Nail Technicians: What You Need to Know About Ventilation

A visit to high street nail bar could leave you feeling slightly under the weather. Odours contained within nail products such as polishes, acrylics, hardeners, removers and artificial nail liquids can quickly disperse into breathing zone and impact the well-being of the nail technician, client and those in the vicinity.

Chances are if you work in the nail services industry, spending 8 hours a day in this environment would not be uncommon and this can put you at serious risk if recommended guidelines and practices to ensure a healthy environment are not being met.

To help nail technicians better understand the health risks associated with their services and how to overcome these to operate both safely and within the law, we have created this guide to provide everything you need to know about nail bar ventilation.

In this article you will discover;

  • Duty of Care – the legal requirements for nail service providers
  • Hazardous Substances – chemicals, fumes and odours found in nail care & beauty products
  • Health Issues – caused through contact and exposure of nail products
  • Ventilation – what it is and why it’s important
  • Types of Ventilation in Nail Bars – analysing the different ventilation systems
  • Ventilated Nail Desks – why these are proven to be 99% effective
  • Guidelines – for nail bar owners and nail technicians

Duty of Care for Nail Service Providers

As stipulated by The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations act 2002 set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers have to ensure employees, clients and the general public are protected.

HSE uses a team of inspectors to ensure that employers comply with the act. Visits to your business nail bar or salon can occur at any time, so always have your insurance and your training certificates available to produce on request.

Document SR13 outlines the criteria for nail bars and acrylic nail providers, stipulating;

  • Dust masks are not to be used as safety equipment
  • A downdraught extractor or extractor hood must be used when performing nail treatments
  • Ventilation and replacement of air is required in all associated rooms

Even if you’re a self-employed nail technician it is imperative, and the law, that you protect yourself and clients from the activities and services you undertake.

The duty of care for those providing nail services in a salon environment includes, but is not restricted to the following 7 steps;

  1. Identify the hazardous products in use. You should always check the product labels and to be absolutely sure what hazards are present in each. Should you be in any doubt obtain chemical safety data sheets.
  2. Take appropriate precautions before using nail products. Upon discovering the substances involved within the product, calculate the necessary measures required.
  3. Prevent people being exposed to hazardous substances. But where this is not possible, control exposure using systems that are proven to be effective.
  4. Make sure that safety procedures are followed. Control measures should be implemented and maintained at all times. Failure to do so would compromise the safety and wellbeing of those in your nail salon.
  5. Ensure areas are safely sanitised. After each client to ensure that there is no potential for contamination. Sterilisation of equipment should also be conducted.
  6. Safe disposal of waste. Empty bottles and other disposable nail products should be removed from the working area. Any hazardous material requires special care and careful disposal, please consult your council for specific measures to undertake in accordance with your region waste policies.
  7. Good aftercare advice. The service you provide doesn’t end at the point of the client walking out of the door. Customers must be informed on best practises for nail care specific to the products and treatments you have applied. Even if you think its common knowledge, you owe it to your clients’ wellbeing that they are aware of the measures to undertake to keep themselves from harm.

Hazardous Substances in Nail Products


Attractive packaging disguises from the chemicals contained within

According to a study conducted by the HSE, it found statistically significant evidence to suggest that those that work with nail care and beauty products suffer from an above average amount of respiratory based illnesses.

Chemicals can enter your body through numerous methods, here are some examples;

  • Vapours, dust or mists from the products are inhaled through the nose or mouth
  • Physical eye contact with fingers that have traces of the product
  • The ingestion of food or drink that has been contaminated by spillages

The table below highlights the most frequently used hazardous substances found in nail care and beauty products, along with the health issues they’re closely associated with.

  • Acetone (nail polish remover): headaches; dizziness; and irritated eyes, skin, and throat.
  • Acetonitrile (fingernail glue remover): irritated nose and throat; breathing problems; nausea; vomiting; weakness; and exhaustion.
  • Butyl acetate (nail polish, nail polish remover): headaches and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), (nail polish): nausea and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat. Long-term exposures to high concentrations may cause other serious effects.
  • Ethyl acetate (nail polish, nail polish remover, fingernail glue): irritated eyes, stomach, skin, nose, mouth, and throat; high levels can cause fainting.
  • Ethyl methacrylate (EMA), (artificial nail liquid): asthma; irritated eyes, skin, nose, and mouth; difficulty concentrating. Exposures while pregnant may affect your child.
  • Formaldehyde (nail polish, nail hardener): difficulty breathing, including coughing, asthma-like attacks, and wheezing; allergic reactions; irritated eyes, skin, and throat. Formaldehyde can cause cancer.
  • Isopropyl acetate (nail polish, nail polish remover): sleepiness, and irritated eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Methacrylic acid (nail primer): skin burns and irritated eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat. At higher concentrations, this chemical can cause difficulty breathing.
  • Methyl methacrylate (MMA), (artificial nail products, though banned for use in many states): asthma; irritated eyes, skin, nose, and mouth; difficulty concentrating; loss of smell.
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds (disinfectants): irritated skin and nose and may cause asthma.
  • Toluene (nail polish, fingernail glue): dry or cracked skin; headaches, dizziness, and numbness; irritated eyes, nose, throat, and lungs; damage to liver and kidneys; and harm to unborn children during pregnancy.

