We asked techs: On a scale of one to 10, how concerned are you about any potential negative health effects from the nail chemicals you use every day?

Ten. Chemicals are just that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell anyone that over time, if proper handling isn’t followed, damage can and will occur. Too much of anything can kill you.
Amber Burnett, Hendersonville, N.C.

My worries are a one, simply because I know about and understand the chemicals we use. This is mainly due to [industry chemist] Doug Schoon. (I recommend his book Nail Structure and Product Chemistry.) It’s not easy understanding it all, but once you do the benefit to you and your clients is amazing. You have to understand how and why these chemicals work. Once you do that and know exactly what these chemicals are doing, your job is safe and you can sleep well at night. As long as you follow the correct procedures, then everything should be fine.
Judy Archibald, Manchester, England

Nine. Iam concerned about the negative health effects of nail dust and the chemicals in it. For 15 years I never used a fan, mask, or vacuum and developed polyps in my nasal cavity, which I’ve had two surgeries to remove. The doctors said there may be a connection — and I strongly believe there is — so I now take precautions by using a dust vacuum, fan, and protective eyewear.
Lynette Guzman, Nail Creations by Lynette, Huron Township, Mich.

Three. Manufacturers have made the chemicals for acrylic much less offensive than in the past, so the smells or the vapors traveling throughout the salon don’t seem to be as bad. I do worry about all the dust, but I have a vented table that keeps dust and debris to a minimum. I am looking for an extraction unit for help with the finer dust that gels create. After 22 years, I have never really had a problem with either and have always tried to use proper ventilation.
Marc Foley, Greatful Nails Wausau, Wis.

I’d rate my concern as a two overall, a four on dust. The two things that concern me over time are the dust and the repetitive motion. While I do everything I can to minimize both and have done research on ergonomics, the cumulative effect over time is a concern.
Claudia Iacovetto, C-C My Nails, Newcastle, Wyo.

I’ll rate it a two. I fully know how to use my product in a safe manner where even with prolonged contact I feel confident I will not acquire negative health problems.
Classic Fournier-Mully, Personalities Salon,  Queen Creek, Ariz.

While I agree that proper handling and precautions certainly need to be observed, I rate this a 10. As a natural nail tech, I believe minimizing exposure to clients and techs is very important. A growing number of companies are offering “greener” alternatives that techs can offer clients in combination with nail health education.
Yna Johnson, Premier Salon, Franklin, Tenn.

I rank my concern about the products I use at a three. I’m kind of concerned, but not enough to worry about it constantly. I don’t think it’s good to be inhaling any kind of dust, let alone dust that comes off of an enhancement (not just because of the chemicals in the enhancement material, but because of the various household chemicals used by the clients in between fills that the acrylic may have absorbed). However, we’re exposed to so many chemicals and environmental pollutants on a daily basis — from our hair care products to the air we breathe. My natural nail clients tell me, “You can’t be too careful.” I say, “Sometimes, you can.”
Tina Alberino, Attitudes Total Body Image, Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Six. I used to get headaches and then figured out I was too close to the nails and the brushes. Once I sat up taller I did much better. I have been doing nails for 25 years. I have some lung problems and I think they are from the dust. About five years ago I started wearing a mask and I sure hope that has made a difference. I know I get a fuzzy, dusty feeling in my eyes by the end of the day.
Brenda Gibson, Brenda Gibson Center for Nails, Perrysburg, Ohio.

Eight. I am always careful with products and smell, and do not offer acrylics anymore due to the smell. I was getting headaches after doing a set of nails, so now I strictly use gel. My clients are happy with a product that is reliable, and my coworkers and other clients in the salon are much happier with the odorless product.
Robyn Schwartz, Polished & Pampered Hair and Esthetics, Grand Forks, British Columbia, Canada

I rate it a five — smack dab in the middle. While all techs are taught how to properly use and protect against the products we use on a daily basis, not everyone follows the rules. With any chemical you always have to worry about allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, white lung from dust inhalation over the course of so many years when using improper ventilation, and so on. In all reality, no matter how much care you take to ensure safety, there is always something that could go wrong.
Becky Liles, Seaport Salon & Day Spa an Aveda, Concept Salon, Silverdale, Wash.

I would say a 10. I’ve been doing nails for over 20 years. I started wearing a mask when filing about two years ago. I’ve developed asthma-type symptoms, and they’re not fun. I highly recommend that every nail tech who does artificial enhancements wear a mask when filing.
Joanne Hurtubise Boice, Haute Pink Studio, Santee, Calif.

One. I use a product that has no odors and requires very limited hand-buffing. I think that in the 21st century if a salon has not yet looked for a healthier alternative, it’s not even worth going there. There are several products out there that have no odors and I found one that is an all-in-one system (Bio Sculpture Gel) that allows me to do every nail service — enhancements, no-chip manicures, silk tips (no glue on natural nails), and even 3-D art without acrylic.    
Christian “Chris” Mans, Jeweled Nails, Irvine, Calif.

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