The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (February 2018)
A nail salon or nail 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. Manicures are also offered by general beauty salons, spas, and hotels. People who work at nail salons are usually called nail technicians, manicurists, or nailists.
Nail salons offer a variety of options for nail care, examples of which include acrylics, silk or fiberglass wraps, French manicures, polish, and pedicures. Some nail salons offer one-stop beauty services. In addition to nail services, one-stop nail salons offer facial treatments, waxing, and skin care.
Generally, those working in nail salons are referred to as nail technicians. In some areas throughout the United States, nail technicians must hold formal, state-recognized qualifications in order to be able to work at nail salons. Certifications must come from state board.
Nail care services
Nail salons offer the following services:
- Acrylic overlays and extensions
- UV gel overlays and extensions
- Dip powder nails
- SNS nails
- Silk/fibreglass overlays and extensions
- Nail design
- Nail art
- Shellac nails
- Eyelash extensions
- Eyebrow tinting
Wages and working conditions
Nail salon wages and working conditions in New York City, a major center for nail salons in North America, are poor. In May 2015, an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor, which had been tipped off by a New York Times investigation, had been productive but was incomplete.
There is some evidence to suggest that nail salon workers are subjected to potentially unjust, hazardous working conditions. In surveys conducted on Vietnamese-American nail salon workers, many responses suggested that the work environment may cause negative health consequences. According to Standard 62-1989: Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Quality of the American Society for Heating, Refrigeration, Air Conditioning 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. The study revealed that one-third of the surveyed nail salons had only one single door for ventilation with no secondary air pathway.
Due to the nature of salon work, many nail technicians are required to wear masks and gloves. Other surveys conducted on similar worker populations revealed that 90% of workers wore masks and 70% wore gloves to work.
Nail technicians use beauty products 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). Organizations and coalitions, such as the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, address worker rights and exposure concerns faced by nail technicians. These movements provide platforms for conversation regarding occupational safety and health, which is a part of environmental justice.
Some solvents used, such as acetone and ethyl acetate, are very flammable and should not be used near any flame.
The nail salon industry in the United States consists mostly of immigrant-owned small businesses that face not only cultural/linguistic barriers but also workplace hazards such as chemical and ergonomic exposures. Organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have shed light on the risks of working in this industry in recent years with recommended workplace health practices listed on their website. These range from protective factors such as use of masks or improving ventilation to the substitution of certain products. The nail industry is complex with multiple products entering the market.
Much of the current research available focuses on the chemical exposures and toxicological impacts on workers with few studies touching on the concern relating to ergonomics. Nail salon workers often report increased musculoskeletal symptoms such as neck, hand/wrist, lower back, and shoulder pain. Workplace factors can contribute to these symptoms such as poor body mechanics, repetitive movement, and work equipment. The repetitive and prolonged nature of nail salon work can lead to overuse and strain which may result in inflammation related injuries that are self-limiting. There is a lack of consistency in ergonomic training and knowledge of ergonomic hazards varies among workers in this industry. Some workers take pain relievers, practice yoga, stretch, walk/stand between clients, and/or adjust their posture during their work with customers. Other examples which are particular to engineering controls are nonadjustable worktables and the low position of a customer's feet when they sit in the pedicure chair can pose an ergonomic hazard, where the worker has to often bend their neck and hunch back forward.11
Relevant policies and regulations in the United States
- 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 reproductive harm, the products will be subject to investigation by the Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control.
- 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.
- Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) (15 U.S.C § 2601)
- Enacted in 1976, this federal act provides the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) the authority to regulate certain chemical substances. 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.
- Nir SM (May 7, 2015). "The Price of Nice Nails Manicurists are routinely underpaid and exploited, and endure ethnic bias and other abuse, The New York Times has found". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
- Nir SM (May 8, 2015). "Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers Some ingredients used in nail products have been tied to cancer, miscarriages, lung diseases and other ailments. The industry has long fought regulations". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
They come in usually with breathing problems, some symptoms similar to an allergy, and also asthma symptoms — they cannot breathe," he said during a break between patients this winter. "Judging from the symptoms with these women, it seems that they are either smokers, secondhand smokers or asthma patients, but they are none of the above. They work for nail salons.
- Quach T, Nguyen KD, Doan-Billings PA, Okahara L, Fan C, Reynolds P (October 2008). "A preliminary survey of Vietnamese nail salon workers in Alameda County, California". Journal of Community Health. 33 (5): 336–43. doi:10.1007/s10900-008-9107-7. PMID 18478317. S2CID 33266007.
- Roelofs C, Azaroff LS, Holcroft C, Nguyen H, Doan T (August 2008). "Results from a community-based occupational health survey of Vietnamese-American nail salon workers". Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 10 (4): 353–61. doi:10.1007/s10903-007-9084-4. PMID 17940905. S2CID 35060229.
- Ceballos DM, Craig J, Fu X, Jia C, Chambers D, Chu MT, et al. (July 2019). "Biological and environmental exposure monitoring of volatile organic compounds among nail technicians in the Greater Boston area". Indoor Air. 29 (4): 539–550. doi:10.1111/ina.12564. PMC 6565444. PMID 31112343.
- Craig JA, Ceballos DM, Fruh V, Petropoulos ZE, Allen JG, Calafat AM, et al. (December 2019). "Exposure of Nail Salon Workers to Phthalates, Di(2-ethylhexyl) Terephthalate, and Organophosphate Esters: A Pilot Study". Environmental Science & Technology. 53 (24): 14630–14637. Bibcode:2019EnST...5314630C. doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b02474. PMC 7192361. PMID 31736299.
- Huỳnh, T. B., Nguyễn, D. T., Vũ, N., Robinson, L., Trần, E., Nguyễn, N., Carroll-Scott, A., & Burstyn, I. (2023). A participatory approach to designing and implementing an occupational health intervention for the nail salon community in the Greater Philadelphia region. Annals of work exposures and health, 67(8), 938–951. https://doi.org/10.1093/annweh/wxad044
- Hao, R., Sun, J., Liu, R., Zhao, H., Yao, Z., Wang, H., & Hao, Z. (2024). Emission characteristics, environmental impact, and health risk assessment of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during manicure processes. The Science of the total environment, 906, 167464. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.167464
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- Harris-Roberts J, Bowen J, Sumner J, Stocks-Greaves M, Bradshaw L, Fishwick D, Barber CM. Work-related symptoms in nail salon technicians. Occup Med (Lond). 2011 Aug;61(5):335-40. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqr096. PMID 21831819.
- Broadwater K, Chiu S Evaluation of ergonomics, chemical exposures, and ventilation at four nail salons. 2019; [cited 2022. Jun 2]. Available from: https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/77120
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