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Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers

Nail salons are mostly small businesses that employ or contract with trained professionals to provide clients with nail services including, but not limited to, nail filing and polishing, artificial nail application, and other hand- and foot-care treatments.

More than 375,000 nail technicians working in salons across the United States face possible health hazards every day. Workers exposed to chemicals found in glues, polishes, removers, emollients and other salon products may experience negative health effects such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses, skin disorders (e.g. allergic contact dermatitis), liver disease, reproductive loss, and cancer. Additionally, workers often endure muscle strains from awkward positions or repetitive motions; and have a high risk for infection from contact with client skin, nails, or blood.

Information on nail salon hazards and preventing illness and injury is also available for workers in OSHA's publication "Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers" (EPUB | MOBI)

This publication is also available in:

A flier and wallet card including information on worker rights and health effects are available from the US Department of Labor’s OSHA and Wage and Hour Division.

This web page gives important information about these hazards and the steps that nail salon workers and employers can take to prevent injuries and illnesses.

Chemicals Used in Nail Salons

Muscle Strains from Awkward Body Positions and Repetitive Work

Preventing Disease

Nail polishes, glues, and other products used in nail salons may contain the following chemicals, among others:

  • Toluene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Dibutyl Phthalate
  • Methacrylate compounds

Without taking the correct safety precautions each day, these chemicals can cause breathing problems; red, irritated eyes; dry, cracked skin; and other health problems. More...

Working in certain positions or repeating the same motion puts stress on a worker's body and can cause aches and pains. These hazards are often called "ergonomic" hazards.

Aches and pains can be caused by bending over a work table for a long period of time; resting hands, wrists, forearms and/or elbows against hard surfaces or sharp edges of work tables; and using repetitive movements like filing and buffing nails. More...

Nail salon workers can be exposed to biological hazards if they come into contact with infected skin, nails, or blood from a co-worker or client.

Diseases that can result from exposure to infected blood include hepatitis and AIDS. Nail salon workers can also get fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, from clients. More...

Nail Salons - Wage and Hour

Nail Salon
Worker Rights

Wage and Hour Division

Flier | Card


Five Steps to Prevent Exposures and Protect Worker Health In - 1) Identify harmful chemicals in your salon 2) Use products that are less toxic 3) Ventilate where hazardous products are used 4) Practice good hygiene: wear gloves and masks, wash hands frequently and keep food away from chemicals 4) Label and safely store chemicals

Is Your Manicure Making Someone Sick?

Department of Labor Blog Post, (2015)

1Toxic Beauty No More: Health and Safety of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers in Southern California. California Health Nail Salon Collaborative, (2011, May).

2The website was adapted from Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers, which was developed by the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), University of California, Berkeley and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

Photos were provided by the Asian Law Caucus and Street Level Health Project

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