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Nail Salons and Your Health

June 27, 2016

What says “summer in the city” for so many of us, more than a great pedicure? Now that you are a parent, I’m sure you’ve wondered about the safety and toxicity of your nail polish choices, of the entire salon experience, and whether you can expose your kids to this stuff. Read here about some valuable things we’ve learned, and enjoy a 25% discount with a code at the end of this piece at a wonderful, safe salon as a faithful A Child Grows reader. 

~Rebecca Conroy, Editor of A Child Grows in Brooklyn

I have been lucky enough to have interviewed Ruth Kallens- an entrepreneur and expert on safe, healthy nail polishes and salons. I wanted to get an idea of what makes a “healthy” nail salon. As the founder of Van Court Studio in Manhattan’s financial district, Ruth knew that being a salon proprietor was in her destiny, but she would only do it if it was non-toxic, eco-friendly, and supportive of those making polishes and products with the same ethics and standards.

You may be familiar with the term, “5 Free.” This refers to a nail polish that is free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, and camphor. How can you tell if a polish is 5 free?  Well, most lacquers tout the fact that they’re at least 5 free and put it on their bottles. Interesting fact: Revlon nail polishes are 5 free! Who would have guessed?

Most recently, EWG published an article uncovering that TPHP is a toxin found in a number of lacquers that are not 5 Free. TPHP is an endocrine disrupter that enters the body via nail polish. In studies, TPHP has caused reproductive and developmental irregularities. A great polish will not only be “5-free,” but 7 and 9-free! 9 free means free of formaldehyde, camphor, toluene, DBP (dibutyl pthalate and phthalates), formaldehyde resin, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, and lead.

Group of bright nail polishes isolated on white. With clipping path

At a typical nail salon, you will not only inhale toxic fumes (that can cause cancer, breathing problems, reproductive issues, and developmental disorders), but you will potentially be exposed to warts, athlete’s foot, and fungus- all of which are highly transmittable. It’s actually very likely that you will be exposed to these things at most regular salons.  It is of utmost importance that salons protect their nail technicians and customers, and turn away clients who have contractable diseases. Most places, sadly though, care first and foremost about their revenue and would never, ever consider saying no to any customer. You know the drill- you are commanded to pick out your color (often which is diluted with even more chemicals to thin it out and make it last at the salon) and steered toward an open (kind of clean?) basin and chair. As Ruth explained to me, the actual basin/sink/container that your feet are soaking in at most of these places is, in itself, connected with a filthy, bacteria-ridden plumbing system that is almost impossible to properly clean and keep sanitized. Stand-alone basins that can be picked up, emptied, and sanitized are preferred. Ventilation and air purification are musts in a healthy salon, as well as paraben-free moisturizers used on your skin.

One installment of the NY Times nail salon series uncovered that medical research shows a direct correlation between nail products used in toxic nail salons and serious health problems. Salon workers can come down with breathing problems. Their symptoms are similar to smokers, secondhand smokers and asthma patients. Some experience constant nose bleeds and others have experienced sarcoidosis (an inflammatory disease) of the lungs. In scans, they appeared as if covered with granules of sand, streaked by tiny scars. When asked how you can tell if a salon has a proper ventilation or air purification system, Kallens said to simply ask the salon. Chances are, you can tell what’s going on by the type of response you receive to this crucial question.

As for the sanitation and safety of the nail tools, Ruth explained that, “It’s also always smart to ask if a nail studio uses an autoclave (a medical grade sterilizer) which your dentist uses for his tools and implements. If a studio uses an autoclave, it’s safe to use their medal tools. New York State bans cuticle clipping, and sees it as minor surgery. Van Court believes in pushing the cuticles back. We need our cuticles. Cuticles are the barrier to the body and help keep infection and bacteria out. It is OK to clip hang nails, which are pieces of non-live tissue. It’s always a good idea to bring your own tools. That way, you know where they’ve been.”

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Aren’t these Floss Gloss bottles adorable?

I definitely loved all of the polishes Ruth carries and uses at Van Court, and I wanted to share them with you guys! My favorite was Floss Gloss (kind of because of the adorable 80’s style bottles that remind me of childhood, but also the colors are totally my style), Deborah Lippmann (who has the coolest color names ever including: “I Know What Boys Like,” Flowers in Her Hair,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” and “Crush on You”), Londontown, Lauren B., and Jin Soon.

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If you would like to luxuriate in a healthy first-time salon experience at Van Court with a 25% discount as an A Child Grows in Brooklyn reader, please make your appointment and use the code “BKCHLD.”  Call the salon, or book an appointment here! Enjoy!

90 Water Street, Fl 2
NYC 10005

(212) 509-2222