One of the most appreciated questions I received in my December survey was in regards to Pedicuring Cancer patients.

This is such a great question because it involves a wide scope of areas within our Foot Care arena that we should be addressing and/or following daily.  It also brings us back around to my favorite phrase “education is the key to success”

Let’s begin with the #1 most important practice that we should do in our Foot Care room.  Proper cleaning and disinfection.  It is important on a normal day but, if you plan to promote or offer a Foot Care service to anyone who  has cancer……you best be on the top of your game when it comes to cleaning and disinfection.

The #1 concern of Cancer patients

External influences

My recommendations in the Foot Care room would be as follows:

  • Prior to the appointment, thoroughly cleanse and disinfect your Foot Care area.  A high grade level of disinfection solution should be used.
  • Recommend to your client to either purchase from you, or bring in his/her own set of tools and files
  • I suggest a dry pedicure.  You can offer a beautiful dry Pedicure if using the right products.  The only difference is the cleansing of the feet procedure would be done with a spray bottle in lieu of putting their feet into a foot bath.
  • Do not cut cuticles.  There a products which will eliminate excess cuticle without having to cut.
  • Callous debriment should be done very carefully and most important do NOT use sandpaper, pumice, or a cheese grater type file.  For more information on which files are safe click here
  • Be gentle with our Massage.  Many cancer patience will have a tendency to bruise easily.

Many things happen to the Nails

Where education is important as well, is learning how to identify what is happening to the nails and what to do or not to do with them.  In many cases regarding cancer patients, it’s the nails which can become more affected.  Like losing hair during treatments, nails can often be effected.

  • The nails may look bruised, turning colors of black, brown blue or even green.  It’s common that people of darker color will show more of a change when it comes to color of the nails.
  • Blemishes on the nails are common.  Horizontal or vertical lines and/or small indentations.  The good news about this type of reaction, the nail will go through stages which mark the different cycles of chemotherapy.  They are not permanent, they will grow out as the nail grows out.
  • Nails may become thin or brittle.  The hard part about this is the nails won’t grow as long or maybe be as hard as they use to be.  Again, the nails will grow out and if using proper cuticle care, they can grow out healthy.
  • Nails can also become dry which in turn can cause frayed cuticles.  Try not to cut them.  Use a cuticle cream to condition and add hydration to the cuticles.  One treatment in the Foot Care room won’t make a difference.  It is important to educate your client on a daily maintenance routine.
  • Ingrown nails can also be a problem.  Especially if the nail becomes dry and the cuticles become frayed.  Again, a cuticle treatment is the answer.
  • The worse case is the nail can lift completely off the nail bed and in some cases actually fall off.  Unfortunately when this happens, it is a breeding ground for bacteria.  My suggestion would be if at all possible, inform your client as soon as possible the importance of daily nail care maintenance from the beginning.

We aren’t just speaking of toenails

These conditions are often found on the fingernails as well

What we need to educate our clients about

  • Keep nails cut properly and clean to reduce the risk of infection
  • Do not wear artificial nail products.
  • Wear gloves when gardening, cleaning and washing dishes to avoid getting any cuts or abrasions
  • They can wear nail polish to hid any imperfections
  • Use a non-acetone polish remover.  It will be less drying on the nail and surrounding skin.
  • Don’t bite or pick at their nails or skin.
  • Use a cuticle product to keep their nails hydrated and the surrounding skin moist
  • Be careful with exposure to too much water.  Over exposure can lead to fungal infections in the nail bed.
  • ANY signs of redness or inflammation, consult a Doctor immediately.

In reality….cancer or not….

this knowledge of how to care for your nails

should be shared with ALL your clients

Additional changes

When we think of the many changes that can happen as someone goes through chemotherapy, hair loss and nausea are probably what comes to mind first.  And, we don’t often realize that there are many other conditions which, can cause changes of our nails. 

This is just one of the reasons “again” we are often, as Pedicurist, the first responders.  We need to be informed, educated and ready to know how to manage and how to refer to a Medical Professional if necessary.

CJ Murray

President, Centre for Beauty