Bloodborne Pathogen Risks in Nail Salons & Cosmetic Clinics

Bloodborne Pathogen Nail Salon

One of the things we do to relax, pamper, and conjure up images of beauty is a visit to a hair or nail salon. However, while salons are known for making customers look beautiful, research reveals that they can also transmit dangerous diseases to their customers, including bloodborne pathogens.

Even before HIV, the cosmetology and barbering industries were usually neglected as potential sources of infectious disease transmission. But, since the 1980s, an outbreak of bloodborne infections led to the revaluation of risk in the beauty industry. This has continued in 2023 with the obvious emphasis on safety increased due to the COVID19 pandemic.

Health Hazards in the Beauty Industry

The beauty industry is linked to several health hazards:

  • Bacterial infections include infections caused by Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas.
  • Delayed diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer and other skin diseases because of failure to refer clients
  • Fungal infections such as athlete’s foot, chemical burns, eyelid dermatitis, hair and facial products such as hand eczema, nail fungus, and yeast; reactions to nail, and loss of hair or nails
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
  • Toxicity from acrylic and lacquer fumes
  • Using chemical peeling solutions incorrectly
  • Warts

What are the Risks in Nail Salons?

Nail salons are typically small enterprises that hire or contract experienced specialists to provide nail services to their customers, such as filing and polishing, artificial nail application, and various hand and foot treatments.

Every day, nail specialists in salons encounter potential health risks, some of which are exceptionally hazardous. Just in the United States, it is reported that approximately 96% of nail specialists are women. And many of them are concerned about the toxins they come into contact with at work.

Asthma and other respiratory problems can be caused by chemicals included in glues, polishes, removers, emollients, and other salon products. It can also cause liver disease, infertility, cancer, and skin problems in employees, such as allergic contact dermatitis.

While the majority of bloodborne pathogen infections are transmitted through sexual contact, the sharing of needles, or medical needles and devices, they can also be spread through needle sticks and other sharp object injuries. When a microscopic amount of pathogen-containing blood is present on manicure equipment and comes into contact with another client’s or specialist’s bloodstream through a tiny incision in the skin, such as a paper cut, transmission of bloodborne infections can occur.

Many types of bloodborne illnesses. For instance, like Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can live outside the human body for at least 16 hours up to four days, and since HCV causes infection with relatively little viral exposure, certain viruses, such as HCV, can spread more easily through contact with manicure equipment or one-time-use products such as nail files.

Bloodborne Pathogens Nail Salon

Hepatitis Transmission Risk in Hair and Nail Salons

Hepatitis B, a virus transmitted when blood, sperm, or other bodily fluids from a virus-infected individual enter the body of an uninfected person, can happen through various mechanisms. Sexual contact, needle sharing, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment, or passing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment from mother to infant are all possibilities.

Nail files, clippers, tweezers, and other personal care equipment should not be shared by HBV patients. The reason behind this is that it is probable that “tools of the trade” like nail files, cuticle pushers, nail buffers, brushes, and clippers are not single-use or adequately sterilized at your favorite nail salon. Blood droplets as small as a grain of sand could easily spread infectious illnesses.

It is essential to know what is happening at your local nail salon and whether you are properly protected. If you assume you are getting a considerable deal through a discount nail salon, think again. An enterprise that does not sanitize or employ single-use equipment is putting its customers at risk.

Here are some things you may do to help yourself and others:

  • Bring your equipment.
  • Do not undergo a manicure or pedicure if you have cuts, bug bites, or a skin infection.
  • Know if the establishment has an autoclave. Ensure that the instruments are decontaminated and sanitized.
  • If you want to get a pedicure, don’t shave your legs. Shaving makes you more susceptible to infection.
  • Use your cutting and filing tools. Some nail salons keep regular clients’ tools on hand. You should think twice about trimming your cuticles.
  • Do not go to an establishment that is unsanitary. Leave if the “tools of the trade” appear to be unclean or untidy. This stands true for both hair and nail salons as well as barbershops.

OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HAZCOM)

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was created by OSHA to guarantee that the hazards of all chemicals manufactured or imported are evaluated and details about their hazards are communicated to employers and employees. According to HCS, employers and employees have a right to be informed about the hazards and exposures of the chemicals to which they are subjected, as well as any protective measures they can take.

Chemical classification, labeling, and safety data sheet regulations were recently amended by OSHA to coincide with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. With this, According to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard, product manufacturers must issue salon owners with a safety data sheet (SDS) for every product used in the salon that may consist of hazardous chemical substances at 1% or higher or, that could be released into the atmosphere above OSHA or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ limits. Chemicals with 0.1 percent or higher that may cause cancer should also be provided with SDS.

The SDS discusses the product’s health risks and provides safety guidelines for workers. In general, the SDS must include information on:

  • When using the product, users are exposed to health and safety concerns.
  • Ingredients in the product that has the possibility of being hazardous
  • Exposure of users to the ingredients through various manners.
  • Precautions for using and storing the product safely, as well as what to do in an emergency

Preventing Nail Salon Worker Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens

There are several options for preventing employees from inhaling these hazardous substances.

Numerous salons are upgrading to vented workstations, which prevent dust and pollutants out of the eyes of technicians and clients. There are additional rules in place to ensure that salons have various air entry and exit points, and a ventilation system is required in some regions to help with this process.

Furthermore, these health risks have been recognized by national organizations and government agencies and have been urging salons for enhancement. Among the groups working to educate nail technicians and salon owners about the concerns is the California Health Nail Salon Collaborative, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The steps to avoid exposure and preserve worker health, according to OSHA, are as follows:

  • After using disposable gloves, immediately throw them at the proper disposal.
  • Request that the person uses a cotton ball or tissue to stop the bleeding, and then dispose of the spent material in the right receptacle after the bleeding has stopped.
  • Contact with blood or bodily fluids must be avoided as much as possible.
  • Clients with cuts, open wounds or sores, blisters, or infected skin on their hands, feet, or nails should be discouraged.

Many institutions, notably the Boston Public Health Commission and the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, restrict working on customers with serious health difficulties.

  • Consider being vaccinated against hepatitis B. Employees who will be exposed to blood or other infectious materials at work are eligible for a free hepatitis B immunization.
  • Do not touch the blood if the customer is bleeding.
  • To avoid spreading germs, wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Wash your hands before and after working with clients.
  • Immunization policies differ by state, therefore check with your local or state health authority for the most up-to-date information on hepatitis B vaccination policies in your area.
  • Open cuts or broken skin should be bandaged to avoid contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials from a customer or employee.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Follow your state’s cosmetology board’s standards;
  • Clean and disinfect instruments after each client. Instruments can be cleaned and disinfected in a variety of methods.
  • Disinfect foot basins and spas after each client and at the end of the day to avoid exposing employees and other clients. Follow the guidelines set forth by your state’s cosmetology board for cleaning and disinfecting foot basins and spas.
  • Offer your employees training for bloodborne pathogens in line with the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.


Each year, as more individuals visit nail salons, the risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV, and other communicable diseases increases. Even though each of these hazards poses a significant health risk to consumers, there are simple solutions for beauty establishments to adjust their current practices and lessen the risk of infectious disease transmission.

You can also offer your staff bloodborne pathogens training which will increase their awareness and ensure they understand and apply the concept of universal precautions when working in a nail salon.

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