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Medi-pedis offer healthy approach to nail care

Dr. Meeta Pancholi of Advanced Centers For Podiatry & Wound Care in Kingston conducts a medical pedicure.

Pete G. Wilcox/the times leader

Each summer fashion magazines show the latest trends in color for the toenails. Oranges and blues had a run for the younger set. Deep reds are always popular. Even French manicures on the toes have been a hit. The trend lately has been toward a natural-looking nail.

That emphasis has led to rising popularity in pedicures done in a podiatrist’s office. Proper medical pedicures – or medi-pedis – are part of an increased interest in preventative health.

Locally, Advanced Centers for Podiatry and Wound Care, Kingston, offers a medical pedicure. The Kingston office is staffed by Dr. Pete Johnson and the Advanced Centers for Podiatry and Wound Care are co-owned by Dr. Meeta Pancholi and Dr. Seth Steeber.

Pancholi said they decided to offer the medical pedicure after patients – with increased frequency – complained they believed they had contracted bacterial and fungal infections, ingrown toenails and skin problems after receiving nail care in a non-medical setting.

The medical pedicure offers a higher level of care, with the physician doing the nail care, and a medical assistant performing the rest of the pedicure.

“A difference of our procedure (from a nail salon) is that we do not apply nail polish. While we attend to cosmetic aspects, we offer a medical perspective,” Pancholi said. “It is a higher level of service. I’m finding at least 70 percent of these patients have additional medical problems, underlying medical conditions, not being addressed.”

In regular practice Pancholi sees many patients with diabetes who need to closely monitor their feet, those with circulation problems, and the elderly who often have hardened nails which benefit from a podiatrist who sees them regularly to clip them. But the medical pedicure attracts all ages, including a younger population interested in preventative treatment, or looking for something more medically correct than a typical salon treatment. Those interested in the latest pedicure trend also include new patients who may never have previously seen a podiatrist.

Medical pedicures are becoming popular with men as well. About 20 percent of those signing up for medi pedis at Advanced Centers for Podiatry and Wound Care are male.

Melissa Wainwright, physician’s medical assistant at Advanced Centers, said many wives have given gift certificates to their husbands after they’ve seen the results of the procedure.

Rather than the four-to-six weeks between traditional salon pedicures, where clients go back to get fresh nail polish, a medi pedis typically is recommended every nine weeks.

“The goal is to provide sterile, safe care that provides the additional cosmetic results expected in a salon or spa setting to get a higher level of service. Periodic nail treatment is prevention, which is a hot topic now,” Pancholi said.

What to expect

After years of regular beauty and nail salon pedicure treatments, the medical pedicure option seemed worth a try. My feet have always been hideous, but various nail colors always seemed to make them somewhat visually bearable.

Patients are escorted into a private room, where they are asked to put their feet up as they sit comfortably on a lounge chair. The atmosphere is clinical and appropriate for a doctor’s office.

A physician’s medical assistant first removes any nail polish the patient is wearing, and then the podiatrist comes in to cut the toenails and thoroughly examine the feet. At Advanced Centers for Podiatry and Wound Care, Dr. Meeta Pancholi offered recommendations for care at home, and was able to spot underlying medical problems that need further attention (such as calluses, bunions, fungal infections).

Unlike a salon treatment, Pancholi is able to evaluate the medical condition of the toenails and feet and can write prescriptions for care that is not available over the counter.

For example, Pancholi said, in a certain patient population calluses can hide ulcerations. Fungal infections can cause thickened, discolored nails that can break down the skin underneath or cause the nail to rip off. A problem with extremely dry skin on the feet can benefit from a prescription product which sloughs off the skin.

After Pancholi’s role, which besides the nail clipping and filing includes callous reduction, a medical assistant does an exfoliating glycolic cleanse of the entire foot that sloughs off the dead skin. This cleansing treatment is done by hand; at no point are the feet submerged in a foot bath. She then uses a wet file on the foot to complete the exfoliation, and then moves on to a thorough buffing of the toenails’ surface to make them smooth and shiny.

The next step is a cream that is placed on the nails to help whiten them, followed by a microdermabrasion that further helps reduce dry skin. The final part of the medical pedicure has the medical assistant rubbing in hydrating skin care products of 100 percent emu oil and 100 percent shea butter.

The medical pedicure lasts from a half hour to 45 minutes, depending on the length of the podiatrist’s evaluation, and can cost about $85, or up to $150 if the client opts for a chemical peel.

No nail polish is applied. Pancholi said that although the nail plate itself is dead, nail polish suffocates the nail.

Once the medical pedicure is complete, it is clear that a healthy-looking foot with shiny, healthy-looking toenails can be as attractive as toenails simply sporting colored polish. The medical pedicure leaves the toenails pink with life, and the foot soft and reinvigorated.

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