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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.

The more than 375,000 nail technicians working in salons across the United States face possible health hazards every day. The hazards include exposure to chemicals from glues, polishes, removers, and other salon products; muscle strains from awkward positions or repetitive motions; and risk of infection from contact with client skin, nails, or blood.

This webpage gives important information about these hazards and the steps that nail salon workers and employers can take to prevent injuries and illnesses. 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" (PDF*). This publication is also available in Spanish (PDF*) and Vietnamese (PDF*) and Korean (PDF*). 1

Nail Salon Worker

 

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. To learn more, click here.

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. To learn more, click here.

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. To learn more, click here.

How do I find out about employer responsibilities and worker rights?

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to OSHA's Regional & Area Offices web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Small Business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential on-site consultation service to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. On-site consultations services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.

Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Employees can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing to your local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by an employee are more likely to result in an inspection.

If you think your job is unsafe or you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). It's confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.


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 (PDF*), 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


*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300.

**eBooks - EPUB is the most common format for e-Books. If you use a Sony Reader, a Nook, or an iPad you can download the EPUB file format. If you use a Kindle, you can download the MOBI file format.

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