Health Risks Confronting Beauty Salon Workers and What They Can Do to Protect Themselves

Most people would assume the profession of salon workers to be relatively safe, but it isn’t safe as it seems. These workers are exposed to harmful chemicals and workplace hazards for hours daily. They are at risk of developing different health problems.

Nail Salon

Nail Salon

You might have smelt noxious odors while walking past or while undergoing any cosmetic procedure. These offensive smells come from volatile compounds present in artificial nails, nail polishes, glues, emollients, and removers. While you have to endure the smell for a limited time, workers at the salon are constantly exposed to it putting them at serious risk of health problems down the line. Also, these workers are at risk of developing hormonal imbalances, serious mental health conditions and are even predisposed to different cancers.

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Studies have found more than 60% of salon workers develop various skin conditions, such as dermatitis, on their hands as early as their cosmetology schooling or salon work training days. Constant exposure to volatile compounds results in a marked decrease in lung function in hairdressers and nail salon workers. These workers are at a higher risk of developing chronic lung conditions like asthma.

Hazardous Chemicals Found in Nail Salon Products

Chemicals present in products used in salons can have deleterious effects on the health of their workers. Workers at the salon may breathe in the noxious vapors and dust; accidentally get the product on their skin and eyes; or swallow it if it is accidentally transferred onto food while eating. Exposure to these chemicals has additive effects especially when multiple products are being used at a time. Also, poor ventilation at the workplace increases the risk. Exposure to these chemicals makes the workers sick immediately or may show their effects over time.

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Potentially harmful chemicals found in the salon include:

  • Acetone: Prolonged exposure to acetone present in nail polish remover is shown to cause headaches, mood swings, and dizziness. It may also irritate the eyes, skin, and throat.
  • Acetonitrile present in fingernail glue remover can cause irritated nose and throat; difficulty breathing; nausea, vomiting weakness, and fatigue.
  • Butyl acetate present in nail polish and nail polish remover is associated with headaches and irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat.
  • Dibutyl phthalate can cause nausea and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat. Could also lead to early menopause in women.
  • Ethyl acetate present in nail polish, nail polish remover, fingernail glue can lead to irritated eyes, stomach, skin, nose, mouth, and throat. Exposure to large doses can lead to fainting episodes.
  • Ethyl methacrylate present in artificial nail liquid may increase the risk of asthma; lead to irritated eyes, skin, nose, and mouth; and difficulty in concentration. It has harmful effects on the babies of the pregnant mother.
  • Formaldehyde present in nail polish and nail hardener can lead to difficulty breathing. It increases the risk of asthma, wheezing, and leads to allergic reactions In the skin. Formaldehyde exposure also increases the risk of nasopharyngeal and blood cancers.
  • Isopropyl acetate present in nail polish and nail polish remover increases sleepiness and has irritative effects on the eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Methacrylic acid found in nail primer can cause skin burns and may irritate eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat. Methacrylic acid exposure in high concentrations can lead to different breathing problems.
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds present in disinfectants cause skin and nose irritation and may increase the risk of asthma.
  • Toluene found in nail polish, fingernail glue can lead to cracked skin, mood swings, anxiety, headache, dizziness, and irritation of eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Long term exposure risks damage to the liver and kidneys. Excessive exposure to toluene is shown to be teratogenic in pregnant mothers.

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Ergonomic Hazards

In addition to the effects of harmful chemicals, the workers are also prone to develop problems in their muscles and joints from repetitive motions and awkward positions they might assume while at work. Leaning over a work table for hours; repetitive hand movements like nail filing and buffing; and constantly resting hands, wrists, forearms, and elbows against surfaces or edges of work tables can lead to muscle bone, joint, ligament, tendon, and nerve damages in them.

Salon workers are also at risk of coming in contact with potentially infected blood, skins, and nails of the customer which puts them at danger of blood-borne fatal diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. Contact with infected skin and nails can expose the workers to various fungal infections.

Mental Health Issues

A study showed workers in beauty salons were found to be at a higher risk of depression as compared to people working other jobs. It was especially true for those who had worked longer than 20 years in the industry.

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Possible reasons for depression in salon workers include:

  • Facing stress daily while dealing with different people.
  • Constantly breathing the toxic chemicals that are used in the trade.
  • Receiving undue negative feedback from the clients.
  • Emotional reactions from clients.
  • As clients strive for perfect looks, there is the excessive pursuit of perfection and the workers may feel dissatisfied with the results.
  • As the work is focused on external appearance, people may have unrealistic pressure, which puts undue pressure on the workers.
  • There is a never-ending need to satisfy the client’s need constantly without much rest.
  • Lack of proper mental health support in the workplace.

How to avoid health problems in salon workers?

Preventive Measures:

  • Wear gloves and avoid contact with the blood or bodily fluids of clients. Dispose of the gloves immediately after working on a client.
  • Avoid clients with cuts, open wounds, blisters, or visible skin infections on their bodies.
  • Wash hands before and after working on the client.
  • If a client bleeds, do not touch the blood, ask them to use cotton or gauge pieces to stop bleeding. Dispose of them once bleeding is controlled.
  • Immunizing against hepatitis can help prevent infection in the case of accidental exposure to infected blood.
  • Tools used in a client should be cleaned and disinfected before use in another client.
  • Take breaks and change positions frequently during work.
  • Stretch body between client appointments.
  • Avoid resting your arms on the hard edges of the table.
  • Use adjustable chairs that support your back.

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Proper removal of noxious gases

  • The workplace should be well ventilated. There should be sources for entry of fresh air. If the salon has a ceiling vent, it should be functional and should be on during working hours.
  • Keep doors and windows at the workplace open if the weather allows.
  • An exhaust system to get rid of chemicals and gases should be installed and properly functioning at all times.
  • In case there is no exhaust system, always keep the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system on during work hours.
  • Exhaust fans should be placed wherever possible preferably near open doors and windows.
  • If possible use portable ventilation machines in the workplace to remove dust and chemicals directly.

Safe Work Practices to Avoid Regular and Accidental Exposures to chemicals

  • Workers should be properly instructed about the chemicals, their proper use, and potential side effects so that necessary precaution is taken.
  • Use less harmful products wherever possible.
  • Chemicals should be properly labeled in a container.
  • Bottles containing chemicals should be tightly closed to prevent accidental spillage.
  • The bottles after use should be discarded in metal trash cans with tight, self-closing lids. Nail products should be soaked with cotton balls in the trash cans to prevent them from evaporating into the salon’s air.
  • The trash can should be cleared often from the workplace and carefully discarded outside in the garbage.
  • If possible do not keep extra products at the workplace, use only the amounts required for work.
  • Follow safety instructions for chemical disposal. Haphazard throwing away potentially harmful chemicals should not be done at any cost.
  • Wash your hands before eating, drinking, applying cosmetics.
  • Keep food and drink covered at all times, and do not store or eat food in work areas.
  • Make sure you keep these products from coming in contact with your skin and eyes.
  • Gloves should be replaced at once if there are tears or holes in them while working on clients.
  • If you bleed or get cuts immediately cover it, as there is increased absorption of chemicals from damaged skin.
  • Wear full-sleeved shirts and full pants to protect your skin from chemical exposure.
  • Goggles and appropriate disposable gloves should be worn while handling chemicals or transferring them.
  • If after exposure to the product, you develop visible skin irritations or allergic reactions discontinue use of the product.

In addition to these, the workers should be educated about depression and they should be told to ask for help whenever required. Once a year depression screening should be done at the workplace.

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