Working Healthy

Lower Your Exposure to Salon Chemicals

Since most regulations are intended to protect the salon-going public rather than the nail technicians themselves, Seattle’s Healthy Nail Salon Project reaches out to salon workers to offer education and training on safe practices.

<p>Photos by Ned Ahrens</p>

The Healthy Nail Salon Project in Seattle and King County in Washington State helps salon owners and workers create a healthier workplace by adding what is missing in training and awareness. “Most cosmetology schools are not teaching chemical safety and there is a lack of health risk information,” says Sharon Schoenfeld-Cohen, project coordinator for The Healthy Nail Salon Project. “It is even more challenging because chemical information can be nonexistent, hard to find or make sense of, and is rarely available in other languages.”

As to why more isn’t done to help improve working conditions for nail salon workers and owners, Schoenfeld-Cohen says: “It’s hard to measure day-long exposures that can vary depending on what a salon worker is doing, or how those exposures may impact petite women, expectant mothers, or children. Safety standards for chemical use at work are set for a 160-pound man with a constant exposure to one chemical over eight hours. Agencies that regulate safety standards have no incentive to assist salons because the chemical amounts in salons are below safety standards (known as the Permissible Exposure Limits or PELs), and most regulations are intended to protect the public, rather than the technicians.”

<p class="NoParagraphStyle">&nbsp;Gloves and safety glasses are recommended salon safety precautions. Chemicals should be labeled and stored in closed containers.</p>

Still, adding simple practices and buying inexpensive equipment can help salon staff protect themselves and their customers and create an inviting salon experience.

The Healthy Nail Salon Project recommends taking these steps to protect yourself every day:

> Keep the general ventilation system turned on all day and use exhaust ventilation at a workstation to keep salon air fresh.

> Wear gloves and protect your skin when handling chemicals.

> Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from splashing and debris.

> Wear a dust mask to keep from breathing acrylic powder and filing and sanding dusts into your lungs.

> Safely store chemicals by labeling them and keeping containers closed.

> Ask for and read about product risks and handling on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Keeping an MSDS notebook helps with emergencies too. Ask your nail product supply store or call the manufacturer for an MSDS. They are legally required to provide it.

> Install an eyewash station at a sink and test it by showing your employees how to use it during regular employee safety meetings.

> Keep acetone-saturated cotton balls stored in metal cans with tight fitting lids and dispose of them at the end of the day in the outside garbage.  Dispose of used acetone, nail polish, or other hazardous waste at your local hazardous waste disposal site or contact a hazardous waste disposal company.

Visit for safer salon practices, ventilation, and nail salon chemical information in English and Vietnamese.  

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