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The health risks everyone should know before going to the nail salon

If you’re a frequent nail salon customer, you may be picking up more than just a manicure. A new study finds that people who are regulars at hair and nail salons acquire more skin rashes and nail fungus than those who visit less often.

For the study, which was published in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety, Rutgers School of Public Health researchers surveyed 90 hair and nail salon clients in three New Jersey counties. They found that 52 percent of participants reported skin or fungal symptoms, which were most common for customers who had gone to salons at least three times within the past year.

Surprisingly, nail salon customers who went less often had a higher rate of respiratory problems. But the researchers note that’s probably because they didn’t return to the salon after experiencing respiratory symptoms.

The study — one of the first to focus on the health risks that salon clients, rather than employees, face — revealed that several health issues can crop up from a nail or hair salon visit. “A number of adverse health outcomes have been documented among salon clients, including contact dermatitis resulting from exposure to allergens or irritants found in nail products, including polish and artificial nails,” lead study author Lindsey Milich, who conducted it as part of her master’s degree research at Rutgers, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

She continues, “Nail clippers and files that are used more than once can increase risk of contamination with pathogens including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Other risks include ultraviolet ray exposure of the skin and respiratory irritation from poor indoor air quality, as well as chemicals used in hair coloring/straightening products (like formaldehyde) that can result in allergic reactions of the skin, eyes, and lungs.”

For some, these resulted in what Milich calls a possible “healthy client effect” — meaning that customers who experienced respiratory problems in particular probably didn’t return to the salon in order to protect their own health. “Those who experienced respiratory symptoms including itchy/watery eyes, trouble breathing, headache/lightheadedness, and nausea may have been less likely to revisit salons,” she says.

Dermatologist Kristina Goldenberg of Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she has a few concerns when it comes to nail salons. “Firstly, I worry about how well the instruments are cleaned and transmission of infection if the instruments are not sterilized,” she says. “Secondly, if the cuticles are removed too rigorously, infection and inflammation of the nail matrix (the nail factory) may follow. This often needs to be treated with antibiotics, and the nail may start to grow abnormally. Lastly, I worry about nail fungus if the salon does not take proper measures to clean all equipment.”

So what can you do to protect your health at the salon, aside from making sure it’s well ventilated? “Always ask how the instruments are cleaned,” suggests Goldenberg. “Soaking in an antibacterial solution is not enough! All instruments should be sterilized using an autoclave. When your nails are being treated, always tell the manicurist to push back the cuticles and to never cut them. Avoid gel manicures, since they can significantly thin out the nails. And lastly, do not walk barefoot in a salon or a spa.”

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