Are Nail Salons Bad For Your Health?


Are Nail Salons Bad For Your Health?

Posted by FiltrScience on 04/11/2022

Are Nail Salons Bad For Your Health?

There is nothing quite as relaxing as a good mani-pedi. We all know the feeling of walking into a salon, being greeted by a smiling receptionist, the anticipation of a good hand or foot massage, and the chemical smell of a salon.

Ah, yes, the chemical smell… Where does that come from? Does it matter? Does it impact us?

Let us ask you this: Have you ever developed a headache in a nail salon? Or have you ever felt a little dizzy?

That smell signifies chemicals in the air. Those headaches, skin and eye irritation, dizziness, and other seemingly minor symptoms are reactions to the chemicals. Those are our bodies’ warning signals that we are breathing in something harmful. 

Unfortunately, due to the nature of nail salons, they see a lot of chemicals – which means nail salons’ air quality seriously suffers.



Chemicals That Impact Nail Salons’ Air Quality

In 2016, the New York State Department of Health found that products used in nail salons contained dozens of chemicals that “can change over time”. Their report on chemicals in nail salons noted that nail products use roughly 30 chemicals (or chemical categories). These include, but are not limited to:

  • toluene,
  • formaldehyde,
  • dibutyl phthalate,
  • methyl ethyl ketone,
  • ethyl acetate,
  • butyl acetate,
  • acetone,
  • acetonitrile,
  • ethyl methacrylate,
  • isopropyl acetate,
  • methacrylic acid,
  • methyl methacrylate (banned in many states),
  • and quaternary ammonium compounds.

These chemicals are found in polishes, solvents, glues, and more. Unfortunately, these are fundamental to the function of a nail salon.

A study conducted in Boston proved that the active use of these products does contribute to poor air quality. They measured the total volatile organic compound (TVOC) and PM2.5 concentrations in 21 different nail salons throughout the air.

When services were being performed, PM2.5 concentrations were measured at almost 25 µg/m3 (micrograms of gaseous pollutant per cubic meter). On the other hand, when no services were being performed, PM2.5 concentrations measured around 10 µg/m3.

The TVOC readings were even more shocking: they revealed that TVOC levels were nearly zero when services were not being performed. But when they were in operation, TVOC levels rose to nearly 12,000 ppb (parts per billion).

Not only did the levels of chemicals in the air increase dramatically when the products were being actively used, the levels read similarly throughout the building. This proves that the nail salon’s air quality is impacted overall – not just in the service areas.

Thus, everyone’s health is in jeopardy in a nail salon that is actively using products containing these chemicals.


10 barrels of chemicals that can be found in nail salon products which impacts a nail salon’s air quality.

The Impacts of Nail Salon Chemicals On Your Health

While these numbers may seem shocking, they are also very abstract. It is hard to understand the impact of something we cannot see, but our bodies feel the impact.

Prolonged exposure to these chemicals wears on the human body. Short-term symptoms of exposure include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and skin, eye, and respiratory system irritation. But, over the long run, health impacts can be a lot more severe. They include skin sensitization, cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, reproductive problems, developmental setbacks, and nervous system problems. 

Referencing back to the list of chemicals included in nail products, we see some pretty intense chemicals listed. Take formaldehyde, for example. While present in many products in our homes and air, formaldehyde has been a probable carcinogen since 1987 when exposed more than necessary. In 2011, the National Toxicology Program named it a known human carcinogen.

Another example is methyl ethyl ketone. This chemical can also cause minor symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, skin irritation, or burning. It is also known to cause brain or nervous system damage after prolonged and repeated exposure.

These are just two of the chemicals often found in nail products. Unfortunately, nail salons’ air quality is being constantly impacted by the use of harsh products containing harmful chemicals.

How You Are Exposed To Chemicals In Nail Salons

Every person has a level of personal susceptibility to these issues, such as pre-existing conditions and family and personal health history. The length and amount of exposure can also impact how severe the reaction is.


Exposure comes in many different forms, and both employees and customers are at risk. They can be exposed to the chemicals found in many nail salon products through inhaling dust and vapors, contact with eyes and mucous membranes (including vapor contact), or direct skin contact.


A person gets a manicure from a nail surrounded by products that have the potential to emit harmful chemicals in the nail salon’s air, impacting the employee and client’s health.


How To Avoid Chemical Exposure In A Nail Salon

So how can we limit exposure to these harmful chemicals, keep nail salons in business, and continue to enjoy the benefits of our regular mani-pedis? 

First and foremost, salons can limit the use of products containing high amounts of these chemicals. You can inquire with your nail salon to ask about the research they put into choosing their products.

When you do enter a nail salon, you could choose to wear personal protective equipment (PPE); however, it is important to remember that exposure happens in a lot of ways. Also, these chemical particles are very small. Thus, you would need to wear an N95 face mask and eye protection, while still running the risk of the products getting on your skin.

So what is the ultimate solution to improve a nail salon’s air quality?

They could either improve their ventilation – which is a lengthy, expensive process and not always feasible – or use a tool such as an air purifier.

Not all air purifiers are created equal and, to combat these chemicals and levels of pollution, nail salons need serious air purifiers.

The good news is that they exist!

The Filtr Revolution is a cleanroom-grade air purifier designed for spaces like nail salons. It is built to clean the air and provide peace of mind.


If you want to learn more about the Filtr Revolution, click here!


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