Health and Safety in Nail Bars

In a study conducted by the HSE on Health and Safety in Nail Bars, nail technicians reported a statistically considerable increased incidence of work-related symptoms including respiratory problems.

Indeed, nail dust from filing artificial nails and acrylic fumes from product ingredients, particularly MMA (methyl methacrylate) and EMA (ethyl methacrylate) are health hazards. At best, they can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. At worst, they can damage your central and peripheral nervous system.

Under the COSHH Regulations, there is a hierarchy of measures you can use to protect yourself and your clients dangerous substances. They are:

  1. Substitution- always choose a safer alternative if available
  2. Enclose the process – unfortunately this is not practical with nail treatments
  3. Engineering controls –use Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) to remove the fumes and dust
  4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – This should be your last resort! According to HSE ‘dust masks’ are not acceptable control measures. To protect you from MMA and EMA fumes, you will need to use a full face respirator while completing the nail treatment, which is very off-putting for customers.

Of these four, the best and easiest option to implement is engineering controls, as LEV is the most effective in controlling fumes and dusts. It can also be built around your salon design, that it can be unobtrusive. This together with good hygiene practice gives you maximum protection.

BV3000 BenchVent Nail Desk

BV3000 BenchVent Nail Desk

Below are some good practice and crucial points you need to follow to reduce exposure to hazardous fumes and dust to an acceptable level. Whether you are and employer of a self-employed nail technician, the information that follows will help you implement engineering controls and comply with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). The points we laid out are from the Health and Safety Executive. It is critical to follow them or use equally effective measures.

Engineering Control to Follow for Nail Bars

Access and premises:

  • Keep the workplace well organized
  • All exit routes must be clear
  • Have  good  washing facilities


  • Keep your salon or work room ventilated with a through draught.
  • Use an extractor hood or a downdraught table to control fumes.
  • Use ducted extractor hood, where possible, to ensure air is vented outside. – *If it’s not possible to use a ducted extractor hood, use a recirculating extractor that filters and cleans the air before circulating it back in the room. An extractor fan without filtration will not do the work. It simply recirculates contaminated air and spreads potential hazards.
  • Ensure the client’s nails are over the downdraught or close to the hood during nail treatment.

Equipment Maintenance:

  • Get a competent engineer to regularly service and test your downdraught table or extractor hood (ex. annually.)
  • Replace charcoal filters when you start smelling the fumes, or as recommended by your equipment supplier.


    • ‘Dust masks’ are not acceptable as a control.
    • Don’t keep more than 50L of flammable liquid indoors.
    • Store flammables in a proper storage.

Personal Protection:

  • Use sterile single-use instrument when possible
  • Supply protective gloves, for handling nail products and solvents. Single-use are adequate. Avoid latex gloves if possible. If you can’t, go for ‘low protein, powder-free’ gloves to avoid potential allergic reaction to latex.
  • Discard ‘single use’ gloves each time they are taken off.
  • Use skin creams. They can help in washing contamination from the skin. Using skin cream after work also helps replace skin oils that have been removed with frequent handwashing.

Caution: ‘Barrier creams’ do not offer complete protection against dangerous substances.

Good Practice Checklist

  • Obtain product information for all cosmetic products you use and follow the warning labels for safe use
  • Request a safety data sheet for none cosmetic products from your supplier and keep this on file
  • If possible, buy liquids and powders in containers ‘ready for use’
  • Store products securely in a cool, dry, dark place, capable of keeping in spills. Don’t store far more than you need.
  • Put the cap back on the container straight away.
  • Put used gauze pads and cottons soaked with nail products and solvent in a lined, lidded bin.
  • Clear up spills promptly into a lined, lidded bin.
  • Wash out mixing equipment after use. Dispose of washings safely.
  • Conduct health surveillance as acrylic systems and UV nails can cause dermatitis.
  • Consult an occupational health professional if workers report sore eyes, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulties or skin problems that seem to be connected with work.
  • Keep the work area clean.
  • Use a clean work station for every client.

The above information contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. For further information visit the HSE website.