Nail salon

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A nails salon or nails bar is a specialty beauty salon establishment that primarily offers nail care services such as manicures, pedicures, and nail enhancements. Often, nail salons also offer skin care services. There are approximately 200,000 nail salons (2010) in the U.S., up 23% from 2007.[1] Manicures are also offered by general beauty salons, spas and hotels. People who work at nail salons are usually called "nail technicians or manicurists or 'Nailists' (the well-known appellation of nail technicians in Japan and some Southeast Asian countries)."

Nail salons offer a variation of options for nail care. This includes acrylics, silk or fiberglass wraps, French manicures, polish, pedicures, etc. Some nail salons are offering one-stop beauty services. In addition to nail services, these one-stop nail salons offer facial treatments, waxing, and skin care.

Generally, those working in Nail Salons are called Nail Technicians. In some areas throughout the UK and USA, districts require nail technicians to have formal, state recognised qualifications in order to be able to grant licenses to the salons.

Currently, the industry estimates that almost 40% of nail salon technicians in the US are Vietnamese women. The highest density of Vietnamese nail technicians is in California, where it is roughly 59%-80%.[2] The majority of these women are Vietnamese immigrants. There is speculation as to why this particular demographic population dominates the industry. Perhaps it is due to the fact the training required for nail salon work is short and inexpensive, the work does not require high English proficiency, and the work hours tend to be flexible enough to allow immigrant mothers to attend to family obligations.

Nail Salon Services[edit]

Nail Salons offer the following services:

Work Environment[edit]

Concerns about the work environment quality of nail salons can be discussed in conversations about Occupational safety and health, as there is some evidence that suggest nail salon workers are subjected to potentially unjust, hazardous working conditions. Occupational safety and health concerns is a component of environmental justice. In surveys conducted of Vietnamese-American nail salon workers, many responses suggest that the work environment may be setting the space for negative health consequences. According to Standard 62-1989: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Quality of the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, Air Condiitoning Engineers, adequate supply of outdoor air should be about 20 cubic feet per minute per occupant. This necessitates multiple pathways for air to enter and exit the room. Such pathways include, but are not limited to windows and doors. However, the study showed that one-third of the surveyed shops had only one single door for ventilation with no secondary air pathway.[2]

Due to the nature of salon work, many nail technicians are required to wear masks and gloves. Other surveys also conducted on similar worker populations yielded results of 90% wearing masks and 70% wearing gloves to work.[3]

Typical responses by workers when interviewed were:[3]

  • "We know chemicals are dangerous, the owner tells us to wear mask"
  • "Says that chemicals are harmful so always need to keep the ventilator on and close lids, covers of chemicals surely."
  • Because I am young and pregnant and I don't want to breathe in the dust and chemicals; I'm afraid that it might affect my child later on"

Chemical Exposures[edit]

Nail technicians use beauty projects like nail polish, nail polish removers, artificial nails, adhesives, and disinfectants throughout the day. Compared to the average individual, they are exposed to the chemical ingredients the products contain on a much higher magnitude. Some of the more potent chemicals are toluene, formaldehyde, ethyl methacrylate(EMA), and dibutyl phthalate(DBP). Nearly all chemicals are reported to be eye, skin, nose, and throat irritants. Some, like toluene and dibutyl phthalatesare known endocrine disruptors. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with endocrine syste, which is regulated by hormones. These hormonal disruptors can potentially lead to tumors, birth defects, reproductive harm, neurological, developmental, and immune degradation. Research has suggested that endocrine disruptors pose the greates risk during prenatal and postnatal development.[4]

The following table is taken from the survey Results from a Community-based Occupational Health Survey Of Vietnamese-American Nail Salon Workers[3]. It lists the chemical ingredients found in nail salon products and associates them with potential health effects. Note that this is not an exhaustive list of all chemical compounds found for all nail products.

Nail Products Common Chemical Ingredients Potential health effects
Nail polish ethyl acetate irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; dermatitis
butyl acetate irritation eyes, skin, upper respiratory system; headache
ethyl alcohol irritation eyes, skin, nose; headache, CNS syndrome; cough; liver damage; anemia; reproductive effects
isopropyl alcohol irritation eyes, nose, throat; CNS syndrome, headache; dry, crackin skin
acetone irritation eyes, nose throat; headache; CNS syndrome; dermatitis
methyl ethyl ketone see above
toluene irritation eyes, nose throat; headache; CNS syndrome; dermatitis; dilated pupils, lacrimation; anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia; paresthesia; liver, kidney damage
xylene irritation eyes, nose, throat; headache; CNS syndrome; corneal damage; dermititis; reproductive effects
dibutyl phthalate irritation eyes, upper respiratory system, stomach; reproductive effects (fetotoxic)
nitrocellulose unknown
toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde resin dermatitis
titanium dioxide lung fibrosis; potential occupational carcinogen
nail polish removers acetone see above
ethyl acetate see above
butyl acetate see above
artificial nails ethyl methacrylate irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; allergic contact dermatitis; respiratory sensitizer (asthmagen)
methyl methacrylate same as ethyl methacrylate
butyl methacrylate same as ethyl methacrylate
methacrylic acid irritation eyes, skin, nose throat; allergic contact dermatitis
methyl ethyl ketone see above
Nail tips adhesives ethyl cyanoacrylate irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; allergic contact dermatitis
artificial nail removers acetone see above
N-methyl pyrrolidone dermatitis, reproductive effects
acetonitrile irritation eyes, nose throat; asphyxia; nausea, vomiting; chest pain; CNS syndrome; convulsions; in animals: liver, kidney damage

There are organizations and coalitions such as the National Healthy Nail & Beauty Salon Alliance that address these worker rights and exposure issues nail technicians face. These movements provide the platform for conversations about environmental justice.

Relevant Policies and Regulations[edit]

State Level[edit]

Enacted in 2005, this senate bill requires the full disclosure of all ingredients of products sold in California to the California Department of Health Services. In addition, if the substances are known to cause cancer or reproudctive harm, the products will be subject to investigation by the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control.[5]
Enacted in 1986, this proposition requires the state of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. All California businesses with ten or more employees must also provide "clear and reasonable" warning before exposing any individual to a chemical on the aforementioned list.[6]

Federal Level[edit]

Enacted in 1976, this federal act provides the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) the authority to regulate certain chemical substances.[7] Currently, cosmetics are excluded from regulation under the TSCA but there have been campaign efforts that hope to extend the EPA's regulatory jurisdiction to include cosmetics.


  1. ^ "2013 Industry Statistics - Nail Salons - Market Size, Trends, Financials, and Company Research". AnythingResearch. 
  2. ^ a b Quach, Thu; Kim-Dung Nguyen, Phuong-An Doan-Billings, Linda Okahara, Cathyn Fan, Peggy Reynolds (March 1, 2008). "A Preliminary Survey of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers in Alameda County, California". Journal of Community Health 33 (5): 336–343. doi:10.1007/s10900-008-9107-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Roelofs, Cora; Lenore S. Azaroff; Christina Holcroft; Huong Nguyen; Tam Doan (August 1, 2008). "Results from a Community-based Occupational Health Survey of Vietnamese-American Nail Salon Workers". Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 10 (4): 353–361. doi:10.1007/s10903-007-9084-4. 
  4. ^ "Endocrine Disruptors". National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  5. ^ (PDF) Retrieved 9 April 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Retrieved 9 April 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Retrieved 9 April 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)