Artificial Nails Come at a Price Beyond the Cost of a Mani

There is something satisfying about a perfectly manicured hand. However, applying artificial nails comes at a price well beyond the cost of a mani.

Regular exposure to solvents, chemicals, and dust, combined with a lack of fresh air will not only cause immediate damage to the skin and upper respiratory system, but the likelihood of long term conditions like asthma. If chemicals used in the application of artificial nails release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), what can salon and spa owners do to increase fresh air circulation and minimize the exposure of their employees to these environmentally damaging particles?

Let’s examine the two systems of the body that are most affected – the skin and the respiratory systems – followed by a basic solution to improve the quality of indoor air at modern nail salons.

The Skin

Chemicals like methacrylates, formaldehyde, and benzoyl peroxide used in artificial nails products can be absorbed through the skin. As a result, an allergic reaction like itching, dryness, and cracking can develop into a rash. Symptoms also include redness, hives, and blistering of the skin.

Solution: Have nail technicians wear protective clothing and gloves to place a barrier between their skin and harmful chemicals. Employees should also wash their hands several times a day with mild soap and water to remove the methacrylates in the dust of the product.

The Respiratory System

Prolonged exposure of vapors from chemicals can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs bringing about shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and asthma. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) also warns, “Once a person becomes sensitized to a chemical, extremely small amounts of that chemical (or even similar ones) can cause asthmatic attacks.”

In addition to vapors, the dust that is produced as a result to the filling of artificial nails is inhaled and can contribute to the irritation of the eyes and more damage to the upper respiratory system.


Use a ventilated table for employees and customers to minimize exposure to vapors. Consider having your HVAC and ventilation system checked, updated, and/or upgraded. According to the Massachusetts EOLWD, “The minimum recommended amount (of diluted ventilation combined with an adequate supply of outside air) is 25 cubic feet per minute of fresh air per occupant for beauty salons.”

Implementing masks for added protection from inhaling vapors and dust and providing access to Material Safety Data (MSDS) sheets are two extra ways to prevent exposure and walk employees through a clean up in the event of a spill. Being aware of the potential harm to the skin and respiratory system is the first step to protecting employees and customers from harmful pollutants. Taking responsible steps toward preserving and protecting indoor air quality separates a good environmentally friendly business from a superb one.