their feet in a warm bath, so by the time you get to them, you’re touching clean skin. Sometimes, though, you smell a problem: foot odor. When a client brings up the issue, it’s easy to help her, but what if she doesn’t bring it up? Should you broach the subject? Yes — your job is to educate your clients on the health of their hands and feet. It might go something like this:

You: I’m going to wash your feet with an antibacterial soap that’s different from what I typically put in the foot soak. Your feet need a little TLC today. They’re sweating more than usual, which creates bacteria and can cause them to smell, but no worries; I’m going to take care of that.

Client: Oh, I know! Sometimes I feel sorry for you as you do my pedicure because I’m scared my feet smell!

You: Oh, don’t worry about it. I work on feet all day. It’s normal to be concerned about foot odor. Is it a problem you have often?

Client: More often than I want! I don’t know what the problem is; I wash my feet every day, sometimes twice a day.

You: Well, the odor is caused from bacteria, which grows when our feet sweat inside socks and warm, closed shoes. So the key is to keep the feet dry. We need to be as careful about drying our feet as we are about washing them.

Client: I’m meticulous about drying … and I never wear closed-toed shoes.

You: Well, let me ask you this: Do you sweat excessively anywhere else?

Client: Not really.

You: OK, if you did, I’d suggest you go to the doctor because there’s actually a condition called hyperhidrosis for people who sweat excessively. I’ve never noticed it in you, but thought I’d ask.

Client: No. Nothing like that.

You: OK, then let me give you a few tips I learned from a podiatrist: If you wear closed-toed shoes, pick socks that are made of wicking material. Cotton socks trap the moisture. Also, don’t ever wear the same pair of footwear two days in a row. Our feet sweat and it takes our shoes a while to dry out. You can also treat your feet like other areas of the body that sweat and spray them with deodorant. Spray your insoles with deodorant, too. And, like I said, make sure your feet are completely dry after you’ve washed them. That really should take care of it because the smell comes from bacteria, and bacteria grow in a moist environment.


Why They Smell

Offensive foot odor is caused by excessive perspiration. Sweating helps reg­ulate body temperature and elim­inate some body wastes. Sweat is composed of water, various salts, and amino acids, as well as lactic acid and urea. When sweat is ex­creted, it creates an excellent en­vironment for bacterial growth. Excessive perspiration (hyperhidrosis) enhances the over­growth of bacteria, which feed on the various elements within the sweat. The waste products formed after the bacteria ingest these elements causes the offen­sive odor. To control the odor, the excessive perspiration and result­ing overgrowth of bacteria must be controlled.

When excessive sweating affects the whole body, a person ought to see a physician to determine if there is a problem with the sympathetic nervous system. If the problem is limited to the feet, see a podiatrist.


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