manicured hand holding a stopwatch
Photo: Donna Trope
19. Case the joint for spotlessness.
A less-than-immaculate nail salon can be a breeding ground for bacteria, says Jane Park, owner of Julep Nail Parlors in the Seattle area. Reusable implements (nail scissors and cuticle clippers) should be sterilized in a high-temperature autoclave (look for a rectangular metal box with a round, sealed door), and anything that can't be sterilized, like files and buffers, should be single-use and brand-new for each client. (To be really safe, bring your own tools: a clipper, cuticle pusher, hangnail nipper, and file.) And avoid whirlpool pedicure tubs, says Ji Baek, owner of Rescue Beauty Lounge in New York City. "The filter, where the bacteria resides, is supposed to be changed after every pedicure, but I've never been to a salon where that happens." If your favorite salon has whirlpools, ask them to switch out the filter before your pedicure.

20. Pay attention to the "free edge."
That's the front edge of your nail, the part that is clipped or filed. In addition to painting up and down, a manicurist should brush your base coat, colored polish, and top coat horizontally across the tip of the nail. This step can double the life of your manicure or pedicure, says Park.

21. Pick your polish wisely.
Many salons use nail polish thinners when their old polishes start to thicken with age. Thinners compromise both the color and integrity of the formula. If the bottle is less than three-quarters full, ask for a new one, says Park. A freshly opened bottle of polish can make your pedicure last weeks longer than an older, and potentially thinned-out, bottle.

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