Beauty at what cost

How safe are our beauty salons? Should the desire to get beautiful nails done be cautioned?

In recent years there have been many health complaints from the employees of the nail industry. These employees many of whom are immigrants from South East Asia particularly females have suffered health problems ranging from miscarriages to cancer and chronic headaches to respiratory issues.

The Nail Salon Industry has left the workers struggling with damaged health conditions. They’ve been potentially exposed to dozens of chemicals and breathe in the harmful vapours and dusts for hours on end, day after day. Researchers have identified three chemicals of high concern in nail products, known as the “toxic trio” associated with the most serious health issues. These are dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde.

A recent New York Times article has quoted the following example:

“When Ki Ok Chung, a manicurist who worked in salons for almost two decades, had her fingerprints taken in the early 2000s for her United States citizenship, she made an upsetting discovery: Her prints were almost nonexistent. They had to be taken seven times. She says constant work with files, solvents and emollients is responsible.

“I realized my fingerprints had been disappearing,” she said.
Today, she cannot touch hot or cold dishes without searing pain.”

So what does that mean for the normal consumer? Sharima Rasanayagam, PhD, Director of Science for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says “these are chemicals which do have health effects.” The main ones of concern are endocrine disruptor toluene, carcinogen formaldehyde and reproductive toxin dibutyl phthalate. For consumers, exposure to these chemicals isn’t just from visiting a nail salon. You can breathe them in from nail polish or hair dye vapours, absorb them through the skin from shampoos and conditioners, and even ingest them if you bite your nails… Remember if you’re planning to get a manicure, make sure your salon has plenty of fresh air circulating through, which should help diffuse chemicals lingering in the air,” says Rasanayagam.

When visiting a nail salon, try carrying your own nail polish. Look out for the toxic trio next time you buy your nail care products. These buying choices will definitely put the pressure on manufacturers to create safer alternative products.