Safety in nail bars and salons

It is important that safe working procedures are adopted so that cosmetic procedures on nails do not lead to health and safety problems for the nail technician or the client.

Hazards associated with cosmetic procedures on nails are:

  • Contracting bacterial, viral and fungal infections (includes potential exposure to diseases such as Hepatitis B/C and HIV)
  • Skin contact, inhalation and ingestion of harmful chemicals and nail dust (artificial and natural)

Control the hazards by:

  • Prohibiting smoking, eating and drinking in the salon
  • Treat the natural nail, cuticle and skin around the nail with respect any damage could lead to infection
  • Ask for the chemical safety data sheets from your supplier (they are obliged to provide these on request) and carry out a Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) assessment. The Health & Safety Executive website will guide you through the process or refer to one of the leaflets listed at the end of this advice
  • Use ventilated tables that have close fitting filters to reduce dust and chemicals in the air. The filter should be replaced as recommended in the manufacturers instructions. Ideally the table should exhaust to the outside air
  • Ensure your salon is well ventilated. General ventilation is best if you have through ventilation from the front to the back of the premises this reduces the amount of chemicals in the air
  • Reduce the amount of chemicals in the air by keeping them in closed, marked containers and use dispenser bottles with narrow throats or ideally pressure sensitive bottle stops
  • Technicians and clients should wash and dry their hands before and after cosmetic treatment to reduce the risk of infection
  • Manufacturers instructions for using protective clothing such as paper masks, vinyl gloves for example should be followed. However, don’t forget that wearing gloves is not a replacement for washing hands

Sensitisation can occur. If a member of staff experiences allergic symptoms (dermal or respiratory) they should inform their employer.

Equipment that is in direct contact with the skin or natural nail such as files and boards should be either single use and disposable or properly cleaned/sterilized between clients - including the treatment table. Following Manufacturers guidance for cleaning will reduce the risk of infection.

Electric nail files (commonly called drills) are purpose made for finishing and maintaining artificial nail overlays. They should not be used in direct contact with the natural nail, cuticle or skin. Used drill bits must be cleaned between clients by first scrubbing in clean water and general purpose detergent to remove debris and disinfected in accordance with the manufacturers instructions to reduce the risk of infection.

Metal rubbish bins with foot-operated lids should be used and emptied each day. Acrylic contaminated materials should be sealed in a bag before disposal in the bin reducing the amount of chemicals in the air.

Gauze pads and cotton wool that has been soaked in chemicals should be disposed of in a sealed bag.

Client records should be kept. The following list (which is not exhaustive) may indicate that a cosmetic procedure should not be carried out:

  • a history of skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema or sensitive skin
  • a history of allergies
  • poor skin or nail condition
  • client is undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • client has an existing medical condition (for example: infection, blood disease, heart disease, haemophilia)
  • client has a history of skin cancer or is on medication that makes the skin photosensitive (this is important if the salon has ultra-violet curing equipment)
  • client is pregnant

For any of the above, the client may need medical advice before cosmetic work is carried out. Clients should be provided with a written aftercare advice leaflet.

Training is essential. The Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority promotes nationally recognized standards. Product placement or basic trade courses are often inadequate.