Physician's Weekly
September 30, 2022
Health Challenges of the Beauty Salon Workers

Beauty salon workers include the hairdresser, makeup artist, nail technician, esthetician, colorist, cosmetologist, barber, stylist, masseur, and receptionist. A salon worker may perform multiple roles.

Salon workers are often exposed to hazardous chemicals which can result in skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritation, and in some serious illnesses and even death.

Many of the products used in salons have been deemed safe for customers, however, there has been little research on the health consequences to salon workers. Below I’ve shared my findings.

The ingredients in salon products of greatest concern are:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Acetone
  • Toulene
  • Paraform
  • Ammonia
  • Ethyl acetate
  • Xylene
  • Others

Studies have shown that salon workers have up to 10 times the concentration of many of these chemicals in their bloodstream when compared to the general population. The consequences of such are generally not apparent for years. Complications may arise long after the person is no longer working with the chemicals.

Salon workers are also exposed to a number of infectious agents as a result of working in close proximity to their clients.

Skin & Eye Conditions found commonly in salon workers:

  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Eczema – especially of the hands and forearms
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Herpes 1 & 2
  • Warts
  • Staphylococcus skin infections
  • Hepatitis B & C from pedicures and manicures
  • Fungal infections of the nails and skin
  • Exposure to STDs when performing waxing

Exposure to products that contain endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause:

  • Infertility
  • Low birth weight and pre-term babies
  • Birth defects – e.g. cleft lips/ palates
  • Respiratory Illnesses
  • Occupational asthma is more common due to exposure to acrylic nail filings
  • Reduced lung function – especially in hairdressers and nail technicians
  • Chronic cough
  • Nasal congestion

Cancers – Salon workers have an increased chance of developing the following types of cancers:

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Nasal passage
  • Throat
  • Bladder
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Other
  • Salon workers often experience headaches while at work
  • Many report lightheadedness and difficulty concentrating
  • Depression – often reported by those who texturize hair
  • Dementia, especially in nail technicians and hair stylists
  • Motor neuron disease, especially in hairdressers
  • Lupus and liver cirrhosis are more common in nail technicians
  • Uterine fibroids, especially those working with hair relaxers
  • Prolonged standing increases the risk of venous insufficiency of the legs
  • Pains in the neck, shoulders, lower back & knees

In order to reduce the health hazards of beauty salon workers, it is recommended:

  • Use less toxic products
  • Workers use gloves and wear masks at all times when at work
  • Optimum ventilation of workspace
  • Use pump spays wherever possible, as opposed to aerosol sprays
  • Tightly close products after use
  • Dispose of waste properly in bins with tight lids
  • Hand cleanliness should be emphasized
  • Use as little product as possible when performing services
  • Research all products before using. Many products labeled “containing no harsh chemicals” or “formaldehyde free” were mislabelled.
  • Only use trusted products from reputable sources.
  • Salon’s air filters should be replaced in a timely manner
  • Improve education of salon workers regarding correct product handling
  • Continuous professional education is encouraged
  • Government institute import restrictions on toxic beauty salon products

Author’s Contact Information: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale, [email protected], 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided