Are manicures safe during pregnancy?

If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably already heard a million do’s and don’ts. While caution around certain habits is warranted, there are some activities you simply don’t need to worry about.

Can you get your nails done while you’re pregnant? Here’s what you need to know so you can enjoy a little pampering without the guilt.

pregnancy and nails

Research is lacking on the subject of most beauty treatments while pregnant. That being said, it does appear to be safe to get a manicure during pregnancy. Julie Lamppa, certified nurse-midwife, explains that, “Getting [a] manicure won’t put baby directly in harm’s way.” The biggest concern, she says, is over skin infections that might develop after your visit.

The risks

Whether you’re pregnant or not, you should make sure that whatever salon you choose practices good hygiene. When tools aren’t properly sterilized, you risk developing skin or nail infections. These infections can show up right away, or they can take weeks or months to develop. Types include:

  • Bacterial infections, like paronychia, may start with swelling, redness, or heat around your manicured fingernails or toenails. Treatment for this type of infection might mean taking antibiotics or getting an incision to drain the affected area.
  • Fungal infections, like athlete's foot, can turn your nails yellow. Your nails might show signs of lifting off your fingers as well. Treatment for nail fungus is usually in the form of oral or topical medication.
  • Viral infections include plantar warts that you pick up at the salon or spa. The spots you’ll see with this type of infection vary in color and are callus-like. Plantar warts can be treated with topical medications.

Most nail products, from primers, to polish, to polish remover, contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It’s interesting to note that the way a product smells doesn’t necessarily indicate its safety. Some polishes may be very stinky but pose little risk. Others may have no smell at all but contain potent chemicals.

Exposure to chemicals

While getting your manicure or pedicure, you may be exposed to the following:

  • Toluene, a chemical that’s also found in gasoline. It may cause anything from reproductive issues to dizziness.
  • Formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen that’s also used to preserve dead things. You should avoid inhalation and skin contact.
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which is classified at a high danger level because it causes reproductive issues, especially in men. This chemical is banned in Europe and may also cause organ issues and disrupt the endocrine system.

The main danger with these chemicals is inhalation, though products may also be absorbed through the skin or accidentally ingested. The good news? VOCs evaporate in the air, so good ventilation can help lessen your exposure to safe levels. You may also choose to avoid polishes and the chemicals used to remove them, and go for the manicured natural look.

Are massages safe during pregnancy?

pregnancy and nails

Have you heard that a manicure or pedicure might set you into labor? Maybe and maybe not. The idea is that stimulating the pressure points in your hands and feet during massages might cause contractions.

There’s little scientific evidence that acupressure will actually stimulate labor. Just to be safe, have your manicurist avoid stimulating these pressure points during your session. You may want to skip the massage portion of the treatment altogether and just go with the paint.

Tips for safety

You can still pamper yourself during your pregnancy. Just follow these precautions at the salon or at home:

  • Visit your salon ahead of time to observe their cleaning practices. Pay special attention to the instruments and bowls.
  • Don’t be shy: Ask your salon about their cleaning procedures if you’re skeptical. Autoclaving is the preferred method of sterilizing instruments. It’s what hospitals use to sterilize surgical tools.
  • Also ask about ventilation. Try sitting near a window or fan during your treatment.
  • Microorganisms can enter your body in foot bowls. Skip the salon if you have any cuts, bug bites, scratches, or other open wounds on your feet.
  • If you choose to do your nails at home, make sure you paint them in a well-ventilated room.
  • Consider trying nontoxic nail polishes for a change. Popular blogger Wellness Mama shares that good brands include Scotch Naturals, Acquarella, Honeybee Gardens, Piggy Paint, and Suncoat.
  • Ask your nail technician to avoid stimulating any pressure points in your hands and feet during massage portions of your treatment.

Many concerns about getting your nails done during pregnancy are much like those with dying your hair. Chemicals are involved in both processes, so you might feel more comfortable waiting until the second trimester for these beauty treatments.

If you’re still worried about the safety of getting your nails done while pregnant, ask your doctor for additional advice.

Bottom line

In most cases, it’s safe to get manicures and pedicures during your pregnancy. You’ll likely hear all sorts of opinions on beauty treatments and other activities during your pregnancy. In the end, the decision is up to you and your doctor. Once you’ve been given the go-ahead, you can move onto the important part of the process: which color?