A Cheap Manicure Could Be Your Most Dangerous Beauty Habit

What you should feel upon walking into most nail salons is more of a crippling terror, particularly if a manicure is a regular part of your beauty routine.
Publish date:
September 18, 2014

I have a legitimate fear of getting my nails done. The idea of not being able to eat, pee, or push my hair back for a whole 10 minutes while they’re drying gives me anxiety. I’m afraid that after making it though that first hurdle un-smeared, I’ll end up chipping one less than 24 hours later anyway. Having them done professionally is no solution, because then I am wasting not only time, but money. Once I decided, on a whim, to treat myself to a pedicure and ended up having to wear the salon’s fluffy shower slides home on the bus because apparently steel-capped Dr Martens don’t allow your toenails to dry properly. Who knew?

But a new report released on Monday about the state of New York City suggests my phobia is really a blessing in disguise. What you should feel upon walking into most nail salons is more of a crippling terror, particularly if a manicure is a regular part of your beauty routine.

NYC Public Advocate Letitia James‘ office released the report, which found the majority of most nail salons are breaking basic health and safety rules. With the state having only 27 inspectors tasked with keeping tabs on 5,000 salons, this isn’t surprising but still scary.

Here are some of the more dire findings:

  • When the Department of State inspected New York’s salons from 2008 to 2012, they found a majority — 56 percent — to be in violation of health and safety rules.
  • Customers have been infected with hepatitis and staph infections due to unclean conditions in nail salons.
  • Toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate — charmingly referred to by those in the know as the “toxic trio” — can cause reproductive harm, respiratory problems, cancer and birth defects.
  • The FDA doesn’t restrict these chemicals from being used because they’re considered “safe when used as directed.” (Inhaling them throughout your ten-hour shift as a nail tech probably isn’t “as directed.”)
  • Of the 10,000 other chemicals contained in nail products, 89 percent have not been tested at all by independent agencies.
  • Nail salon employees (of which there are 13,100 in New York) are most at risk, and they report frequent instances of skin problems, eye irritation, allergies, neck or back discomfort and asthma. Many work long hours and don’t have health insurance. Imagine those health bills. In New York City, nail technicians earn an average of $8.95 per hour.
  • There are no regulations governing proper ventilation in salons.
  • Nearly 75 percent of nail salons in the U.S. don’t comply with standards for disinfecting nail equipment. This includes reusing nail files and failing to sanitize foot baths. The latter can cause staph infections, hepatitis and bacterial infections.
  • UV lamps used to dry your nails can be as harmful to the skin as tanning beds are. There is “little to no regulation on the manufacturing of these nail lamps,” the report says.

James’ recommendations included better ventilation, multilingual health and safety information, designated city nail salon inspectors, and maybe even a “Healthy Nail Salons” incentive program. Until that happens, remember to take the first sight of a pre-used file to RUN, GIRL, RUN FOR YOUR HEALTH AND PERHAPS YOUR LIFE.

I’ll just be out here with my Rite Aid buffer and extra lunch money.

Reprinted with permission from Stylite.