05/22/2012 09:14 EDT | Updated 05/24/2012 09:22 EDT

Beauty Threats Debunked: How To Protect Yourself At The Salon (PHOTOS)



When Pam (not her real name), 47, celebrated her sister-in-law’s 40th birthday at an upscale day spa in Philadelphia, she assumed she’d leave with callous-free feet and freshly painted toes – her first pedicure. But a few days later, she shrugged off the mild pain and pressure typical of an ingrown toenail. “I didn’t think much of it,” she says.

But her symptoms slowly got worse, and things took a bad turn. “The following 24 hours were the most painful of my life — and I say this as someone who’s given birth to three children with no medication,” says Pam. “I felt a constant, throbbing pain shooting up my leg. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t eat or sleep.”

She went to a podiatrist who broke the bad news: Her toenail was infected, and a portion of it would have to be surgically removed. “My doctor said that the way the nail was clipped by the esthetician almost guaranteed I’d wind up with an infected ingrown toenail,” she laments. Recovery took weeks. All that for her first pedicure.

You’ve probably heard similar salon horror stories. But just how common are they? Read this before you book your next haircut, manicure, or other beauty service.

While it’s true that unskilled workers, mishandled products, and unsanitary conditions can put you at risk for burns, rashes, and infections, most salon treatments are pretty safe. But real-women anecdotes, scary headlines, and online rumors — from shampoo positions that trigger stroke to manicures that raise skin cancer risk — still manage to grab our attention and nurture our fears. So which treatments, if any, should you really worry about? We talked to experts to develop a get-real beauty threat guide to help you easily identify which are risky, which aren’t, and how to protect yourself no matter what.

Here are nine beauty threats debunked:

Photo gallery 9 Biggest Salon Beauty Threats Debunked See Gallery