Fox 4 investigates after local woman says pedicure left her with ‘shooting pain like knives’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cindy Dillon spent almost two months recovering from her last pedicure.

“I bent over and saw this terrible, terrible burn on my foot,” she said.

Dillon believes the burn came from the gel a nail tech was using to remove calluses on the bottom of her foot. That same gel was accidentally dripped on top of her foot, which was then wrapped in hot towels and plastic for 15 minutes.

The next day, a doctor diagnosed the burn as second- or third-degree.

Although the Kansas salon denied it did anything wrong, infections from pedicures and manicures are more common than most people realize, said Dr. Daniel Aires, head of dermatology at the University of Kansas Health System.

“I've seen oozing pus. I've seen bright red painful fingers. I've seen people who have had to lose part of a finger,” Aires said. “I've seen it all.”

Aires hates acrylic nails, which he said can lead to fungal infections. He's also not a fan of cuticle clippers. Aires said cuticles protect your nails. They should never be removed.

Cleanliness is one of the most important parts of a cosmetology education. Experts like Lisa Steinhauser, the education leader at Paul Mitchell The School in Overland Park, Kansas, knows that not every nail tech follows the rules.

“They are filing with a nail file, and they put it back in their drawer,” Steinhauser said. “Well, those nail files are single use items. They can’t be sanitized. They need to be disposed of after each use. “

Fox 4 Problem Solver sent an undercover producer into a Kansas City, Missouri, nail salon where cleanliness didn’t appear to be the top priority. We even showed our findings to veteran nail salon owner Hai Dao of OPI Nails, also in KCMO.

“This salon is in bad shape,” Dao said, noticing the dirty towels on the floor and a nail tech who was resting her feet inside a pedicure basin.

Dao was also shocked by the amount of wear on the file and buffer that the nail tech was using. They’d obviously been used multiple times before, he said.

Plus, instead of soaking her tools in a disinfectant for 10 to 15 minutes, as required, the nail tech we filmed sprayed them with a liquid before using them.

Dao said if the tools aren't properly sanitized, any bacteria on them could be transferred to the next customer.

Avoiding a bad salon isn’t easy in Missouri. State inspections are not a public record. Salons don’t have to show them to you even if you ask to see them -- that’s something two state legislators didn’t even realize.

“When you called and said the public doesn't have access to inspection information that was actually kind of shocking,” said Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City. McCann Beatty said she planned to work to change the law, which has been on the books for more than a decade.

In Kansas, state inspection reports must be posted in the salon and disciplinary actions are posted online.

The salon Dillon went to in Kansas was cited on its last two inspections for not following proper sanitation procedures, including not cleaning the pedicure chair.

So how do you pick a good salon? Here’s what you should see: The pedicure bowl being cleaned with soap and water before being sprayed with a hospital-grade disinfectant.

It’s not required, but some salons even place a plastic liner inside the basin and put disinfected nail tools in a dated and sealed bag.

“The biggest advice I would ever give somebody if you go into a salon and something makes you feel uncomfortable -- get up and leave,” Steinhauser said. “Don't stay. Don't finish. Don't let that service continue."