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In Good Hands

Friends and co-workers are always asking me for tips on where to go for the best beauty services around town, from waxing and facials to manis and pedis, and I’m always happy to offer up the fruits of my daily research. With summer here, and plenty of San Franciscans trading in their boots for open toed options, we’ll tackle the basics of nail care. There’s a nail shop around every corner in this city, but how do you know if these places are any good? After all, a mani-pedi seems so harmless—a little cuticle nipping here, a coat of polish there. How dangerous could it really be? But let’s not forget that we’ve all heard the horror stories of someone we know getting nail fungus or worse yet, a potentially lethal infection, caused by going to a sub-par nail joint. (Remember the Paul Abdul incident?)

Here are some major and minor warning signs that you may need to look elsewhere for your next girlfriend grooming-and-gab session:

   • There are stacks of women’s magazine, but they’re months (or even years!) old.
   • The nail techs state-issued licenses aren’t on clear display at their stations. Or the licenses posted are expired.
   • You don’t see the nail tools being sterilized in an autoclave machine or soaked in a clear (not foggy) Barbicide solution. (Ideally you should either bring your own tools or see your nail technician unwrap fresh tools from a sterilized plastic pack in front of you.)
   • The technicians don’t wash their hands before they start working on you.
   • The place reeks of toxic nail polish fumes.
   • You’re not seeing employees thoroughly wash foot basins or scour foot spa whirlpools. (I recommend avoiding whirlpools altogether as bacteria could get trapped in the crevices or pipes and pollute the water that comes through.)
   • Your nail technician does a hack job on your cuticles, which end up peeling or turn into hangnails within the next couple days. Gently pushing back cuticles, not cutting them, is the best and safest technique.
   • You see the technicians attempting to make bottles of color last longer by diluting nail polish with polish remover. Using thinned out polish means you’re color won’t look as good or last as long.

Bliss' Movie while you Mani stations. Courtesy of Bliss

I won’t get into the details of the places that I would avoid (you’ll have to ask me personally about that list). But two spas I recently visited and would highly recommend for nails are the Bliss Spa at the W Hotel—for their awesomely indulgent seasonal pina colada pedicure, which comes with a hot clam shell foot and leg massage and an actual pina colada—and the new Union Square salon and spa, MNKYTHMP, for long-lasting manis. Go see Valerie Witt for a perfect file and double coat and you won’t be sorry!