Nail bars and nail salons continue to expand across the country in line with the popularity of decorative nail designs. The industry was recently highlighted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as being a particular cause for concern regarding injuries to both customers and staff. As in other areas of the UK beauty industry, nail bars are unregulated, and this often results in them employing poorly trained staff and failing to follow basic safety procedures.
The most popular service in nail bars is the application of acrylic nails. Certain nail bars persist in using acrylic products which contain the dangerous chemical, methyl methacrylate (MMA), associated with a host of medical problems. Essentially, the rise in nail bar accidents over the past 10 years is due to a rapidly expanding, unregulated industry in which workers use a number of dangerous chemicals on a daily basis.
Customers should expect that a nail bar's staff will be fully trained and competent in the handling and storage of nail products and solutions. Skin patch tests should be conducted on all new clients to detect any possible adverse reaction to products.
All nail bars are covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. This requires them to control risks and protect the health of both customers and employees. This will include providing adequate ventilation in public areas. Chemicals in nail products may cause allergic skin allergies or breathing disorders, including asthma which may result from exposure to chemicals or acrylic dust.
Nail extensions has become one of the most popular beauty treatments in the UK, a procedure involving the application of acrylic (or false nails) over the top of the natural fingernails. Beauty technicians are expected to display a reasonable standard of competence when applying nail extensions, and may be sued for negligence if their avoidable errors cause an injury to a client.
The chemicals used to apply nail extensions can cause permanent damage to the natural fingernails, while a fungal infection may take many months to treat effectively, in the meantime proving unsightly and embarrassing. Where a beauty salon or nail bar is at fault for such complications, it is only natural that a customer will seek some form of compensation.
Among the most important priorities for a nail extensions practitioner is to ensure that the premises is properly ventilated, and that all equipment is properly sterilised prior to use. Skin patch tests should be carried out on new customers given the possibility of allergic reactions to chemicals contained in the nail extensions adhesive, particularly when acrylics are based on the compound MMA.
MMA has been known to cause internal damage to organs such as the lungs and kidneys, as well as trigger allergic reactions. Some nail bars continue to use MMA-based products, as they are generally a lot cheaper than products containing EMA, which are far safer. Both nail salon clients and staff can also be left with ongoing dermatological problems following over-exposure to chemicals such as MMA, or long-term use of nail varnish and remover.
Lack of regulation of beauty salons and nail bars in the UK means that customers having nail extensions applied may be exposed to a range of health risks, emphasising the importance of choosing a reputable practitioner to carry out the procedure. Despite calls to ban the use of MMA in acrylic nail extensions products, the compound is still widely used, even after the dangers have been widely publicised.
There are two principal potential dangers with manicure treatments. Firstly, hygiene standards at beauty salons need to be consistently high to prevent the spread of infections among both customers and staff. Secondly, products used during manicures, such as nail polish, contain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions among a minority of people.
One of the most important concerns for nail salons is in ensuring that the instruments used during a manicure are hygienic and properly sterilised. Metal instruments, including scissors, tweezers and nail files, should be sterilised using an effective hot or cold method. Items that cannot be sterilised, such as emery boards, should never be reused. A tiny cut sustained during a manicure will allow bacteria to quickly and effectively enter the body. Manicurists must maintain high personal sanitary standards, including making sure that latex gloves are worn and disposed of after use.
Acute and chronic infections of the nail bed will require specialist medical treatment to resolve. With both types of paronychia, areas of skin around the nail will appear red and slightly swollen. Pus may accumulate under the skin and nail. The nail itself may appear discoloured, or ridged, where the shape of the nail has become distorted. Both bacterial and fungal infections may be persistent, and in serious cases may spread to infect multiple fingernails or toenails.
Nail salons must conduct skin patch tests on new customers due to the large number of chemicals contained in products used during manicure treatments which may cause an allergic reaction, including nail polish, nail polish removers, base coats, top coats and acrylic products.
Lack of regulation of the nail bar industry in the UK and workforce composition characteristics also pose problems in terms of effective industry safety standards. Nail technicians do not need any qualifications to offer their services to the public, while figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 38% of nail technicians are employed part-time, while 20% are self-employed. When opting for a manicure therefore, it is essential to make a careful choice of where and with whom you have the treatment done.
Trimming the cuticle skin on nails is a delicate and precise procedure for a manicurist to perform. If they cut the cuticle back too far, or penetrate the skin, bacteria and viruses will be able to enter the body through even the most tiny cuts around the nail. Proper training and experience is therefore required to carry out the treatment in a safe manner. An overly aggressive technique is likely to cause skin damage and increase the risk of a nail bed infection.
We have recently dealt with cases in which nail treatments at nail bars and salons have gone disastrously wrong for clients. In the resulting compensation claims we have recovered damages for pain and suffering, as well as medical and travel expenses and loss of earnings for time off work. Compensation awards for pain and suffering alone may be in excess of £3,000.