What is the difference between a pedicure and a medical pedicure?

The changing of the seasons signals a change in one’s wardrobe, and nail colour is no exception to this transition. Although summertime in Toronto is considered to be the most popular season for manis & pedis, the novelty of treating ourselves at a salon alongside a warm latte seems particularly enticing. Nevertheless, those shiny salon-finish nails may come with certain health risks that everyone should be aware of.

While many of us constantly look at our fingernails, proper toenail care is often overlooked in our North American culture. And for the times that we do notice, how often have you removed nail polish or shellac and noticed discolouration, chalking, bumpiness, brittleness, or dryness?  At Align, we pride ourselves in offering luxurious “medical pedicures” conducted by licensed Chiropodists (a.k.a medical foot specialists). Our philosophy is to achieve exceptional nail beauty with an emphasis on keeping them healthy and up to dermatological standards. Here are the differences between a salon pedicure and our health-conscious, spa version of a “medical pedicure”:  

Sterilization of instruments
Unlike most salons, Align uses state of the art medical-grade instruments to treat your feet. Our standards of sterilizing instruments are consistent with IPAC (Infection Prevention and Control Standards) for patient care. To put it simply, we use the same sterilization standards that your family doctor, your dentist, and other medicals practitioners use when instruments are exposed to tissue or bodily fluids. This effectively eliminates the risk of cross contamination between re-usable instruments. Unfortunately, this meticulous practice of instrument reprocessing and sterilization is not necessarily used at salons, and pathogens (bacteria, fungus, viruses, etc.) can spread between clients! We see many patients picking up fungal infections (in both nails and skin) from non-sterile instruments used at salons, so do exercise caution. Instruments devoid of pathogens are always presented in unopened sterilization pouches, with internal and external chemical indicators showing they have “passed” and have been adequately processed in an autoclave.

Cuticle pushing
Cuticles (medically known as the “eponychium”) are a barrier that connects the nail plate to the dermis of your skin. As many of you know, pushing back or cutting out the eponychium of the nail is common practice among salons in Mississauga and Toronto. Although this may appear aesthetically pleasing, this seal of skin plays a paramount role in protecting pathogens from the nail root. Pushing back this layer of epidermis leads to risk of infection from these very pathogens. Infection to the nail root can cause a diseased nail to persistently form -  moreover, pus from infection can deter the re-growth of healthy cuticles (not to mention the pain)! During your medical pedicure at Align, we pamper your feet by coating the eponychium with all-natural, vitamin-enriched hydrating cuticle oil. Rather than removing such an important layer of skin, having a hydrated eponychium will keep your nails healthy and naturally beautiful!

Nail Cutting Techniques
Some nail salons may “curve-cut” the top of your toenails -  this method of nail cutting is highly disfavored by chiropodists/podiatrists and dermatologists alike. Curve-cutting encourages the edges of the nail plate to curl down and dig into your skin, leading to painful ingrown toenails. As well, sharply tapering the corners of the nail may pierce the skin of your toenail sulcus. Be sure to cut your toenails straight across with only a very slight rounding at the corners, or visit our chiropodists on a regular basis for some perfectly shaped, medically-sound trimming.

Callus and Cracked Heel Reduction
At salons, there are several ways in which calluses are reduced—not all methods are the safest for you. This is one of the reasons we use a "dry-method", and very specifically not a foot soak. Worst, if you see anything that remotely resembles a cheese grater, please take your precious feet and walk right out of there. Cuts, scratches, lacerations... We’ve seen it all from post-salon callus reductions. In the event of injury from such treatment, our Align chiropodists are able to medically cleanse, bandage, and medicate. Also, those foot files used to buff out your heels? Keep three things in mind before you allow a foot soak or instruments touch your feet: 1) These are generally used between several clients. 2) That black sanding paper cannot be steam sterilized (i.e. dangerous pathogens are probably still on it). 3) Athlete’s foot is fungally infective and you’d be surprised at how many people have it and how difficult it can be to rid yourself of. On that note, our foot specialists at Align are highly skilled in callus sharp debridement, using only the best German steel, diamond bit and medical-grade instruments that are sterilizable. Finishing with the cleanest, safest and healthiest imported cosmeceuticals with a high urea concentration provide a soft, touchable and callus-free finish (baby feet, as many patients have called them) without the risk of catching infections!

I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows the dangers of Shellac. I feel like every lady has felt that initial shock of seeing their nails after Shellac removal... That dry, brittle, pitting look. Why exactly does this happen? The UV ray lamp is one culprit, emitting UVB and UVA wavelengths which can contribute to risk of malignancy. The others would be the gel and the polish, as these agents are particularly dehydrating for the nails. As a healthier alternative, at Align we use disposable brushes and do not share brushes between patients and offer Dr. Remedy Nail Polish, a vegan brand infused with tea tree oil, biotin, wheat protein, garlic extract, and lavender. Their formulation is non-yellowing, hydrating, anti-fungal/anti-bacterial, and is "10-free" which means it is free from the 10 cancer-causing harsh chemicals found in standard polishes.

Quality of Care and A Foot Health Check-Up
You will be treated by our esteemed Chiropodists – that is, a medically licensed foot specialist with injection, soft-tissue surgery, and medication prescribing rights. We are here to pamper your feet and also to examine any dermatological presentations that may warrant further medical attention. Your foot health comes first, and if we notice any other presenting podiatric conditions, rest assured that you will be cared for under a medical lens. It is not unusual for us to find fungal infections (Athlete’s foot), eczema, warts, and other cutaneous pathologies during medical pedicure sessions. We are also ensuring healthy joint mobility with a relaxing but effective, joint mobilazation massage. Our aim is for you to have a clean bill of health for beautiful, healthy feet and nails. You may receive further medical treatment or a prescription for oral or topical medication where needed. Experience the ultimate decadence of a healthy medical pedicure with us, and you'll be able to know if your salon is safe for your foot health. Allow our medical professionals smoothen and nourish to give you beautiful "naked feet". Who knew healthy foot care could feel so luxurious?!


At the end of the day, this blog was not intended to force people to never step foot in a salon again. Not all salons match the description of the horrors above. Here at Align, we always strive to educate and empower patients to make their own healthy choices. And we also believe everyone deserves their own clean bill of foot health before you step out into the world. If you are still adamant on going, just look for the tips that we provided above: instrument sterilization packs, assess the manner in which they cut your nails, avoid foot dresser files, question the cleanliness of multi-use tools, and foot soaks. And as fungal sporogens can easily be transferred between nail polish bottles, so we suggest bringing your own nail polish to a salon if they don't like us, use disposable brushes.

Have we sparked questions? We hope so! Visit Align Custom Fit Footwear & Footcare for your Alignluxe Foot Restoration or Foot Beautification Express treatment, today! We look forward to treating your precious feet.


By Catherine Duong, D.Ch


This information is provided for general health and wellness awareness and does not constitute as medical advice. It is not meant to be used, diagnosed or treat medical conditions. For diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition always consult your Physician.