NB; this list is by no way exhaustive of the full set of chemicals and conditions associated with nail services, thus should solely act as a guide. If you have any queries regarding the health risks that hazardous substances present in your nail bar please seek further guide or get in touch with us today for no-obligation advice.
You can also find out more on the health risks associated with nail services here.

Ventilation Systems in Nail Bars

As you’ll have will no doubt have noticed, the attractive packaging, bright colours and catchy names for nail products can easily distract from the dangers that lie within.
General ventilation systems designed for offices, classrooms, waiting areas and other non-industrial settings are not adequate for keeping toxic substances at safe concentrations. Such ventilation dilutes, but does not completely remove, contaminants from the air.

Taking into account that harm can be caused through skin contact, absorption, ingestion and inhalation through the nose and mouth, it’s imperative to choose the most effective control measures to minimise the escape and spread of the substances in nail salons.

Below we take a look at the different forms of ventilation employed by nail technicians in the UK to examine the effectiveness of each in preventing exposure.

Ventilated Nail Desks

Ventilated nail desks are proven to be 99% effective in removal of dust particles and chemical odours / fumes in an enclosed area. This is due to the capture and removal of contaminants at source before they reach the air that you breathe.

What is the best nail desk?

Working closely with nail technicians, our design team was able to develop the BV3000 to a proven 99% level in the safe removal of harmful odours, fumes and dust resulting from nail services. To extract such a high amount of chemical vapour, a large downdraught air filtration grille is incorporated into the table, providing a wide area to safely perform nail services.


How the BV3000 nail desk offers the complete ventilation solution for nail technicians

  1. Downdraught grille to force nail dust down into the units filter system
  2. Ventilated drawer to remove fumes and odours of products while in storage
  3. Integrated lamp to provide optimal lighting conditions for dimly lit rooms
  4. Easy to reach power unit available in left & right hand operation
  5. Available in 3 stylish finishes; white, black & light oak

Downdraught nail tables place local exhaust ventilation underneath the work area and provide the means to extract potential dust or chemicals away from the breathing zone. As the dust and vapours released from nail product chemicals are heavier than air, downdraught ventilation provides a safer alternative to hood extraction techniques utilised in many nail tables.

Guidelines for Nail Bar Owners


Guidelines for ensuring the nail technician & client remain safe at all times

Here are a list of practices that we recommend to nail bar owners;

Prepare a Risk Assessment

The plan must identify hazardous chemicals at the workplace and describe how chemical safety data sheets, warning labels, and training will protect employees and inform them about the chemical hazards. Chemical safety sheets for each product that contains a hazardous chemical must be readily accessible for employees who want to know about the product’s hazards and how to protect themselves from overexposure.

Provide Employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Gloves, goggles, and proper respiratory protection can reduce employee exposure to nail particles, chemicals, and chemical vapours.

Ensure Adequate Ventilation

The salon should have ventilation of at least 25 cubic feet per minute of outdoor fresh air per person during business hours. Each newly installed manicure or pedicure station must have an additional exhaust system that captures contaminates and odours at their source and exhausts them directly outside the building at a minimum 50 cubic feet per minute.

Use Appropriate Dispenser Bottles

Use dispenser bottles that have openings just large enough for the application brush. The bottle stoppers should be pressure sensitive.

Cleaning & Disinfection

The working environment should be suitable sterilised after each use.

Discard Waste Properly

Place chemical-soaked pads in a sealed bag before disposing them in the metal trashcan; close the lid securely, and change trash can liners daily.

Enforce Good Hygiene

Ensure that technicians wash their hands before eating or smoking and do not eat or drink at their workstations or near stored chemicals.

Dress Code

Nail technicians should wear clean, comfortable and suitable footwear that meets the requirements of the specific salon.


If you’re looking for a complete nail station solution, the BenchVent BV3000 nail table could be the best fit for your beauty salon providing a wealth of safety and design features for just £699 + VAT. We’d love to show you why we believe it’s the UK’s best manicure table available, so contact us today for further information or to arrange a product demonstration.

Introduction to BenchVent

  • Established in 1984
  • First company to introduce air filtration products into the beauty industry
  • We design and develop ventilation equipment across a wide range of industries
  • All our products are manufactured in the UK, from our base in Killinghall, Harrogate
  • Many of our products are backed by an unrivalled Lifetime Guarantee

Next Step;

1. View the BV3000 product page
2. Ask us a question about the BV3000
3. Discover the Health & Safety criteria for nail services

Image Credits

Acrylic nails: knit nail via photopin (license)

Nail polishes: Nagellack / nail varnish via photopin (license)

Red nails: Bourjois – Fuchsia Hype via photopin (license)