Welcome to Professional and Technical Services (PTS) – experts in chemical disinfection for infection prevention. Our goal is to educate and provide you the latest resources related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces, medical devices and hands. As specialists in disinfectant chemistries, microbiology, environmental cleaning and disinfection, facility assessments and policy and procedure creation we are dedicated to helping any person or facility who uses chemical disinfectants.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

What’s under your nails?

I grew up riding horses and playing piano.  Having long nails, or even just pretty painted nails was not part of my daily regime.  Frankly, it was a waste of time and effort.  Scrubbing them clean after a day spent at the barn just scraped off the nail polish and my piano teacher would seriously stop mid-lesson to make me trim my nails if there was any hint of clicking on the ivories.  To this day, I prefer a naked nail, but it’s really not about the look. I’m simply too lazy to deal with the upkeep!

While nails may not be my thing, it seems that nails have become an obsession (or concern) for some in the infection control community.  We know many of our infection prevention guidelines recommend keeping our hands covered with the thought that it keeps our hands cleaner longer. The ugly truth is that it’s not the fingertips that are full of bacteria, but our fingernails.  Who would have thought that the thin keratin shields we call our finger nails harbor a smorgasbord of bacteria!  Going as far back as 1988, researchers have found that the space under the fingernails is “an important site” for harboring bacteria.

Flash forward to present day and we’re still interested and investigating what impact our hands, our nails and our nail products have on the microbial bio-burden of our hands.  In a new study, that has just hit the press, 74 participants were enrolled and had swab cultures obtained from their nails in order to determine what difference (if any) is seen between nails with gel polish, standard polish or an unpolished natural nail.

The study showed that regardless of the three nail types, over time all became increasingly more contaminated with bacteria.  When the results of pre and post hand hygiene was compared, it was found that a natural nail or one with standard nail polish was easier and more likely to be effectively cleaned with alcohol than hands with gel polish.  Of interest, nails with gel polish did show lower bacterial levels prior to performing hand hygiene which leads to speculation as to whether the UV light used to cure the gel polish aids in reducing the bacterial load when the gel is applied.  The long and the short is that based on this study, the jury is out as to whether wearing gel polish can negatively impact infection prevention.

As for me? Well, tomorrow I jet off to Las Vegas for a Professional Beauty convention so this afternoon I treated myself to a manicure with gel polish and a pedicure with standard polish.  I have no intention of testing how clean or dirty my fingers get, I just hope I can keep them looking good for the next 4 days!

Bugging Off



  1. Thank you for sharing such an amazing post... keep the good work..

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    1. I'm thrilled you enjoy the blog! Infection prevention in spas and salons is incredibly important and not something everyone things about. If you have a topic you're interested in learning more about drop me a line!