When was the last time you treated yourself to a manicure? Sure we all want to be pampered by someone massaging our hands and grooming our fingernails in a relaxing setting, but what If you’re unlucky enough to get a manicure that results in a cuticle infection? What if that little cut you thought they treated at the salon turned into a sore that oozed pus, became swollen and red, and now your newly beautiful hands are an embarrassment? If this happens to you, don’t neglect your cuticle hoping it will clear up on its own, instead follow these instructions to avoid further infection and if that fails see your doctor.

Here’s the boring stuff: the technical term for a cuticle infection is paronychia and it occurs when the cuticle area, the skin around the fingernail, is over cut and becomes infected with staph bacteria. A bacterial cuticle infection will become red, inflamed and painful with a pus filled blister under the skin. Don’t overlook this seemingly innocuous infection because if not treated properly it will spread and a simple cuticle infection can lead to the loss of a finger. Treating it is simple if you are diligent.

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My first bit of advice: keep the area clean by washing it with soap and water, then buy yourself white vinegar (which you can get at any dollar store) and mix it with equal parts of water in a small bowl. Dip your infected finger or thumb in the bowl and keep it there for 15 minutes. It might sting at first and if the pain is too intense then add more water to the mixture. A little known fact is that white vinegar has antibacterial properties and it is also an effective cleaning agent for household uses so you won’t be throwing away your 100 cents by purchasing the vinegar.

After soaking the infected area you might want to wash your finger to get rid of the vinegar smell. Then put Mupirocin (brand name Bactroban, the ointment used to treat staph infections) on the infection and cover it with a band-aid. If you do not have Bactroban then you should try to get a prescription from your dermatologist or GP as Bactroban is made specifically for staph infections and will be more effective than an over the counter antibiotic ointment. But if you do not have Bactroban or have to wait a day or two to see your doctor, then use regular over the counter antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin until you can obtain the prescription for Mupirocin.

The trick to using the ointment is to keep it on the infected area for at least 30 minutes to allow it to work its magic – so try to refrain from washing your hands or bathing for 30 minutes after you apply it.

You will have to repeat these steps twice a day and keep up the routine for at least one week. I would also recommend taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen to reduce the swelling and pain.

If the infection has not cleared after one full week then you might have to be put on antibiotics but keep in mind they are not the first line of defense when dealing with such an infection so try the at home remedy first. And if you notice the infection getting worse see your doctor immediately. Lastly, if you do get an infection from a manicure you paid for, be sure to tell the manicurist what happened. Accidents happen and each person reacts differently to the cutting of cuticles, but the salon can be held liable for any medical expenses you incur and safety should be their number one concern.

Another tip is to always bring your own manicuring tools to ensure that cuticle scissors used on someone else aren’t used on you. You’d be surprised at how many salons do not disinfect their tools in between clients. And if you think you can get away without cutting your cuticles then don’t get them cut – gently push them back instead with a soft rubber tip. This will greatly decrease your risk of potential infections and you won’t have to worry about continually cutting your cuticles to maintain their appearance. Think of it like shaving your legs – once you start you’re stuck doing the same thing for life. And remember that oil is a miracle aid for cuticles, any oil will do even canola, so apply it daily and your cuticles will instantly look better.