With more than 25 years experience in the nail industry Dee Dee Harper has seen it all and what she didn’t like to see at many nail salons was the overall lack of concern for a client’s well-being and health.

That’s one of the reasons Harper earned her medical nail technician certification and opened Sole Purpose Foot Care nearly four years ago. As a medical nail technician, Harper is uniquely qualified to perform safe, cosmetic pedicures on people who are healthy or chronically ill.

And that’s important to people who have autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, psoriasis, thyroid disease and cancer patients who are currently undergoing or who have taken chemotherapy or radiation treatments. “Anybody that has a low immune system is a candidate for me,” Harper says.

People with autoimmune disorders and cancer patients taking chemotherapy and radiation treatments are more susceptible to infections than healthy people, she says. At most nail salons the pedicure bowl may be cleaned after each use, however, the water jets used in the bowl can harbor bacteria which can lead to an infection, says Harper.

Any type of cut or abrasion on the skin of the foot, even microscopic, can lead to an infection from bacteria in a pedicure bowl, she says. That’s why Harper eliminates the risk of infection from a pedicure bowl by using a waterless system. “I don’t soak the feet in water at all,” she says.

Not using water during a pedicure also helps to keep the skin hydrated, says Harper. That’s because water on the outside of the skin actually dehydrates the skin, she says. “If I’m trying to give them a nice moisturized foot the last thing I’m going to do is put you in a big hot tub of water and dehydrate the foot.” she says.

Another method Harper uses to prevent infections is by sterilizing her equipment in an autoclave that uses steam under high pressure to kill bacteria. “The state board only requires me to sanitize and disinfect,” she says. “I take it one step higher and I go above disinfection and I sterilize.”

In addition, any equipment used during a pedicure that cannot be sterilized in the autoclave, such as a file or a buffer, is thrown away, Harper says.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are sick that if they’re exposed to something harmful in a pedicure bath or a dirty implement they could get sick really quickly,” she says. “This way I can make sure that does not happen.”

In addition to using safe and sterile methods to prevent infections in people with low immune systems, Harper is also able to evaluate feet to make sure they stay healthy. “I can’t diagnose and I cannot treat … but I can spot something that’s abnormal and I can send them to the podiatrist and have it looked at,” she says.

Sole Purpose Foot Care is located at 8172 Mall Road, Suite 208, in Florence and is open Monday through Friday.

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