Is the Air in Nail Salons Dangerous?

Q: Is it dangerous to breath the air in a nail salon?

A: The products used in nail salons usually contain solvents and other chemicals that may have adverse health effects on workers and customers. Many nail salon products contain solvents, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOC) and some toxic air pollutants. People who are exposed to these toxic air pollutants at sufficient concentrations, for sufficient durations, may increase their chances of getting cancer or experiencing other serious health effects, such as reproductive problems, birth defects, and aggravated asthma.

Make certain that the salon is adequately ventilated, and if you spend many hours in the setting and are sufficiently concerned, ask your aesthetician to provide you with a mask. Many salon workers use these mask, so every salon should have a supply on hand.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food, raise goats, and make goat milk soap on his farm in upstate New York by visiting


Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago
Thanks Dr. Brent

Venetia S.
Venetia S6 years ago

I recently got a pedi while in Florida, I took in a mask. The worker was suprised, but I just explained that I had sinus surgery last year and have to be really carful. After my surgery I was given a list of places I needed to wear the mask, nail salon was first on the list, next was hair salon.

Envira Bauer
Reginious Heiter7 years ago

I agree Liberty why use VOC's at all. Our world is so beautiful naturally but the fad of beauty never ends. Now plasic surgery, nails a mile long and goochy poochy brands for clothing and more is insane. Only few see the real beauty? Inside, lost in the sleep of sleeping beauty. Mirror on the wall... you are not Snow White. She had beauty inside and out.

Grace Man
Grace M7 years ago

interesting! Some nail salons even smell already just by passing by the salon! geez! To use health masks sound like a good idea! Unfortunately many women don't appreciate it wearing a mask because it could harm their outter appearance. Very sad :(

Vural K.
Past Member 8 years ago


Geri Fowler
Geri F8 years ago

Those places need to be removed to an open tent! Just standing outside the door{I don't dare enter}of a nail salon is enough for me to become ill. My skin gets flushed and hot,little spots start to appear and then my breathing becomes impaired.....awful! And for what, the sake of vanity?we poison ourselves.

Daniel W.
Daniel W8 years ago

This article shows just how backwards we are as a country, educationally. A medical doctor authoritatively telling people to use a paper dust mask to protect against VOCs? Anyone with a decent science-based education would know that that makes about as much as sense as using a sieve to transport water. It's unbelievable the outright bad information that passes for journalism these days.

Liz W8 years ago

Please, I agree with Kathleen K. below, there is NO WAY that those paper masks protect anyone from toxic VOC's in the air. My partner was a Painting and Decorating Contractor and used a respirator because of prolonged exposure to VOC's. NO responsible regulatory authority in the country recognizes paper masks for anything but particulate dust protection. There isn't even a body of evidence that shows that the masks prevent germs from entering the airways - spittle? yes.
If you work in a nail salon, a respirator with carbon filtration will protect you - and you might like the darth vader look as well... You can always put those stick on jewels on to dress the respirator up!
Otherwise, brave the terrible air for an hour or have a friend do your nails using Aquarella, Watercolors or Safe Nail Polish brand polish all of which are greener and feature no or low-VOC.
Long Live Fresh Toe and Finger Art!!!