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Your Nail Salon Could Be Making You Sick

By Shannan Rouss ; Updated January 12, 2018

Nail salons are making news yet again. Earlier this year, women’s magazines raised concerns about the skin cancer risk associated with UV lamps used for gel manicures (ultimately, the risk is relatively small), and now a new study suggests that regular salon visits may be linked to skin and nail infections, along with the hepatitis B and C viruses. Yikes!

Authors of the study, published in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, surveyed 90 clients at hair and nail salons in three New Jersey counties. (The salons ranged from higher-end to the strip-mall variety.) Of those surveyed, 52 percent said they had experienced some kind of skin irritation or signs of a nail fungal infection (think yellow discoloration, brittle or thickened nails, a foul smell — ewww). The symptoms were most common among women who visited salons at least three times in the past year.

Unexpectedly, women who visited the salon less frequently had a higher rate of respiratory symptoms. The reason? “Those who experienced respiratory symptoms, including itchy or watery eyes, trouble breathing, headache or lightheadedness and nausea may have been less likely to revisit salons,” the study’s lead author, Lindsey Milich, M.P.H., told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Milich, who conducted the study as part of her master’s degree research at Rutgers School of Public Health, points out that although previous studies have focused on the health risks facing salon employees, this is one of the first to look at the risks posed to clients as well as how aware these salon patrons are of the potential dangers.

“Nail clippers and files that are used more than once can increase risk of contamination with pathogens including bacteria, fungi and viruses,” Milich said. “Other risks include ultraviolet ray exposure of the skin and respiratory irritation from poor indoor air quality, as well as chemicals used in hair coloring and straightening products (like formaldehyde) that can result in allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs.”

While more research is still needed to confirm and expand on the study’s findings, Milich recommends taking a few precautions in the meantime. In an interview with, she said, “Clients should ask their stylist or nail technician about the chemical ingredients in the products being used, how they disinfect their tools and the type of ventilation system in the salon.”

Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

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