Beauty salons alone generate more than $60 billion in annual sales in the U.S. and employ about 1.5 million people.  It is reported that nail salons have experienced a nine per cent over-the-year growth rate, with cosmetology and barber schools the fastest growing industry in 2011.  Massage businesses are also popping up all over the country. 

As these industries grow, attention has increased about the risks for those who maintain American’s nail, hair, faces, and bodies.   Compliance Reports focus on the safety and health of massage and salon workers.  Even though their job tasks differ from other types of jobs, the familiar descriptions of other occupations apply: chemical exposure, ergonomics and hazards.  

Hair Straightener:  Headlines were made when it was discovered that some hair smoothing/straightening products may contain formaldehyde.  These products also may release formaldehyde at levels above OSHA’s permissible limits and could be mislabeled.  OSHA states that all three put workers at risk. 

Some of these products are advertised as formaldehyde-free and containing no harsh chemicals, and the Material Data Safety Sheets list no hazardous ingredients.  Stylists, however, reported symptoms similar to those of formaldehyde exposure, including burning nose, eyes, and throat, as well as respiratory problems.  These smoothing/straightening products may release formaldehyde at levels above OSHA’s permissible limits, and could be mislabeled.  All three put workers at risk. 

Here is a brief explanation of health effects of exposure to formaldehyde exposure:

Health Effects

Formaldehyde, a colorless, pungent-smelling gas, can cause watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing in some humans exposed at elevated levels (above 0.1 parts per million). High concentrations may trigger attacks in people with asthma. There is evidence that some people can develop a sensitivity to formaldehyde. It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans.  Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer. May also cause other effects listed under “organic gases.” 

This article is not intended to prevent anyone from working in a salon, or being a client.  Its’ purpose is to convey the risks involved for persons who choose this type of work, as in any other industry.

Tomorrow we will look at other occupational hazards in the beauty world: Nails and Massage

OSHA/US Environmental Protection Agency