Nail Salons: The Dark Side of Beauty

Nail Salons can be a two-sided coin, and as customers, we really only see the good. The bad, however, can be quite dangerous to those exposed to certain conditions. Grace Tepper explains the negative aspects of nail salons, as well as what you, as a consumer, can do to make a change


Going to the nail salon is a really relaxing experience. You sit in the extra-comfortable chair, mess around with the massage controls, and soak your feet in that nice, warm water. For a little while you don’t have to do anything but get the spa treatment, be it fingers or toes or everything. Breaks from everyday life like this are good for you, nice every once and awhile. But the hard truth is that, while the salon might be your haven, it is someone else’s poisoner.

Everybody knows not to ever ingest nail polish, or to put a ton of it anywhere other than your nails, or to smell it too much. For some people, even regular use of polish on hands and feet results in yellowing nails. That’s because, for most nail polish companies, their formulas are made up of tons and tons of chemicals, some extremely dangerous. However, since your body can (mostly) tolerate them in the formulas they make, this goes unheard of. Once you’re out of the salon too, you don’t give the scent a second thought.

The familiar salon smell that many know (and many enjoy) is extremely harmful to nail technicians. In most places, nail technicians work very long hours and face less-than-ideal working conditions. Combine this with the constant exposure to harmful chemicals in nail polish, and this can lead to debilitating side effects. One of the chemicals in many polishes, Toluene, has been proven to cause lightheadedness and tiredness in mild amounts.

However, with persistent exposure, damage to the ears, eyes, throat, lungs and nervous system can also occur (according to the Scientific American). Another more known chemical in nail polish if formaldehyde, which can cause allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, or even more severe health problems like cancer. It is recommended that those working with formaldehyde in any amounts wear masks, and not all places have their technicians do so.

While nail salons in general have a lot of health codes in place to ensure sanitary salons for customers, there are much fewer regulations that protect the employees. As it is today, there just aren’t safe standards for nail technicians like there should be, and a lot of people are suffering in the short and long term because of this.

So, what can you do about it?

The person with the biggest impact on the system nowadays is you, the customer. Since there are so few regulations on nail salon workplaces and the chemicals involved, it’s up to you to get informed and help out your local salon workers. Look for organic products, or products with fewer chemicals. Ask your local salon about the healthiest products they have. You’ll be helping both yourself and the manicurist by doing this.

Also, you can bring your own sustainable alternatives with you and get the same experience with colors and products you know are good for you. Some of the best brands are 100% Pure, Aquarella, and Honeybee Gardens. These are all made without 9 of the worst chemicals found in nail polish! They may not be a dollar each like some other brands, but they come without the harmful side effects for technicians and yourself. Besides, personalizing your brands and colors will ensure that you already know you’ll leave looking and feeling good. And that’s really why you went in the first place, right?