Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Ways to Prevent Exposures to Chemicals

Safe Work Practices

You need to use safe work practices to avoid regular and accidental exposures to dangerous chemicals in nail products.

Here are a few options to protect yourself and your co-workers.

  • Store chemicals in small bottles with small openings and label them with the information from the manufacturer’s label.
  • Close bottles tightly when you are not using them so the product does not spill or get into the air.
  • Use metal trashcans with tight, self-closing lids to keep the nail products soaked on cotton balls and other trash from evaporating and getting into the salon’s air.
    • Put cotton balls and other soaked materials into the trashcans immediately.
    • If you do not have metal trashcans with self-closing lids, put cotton balls and soaked materials in a sealed bag before putting them in the trashcan and keep the trash covered.
    • Empty trashcans often and remove from the work area to the outside garbage at the end of each day.

Safe Work Practices (Continued)

  • Use only the amount of product you need to perform services.
  • When possible, do not keep extra products at a workstation.
  • Follow instructions for safely disposing of used chemicals. DO NOT pour them down your sink or toilet, throw them on the ground or down outside drains, or pour them onto cotton balls.
    • Some chemicals must be disposed of in a specific way. For example, used liquid acetone must be saved in a fire department approved metal container and disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Wash your hands before eating, drinking, putting on cosmetics, and smoking.
  • When you have a break, go outside to get some fresh air. This will give you a chance to get away from chemicals in the salon’s air.
  • Keep food and drinks covered at all times, and do not store or eat food in work areas.

Keep Products Off of Skin and Out of Eyes

Wear the appropriate type of disposable gloves when handling and transferring products.

There are several ways to keep hazardous products off your skin and out of your eyes.

Here are a few ways:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts to protect your arms and pants or skirts that are at least knee-length to protect your lap from acrylic nail and other dusts.
  • Wash your hands before and after working on clients; before eating, drinking, putting on cosmetics or smoking; and after handling or transferring products.
  • Wear goggles and the appropriate type of disposable gloves when handling and transferring products. For example, nitrile gloves (usually blue or purple) protect against many chemicals used in nail salon products, but latex or vinyl gloves are appropriate when handling acetone.
  • Replace gloves immediately if there are cuts, tears, or holes in them.
  • Cover and protect cuts or cracks in your skin. Damaged skin can increase chemical absorption and exposure.
  • Do not continue to use a product if you see signs of skin irritation.

Respiratory Protection

dust mask
Paper masks will not protect you from breathing in harmful gases, vapors, or dusts.

Employers need to determine if the levels of dust and/or chemical vapors in the salon pose a risk to employees. They must then decide if respirators are necessary to protect workers.

Evaluating Possible Hazards

Because chemicals can cause effects even at low levels, you may want to wear a respirator to protect yourself while transferring chemicals or when buffing and filing nails.

Types of Respirators

Let’s take a look at some types of respirators that may be used in nail salons.

Dust Masks

Many nail salon workers wear paper or cloth medical masks. These are not the same as dust masks (filtering face pieces) and even when stuffed with tissues, they will not protect you from breathing in harmful gases, vapors, or dusts.

Filtering Face Piece Respirator

dust mask
Filtering Face Piece Respirator

You should only use NIOSH-approved filtering face piece respirators.

This type of respirator will help protect you from dust, viruses, and germs. However, it will not protect your from vapors or gases. Some N95s have filters which reduce chemical odors, but they may not protect you from harmful chemical exposure levels.

Filtering face piece respirators are helpful when you are buffering or filing nails and/or using acrylic powders.

You don’t need to wear the mask all the time, only when you are working on a client. When you put on this mask, make sure your hands are clean to avoid irritating your skin.

Half-Mask Respirators

half mask
Half-mask Respirators with Cartridges

Half-mask respirators with chemical cartridges offer protection from breathing in chemical vapors.

This type of respirator will help protect you from breathing in chemical gases and vapors, such as formaldehyde. Your employer may require you to wear this type of respirator when you transfer chemicals from larger bottles to smaller ones or when you need to clean up large spills.

If you must use this type of respirator, your employer is required to develop a respiratory protection program and must evaluate the appropriate cartridge for the job task and provide it to you. You must also be fitted and trained to wear a respirator properly. As an employee, you must know how and when to change cartridges. Your employer must provide you with a cartridge change out schedule.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. When disposing of used chemicals, it is okay to pour them down your sink or toilet.

2. Who must decide if respirators are necessary in a salon?

3. What type of gloves protect you against many of the chemicals used in nail salon products?

4. _____ gloves are appropriate when handling acetone.

5. Which type of respirators requires your employer to develop a respiratory protection program?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.