Skin, Lip and Body Care

7 Tips to Protect Yourself from Salon Infections and Reactions

+ CV Skinlabs Team

We’ve talked about avoiding toxic chemicals in salons in previous posts, but we’re visiting the issue again. (Read one of our previous posts here.)

Here’s why: a recent study revealed that people are still not aware of how seriously they can be hurt in a salon. Potential injuries include skin rashes, nail disfigurements, fungal infections, respiratory problems, and more.

We want you to safely enjoy any manicure, pedicure, or hair-coloring appointments, so here’s more of what the researchers found, and how you can protect yourself.

Study Shows Over Half of Women Suffer Health Problems from the Salon

For the study, researchers surveyed 90 clients from salons in three New Jersey counties. They asked them about any negative affects they may have experienced after going to a hair or nail salon. They also asked them if they were aware of safety hazards in salons, and how often they went to their appointments.

Results showed the following:

  • Over half (52 percent) of respondents reported experiencing skin problems or fungal infections after visiting the salon. These symptoms were more common in those clients who visited the salon three times or more within the past year.
  • Respiratory symptoms (sneezing, wheezing, other breathing problems) were reported more often in clients with fewer visits per year. Scientists believed that after experiencing these symptoms, clients were less likely to go back to the salon.

The authors expressed concern that the clients were not as aware of the dangers as they should be. Lead author Lindsey Milich stated, “We found that although clients might be aware of some hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde, they often do not recognize the dangers posed by pathogens and environmental irritants.”

Salons Can be Dangerous for These Reasons

Salons can be unsafe places for a number of reasons. These include:

  • They use a lot of different chemicals
  • They host a lot of people in one small space
  • They require cleaning standards that aren’t always followed

Women who go to salons are at risk for three main health issues:

  1. Fungal infections: A separate 2017 study found that more than half of people that visit beauty salons in the U.S. have suffered from skin and fungal diseases. Nail fungal infections are the most common. The parasites may be lurking in the nail technician’s tools or in the soaking tubs. These can be difficult to treat, and usually require oral medications.
  2. Skin and scalp reactions: Whether you’re coloring your hair or your nails, there are chemicals involved. Some can cause allergic reactions, hives, rashes, redness, itching, burning, and more. Some of the chemicals may not bother you for a long time, and then one day cause reactions as the body grows sensitive to them.
  3. Respiratory issues: If a salon isn’t properly ventilated, the chemical fumes can build up in the air. When you walk in, you breathe them in, and if you’re sensitive at all, that could cause symptoms like itching and watery eyes, runny nose, headaches, and wheezing.

7 Ways to Protect Yourself at the Salon

You don’t have to stop your salon visits to be safe—you just need to take a few precautions.

  1. Be picky: Find the best salon you can find in your area. Make sure it looks and smells clean, that it’s licensed by the state cosmetology board, and that the employees regularly clean and sanitize their equipment.
  2. Ask for safer options: You don’t have to be exposed to the most toxic hair dye or nail polish out there. Ask your stylist for safer options. There are many newer hair dye and polish options available today. Look for nail polishes free of the “toxic 3,” which includes toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. Look for hair dyes free of “para-phenylenediamine (PPD).”
  3. Take your own: If you take your own nail tools, you are more likely to remain free of infections. This is especially important if you’re going through cancer treatments or if your immune system is otherwise compromised. Also be sure the technician only pushes your cuticles back—don’t allow them to cut them.
  4. Skip the shaving: Shaving sloughs off the top layer of skin, and leaves behind microscopic tears that can allow bacteria through. Never shave the day before or the day off your appointment.
  5. Make an early appointment: The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) says you should go as early as possible to your appointment, as the tools and footbaths are likely to have been cleaned at the end of the day the night before.
  6. Color less often: As you are exposed over and over again to various chemicals, you can develop a sensitivity to them. If you already have other allergies, particularly skin allergies (like dermatitis or rashes), you could be more at risk. Try to limit your visits to the salon by using a color-safe shampoo, washing less often, and protecting your hands and feet after polishing.
  7. Stop to wash: Do you wash your hands after leaving the salon? You should. You were just exposed to germs and chemicals. You could transfer those to your body if you touch your face after you leave. Take along a hand sanitizer to have in your vehicle or purse, or make a quick stop to wash with warm water and soap before you go about your day.

How do you protect yourself during a salon visit?

SourcesLindsey J. Milich, et al., “Safety and health risk perceptions: A cross-sectional study of New Jersey hair and nail salon clients,” Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, November-December 2017; 24(6):7-14,, M. (2017, December 18). Could your local beauty salon put you at RISK of fungal infection? SHOCK research revealed. Retrieved from

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