Dip powder manicures could be putting your health at risk

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — DID YOU KNOW: Tainted manicure dip powder can spread the herpes Whitlow virus.

"Instead of manifesting on the mouth, like you would think of like a cold sore, it’s manifesting on the fingers.”

Action News Jax reporter Alicia Tarancon investigates what to look for the next time you get your nails done that could save you a trip to the doctor.

Priscilla Miletello owns a nail salon in St. Augustine. The mother of five has been a nail tech for the last 8 years and has had thousands of clients.

“February month of love, so I did red,” Daisy Peri, a client, said.

Miletello offers a lot of different services, but one thing she refuses to do is dip powder manicures.

“I tell them I don’t do the traditional SNS Dipping powders,” Miletello said.

Dip powder nails offer a perfect, longer lasting manicure.

A client dips their finger into a container of shimmering acrylic powder, then it’s sealed with a top coat.

But Miletello warns that reusing those powders on multiple clients could expose people to bacteria and viruses.

“If they’re bleeding or they get cuts and then they’re dipping their fingers into that same powder, you know, those types of things can, of course, cause infections and things like that,” she said.

Tainted dip powder can also spread a virus called Herpes Whitlow.

“Herpes Whitlow is caused by herpes simplex virus 1 which is a very common virus and what it is, it’s that virus. Instead of manifesting on the mouth, like you would think of like a cold sore, it’s manifesting on the fingers,” Dr. Lourdes Norman-McKay, a microbiologist with the Florida State College of Jacksonville said.

Dr. Norman-McKay said if you have an open wound on your finger, you can catch the herpes virus or spread it to someone else.

It’s highly contagious and once you have it, it’s for life.

“Herpes Whitlow is very obvious, with these really dramatic oozing lesions that anyone should say, ‘We’re not going to do your nails.’ But we do know that they still will do nails in many cases, because they don’t know necessarily what they’re looking at,” Norman-McKay said.

With bacterial infections, nails will turn green or black.

For fungal infections, the nail will be yellowish and flaky.

Dr. Norman-McKay said some salon techs see the signs, but don't say no to clients.

“So even if a nail technician may notice that someone has some fungal infection on their nails, or maybe a little lesion, they’re not real likely to turn away business,” she said.

Experts say there are three key things to look out for if you are getting your nails done:

  1. First make sure the inside of the nail salon is clean and tidy.
  2. Next, ensure your nail tech is using single-use packages, meaning they should open the package with all their equipment inside right in front of you. That includes dip powder containers.
  3. Make sure pedicure liners are new, not just sanitized.

Miletello said she uses a different technique that's safer for her clients.

"I sprinkle on acrylic powder, opposed to dipping," she said.

Daisy Peri got her nails in done just in time for Valentine's Day.

"I love them. They're perfect," Peri laughed.

Another thing you can do is make sure your salon has something called an autoclave.

In Florida, salons aren’t required to have an autoclave, but these strong heated containers can sterilize equipment and prevent infections.