Though it’s much better than it was in the early years, odor in the salon can still take people by surprise. Comments range from, “This can’t be good for you,” to “How can you stand this all day?” The truth is, salon smells shouldn’t be overpowering. If product odors hit you like a wave at the entrance of the salon, it’s likely you need to improve the air quality.

However, even in adequately ventilated salons, clients will smell chemical odors when the product is uncovered during nail application. Addressing their questions could sound something like this:

Client: Wow. That smell is so strong. Do you ever wonder if that’s bad for you to breathe all day?

You: Oh yes, I’ve wondered, so I researched it in every way I could, not just from the product manufacturers’ perspective, but also from impartial sources outside of the industry. What I discovered is that odor isn’t inherently dangerous, and a lack of odor isn’t inherently safe. As an example, think of how dangerous it is to have a gas leak in the house. We can’t smell the gas, but the carbon monoxide is deadly. So, it’s not the smell that should concern us. What do need to be reduced are vapors and dust. Continued and prolonged inhalation of dust in any form isn’t good for us. So, whether it’s dust from something we view as natural, such as wood, or dust from products here in the salon, we want to do all we can to protect ourselves from breathing it in without a filter.

Client: So, that’s why some nail techs wear masks?

You: Yes, both for the dust and the vapors. The vapors are actually the biggest concern. This liquid we use is called monomer and when it’s drying — or curing — it evaporates into the air. That’s what we are smelling. But keep in mind that even with odorless products, these vapors are being released into the air — we just don’t smell them. This can be more dangerous, because people think it’s safe since we can’t smell it. You might think the odor is strong because I just now opened the bottle, but the vapors in the salon are actually being filtered and removed by the ventilation systems. We have our HVAC checked regularly to make sure it’s effectively filtering the air and ventilating the salon.

Client: Is that enough?

You: There are a few other things we can do. We always cover our product when it’s not in use, which helps reduce the amount of vapors released into the air. Also, my desk has a ventilation system that sucks the vapors away from us and into a filter where they are absorbed. This protects my clients, who are exposed to it for a very short time during their appointment, and it protects me as I work all day.

Client: What about an air purifier, do you think that would help?

You: Well, we do have an air purifier and it helps with the smell, but it doesn’t do anything for vapors and dust. You know what did help with the smell was when we removed all the carpet, because carpet fibers trap the dust and odor. Believe me, we do all we can to reduce our exposure and protect our clients and our staff. We know the smell concerns people, but it poses no danger at all.


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