Hairdressing, Nail and Beauty Safety

The hairdressing industry has many hazards these include, hazardous chemicals and substances, risk of infection, dermatitis and R.S.I (Occupational Overuse).

The following fact sheets and checklists have been produced to assist you in identifying and managing the major risks in this industry.


Many products used in hairdressing salons are classed as hazardous substances. Some products, such as shampoos, are not classified as “hazardous” but may still cause adverse health effects such as dermatitis.

Workers in the hairdressing, nail and beauty industry may be exposed to a wide range of products containing hazardous substances, including:

  • Hair dyes
  • Bleaches
  • Permanent wave solutions
  • Shampoos
  • Hair styling agents
  • Nail and skin care products
  • Straighteners
  • Brow and lash tints
  • Chemical peels
  • Peroxides
  • Wax solvents
  • Disinfectants and cleaning products Exposure to some of these chemicals can increase the risk of various health problems. Some of these are explained below.

Some Health effects from exposure to Hazardous Substances


Dermatitis (a general term meaning inflammation of the skin) There are two types of dermatitis.

Irritant contact – dermatitis results from contact with irritant substances, such as water and detergents in shampoo.

Allergic contact – Dermatitis occurs when a person develops an allergic response to a chemical. Asthma (a respiratory disease, which narrows the air passages and results in breathing difficulties) Chemicals used in the hairdressing, nail and beauty industry may aggravate pre-existing asthma or cause occupational asthma.

Workers in the hairdressing, nail and beauty industry may be exposed to chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer. There is limited and inconsistent data to support this. Hazardous substances can enter the body through the skin, by inhalation or by swallowing. Acute health effects, such as eye and throat irritation may occur almost immediately.

Chronic health effects, such as allergic contact dermatitis, take some time to develop. The likelihood of a hazardous substance causing health effects depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The toxicity of the substance
  • The amount of substance that workers are exposed to
  • The length of exposure
  • The frequency of exposure
  • The route of entry into the body, e.g. skin absorption, inhalation or ingestion

You can determine whether a product is a hazardous substance by reading its label and material safety data sheet (MSDS). If you are unsure contact your supplier.


An MSDS provides information about ingredients, potential health effects, safe use, first aid and storage of the hazardous substance. You are required to:

  • Keep a register containing a list of all hazardous substances used at your workplace and the current MSDS for each substance
  • Obtain a copy from your supplier if it was not supplied with the first order
  • Keep a copy of the MSDS close to where the hazardous substance is being used


Each container of a hazardous substance must have a label attached to it. The label must be in English and state the product name, risk and safety phrases. The label may also state the ingredient’s chemical name. If a hazardous substance is transferred from one container into a second container, and the substance is not entirely used immediately, you must ensure that the second container is properly labeled. Chemicals must not be decanted into a food or beverage container.

Store all unknown substances in isolation until the contents can be identified and properly labeled. If the substance cannot be identified, dispose of it. You should contact the Environmental Protection Agency for advice on disposal requirements.


  • Provide gloves, glasses, aprons and respiratory protection as required by your hazardous substances risk assessment. Guidance can be found in the MSDS.
  • Provide workers with training on the fit, maintenance and use of personal protective equipment.
  • Make sure workers apply barrier creams on exposed skin areas if bothered by skin irritation.
  • Make sure workers cover broken skin with a waterproof dressing.
  • Make sure workers wear eye protection and covered shoes to protect against chemical splashes. Other control measures apply specifically to each industry.


If a risk assessment shows that you or a worker may be exposed to a hazardous substance, you must prevent the exposure or reduce it as much as possible. Where there is airborne exposure, you must control exposure so that the relevant national exposure standard for that substance is not exceeded.


Work involving hazardous substances, such as perming, hair colouring and the application of artificial nails, should occur in a well-ventilated area. Natural ventilation generally does not provide sufficient airflow to be suitable for use as a method for controlling exposure to airborne contaminants, such as chemical vapors, mists and dusts in hairdressing, nail and beauty salons.

Air conditioning dilutes the contaminated air rather than removing it, and circulates airborne contaminants around the room. Unless there is uniform airflow, it is likely that pockets of air will remain contaminated for long periods. Local exhaust ventilation is a more reliable means for removing airborne contaminants at the source, before they can be breathed in. Care must be taken to ensure the system draws contaminated air away from, rather than past a person’s nose and mouth.


  • Do strong odors linger for more than 10 minutes?
  • Can strong odors be detected at a distance from the source (i.e. the other side of the room)?
  • Do you still smell product odors when you open the salon in the morning?
  • Do the walls ever “sweat” with moisture or the windows become foggy?
  • Do clients complain of offensive odours?
  • Make sure MSDSs are available for all chemicals used in the salon.
  • Are workers provided with suitable information, training and supervision on the safe use of chemicals and PPE (personal protective equipment)?
  • Are the chemicals stored away from energy sources, such as fuse boxes, naked flames, heat and intense light sources?
  • Store flammable chemicals in a cool place in a securely locked fireproof cabinet.
  • Make sure chemicals are out of reach for children.
  • Make sure procedures are in place for the clean up of spills using a suitable absorbent material. Refer to the MSDS.
  • Clean up chemical spills promptly.
  • Make sure that spilled chemicals and equipment used for chemical clean up are disposed of appropriately. Contact the Environmental Protection Agency for further advice.
  • Purchase chemicals in ready-to-use packages rather than transferring from large containers.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke in areas that contain chemicals.
  • Wash hands with a pH neutral soap or barrier cream before eating, drinking or smoking.

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