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Toxic Chemicals in Salon Products

Hair stylist sprays customer's hair

What Salon Customers Need to Know

Due to a lack of government oversight, many products used in hair and nail salons contain a number of hazardous chemicals that may harm your health. Below are some particularly toxic chemicals to avoid in salon products, along with the health problems these chemicals are linked to.

Together, you and your stylist can give your salon visits a makeover. Download this fact sheet and bring it to your salon to ask your stylist or manicurist if any of the chemicals listed are in the products she uses on you. If yes, maybe you can start a conversation about switching to a safer alternative, both for her health and yours.

What Salon Workers Need to Know

Have you experienced breathing problems, headaches, skin rashes, or other health problems while at work?  Did you know that many products used in hair and nail salons contain a number of hazardous chemicals that may pose health risks to you and your clients?  Unfortunately, salon workers commonly report negative health effects associated with their work.  Long term studies of salon workers have also reported higher risks of chronic conditions, including certain cancers, immune diseases, asthma, and higher risk of some birth defects in their children.

For many chemicals, hazardous ingredients can be avoided altogether by purchasing alternative products.  For those that can’t be avoided, you can take precautions to protect your health.

Where to Look for Hazardous Ingredients

  • Ingredients in salon products can sometimes be found on the product label, although manufacturers are not required to fully list all ingredients in products sold for professional use.
  • Stylists can look at the Safety Data Sheets associated with the product, where some hazardous ingredients (although not all ingredients) must appear. (These sheets should have been sent along with the products).
  • Stylists can call the manufacturer’s customer service line for more information.

Harmful Chemicals to Avoid

The chemicals on this list are those which can be reasonably avoided by using currently available products containing safer alternatives.

Click to enlarge.

Harmful Chemicals to Avoid

Harmful Chemicals to Be Mindful Of

The following list of chemicals are those known to be harmful to health, but which may be difficult to avoid due to a lack of safer available alternatives.  Information about these chemicals is provided here to help you better identify which chemicals or products might be most responsible for symptoms you are experiencing.

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Ingredients to Mindful OfNote: These lists are not exhaustive.  More research is needed to both better identify hazardous chemicals used in salon products, and to develop safer chemical alternatives for harmful chemicals commonly in use. 

Best Practices to Reduce Exposure

Some harmful chemicals may be difficult to avoid in salon work, due to the current lack of viable alternatives and the lack of ingredient disclosure directly on product labels.   For these chemicals, the best advice is to reduce your exposure as much as possible by:

  • Ensuring good ventilation in the salon
  • Keeping trash cans tightly closed
  • Using small amounts of the product when performing services
  • Wearing nitrile gloves and protective clothing
  • Washing hands before and after use

For more advice and resources on protecting your health in the salon go to: http://nailsalonalliance.org/nail-salon-workers/

For more information and resources about toxic chemicals in salon products, salon worker health and safety issues, and how you can get involved, go to www.womensvoices.org.

Download this fact sheet.


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