Nail Salons: What You’re Walking Intoby Sarah Tang on Sep, 19 2012
It’s no news that beauty products and processes often involve some chemical ingredients and questionable procedures that are not for the weak of heart. Even a nail salon, a beauty station girls commonly visit for a touch up and recharge, is fraught with dangers.
I may be over-exaggerating. Nail salons are just as accepted as tanning salons were before cancer awareness. ..Regardless, I recently got my nails done at a nail salon for the first time and I was not prepared for the experience. I was expecting a more sociocultural experience, like the exchange comedian Angela Johnson had with a Vietnamese nail artist (see here). However, my manicurist was not much of a conversationalist, and she left me to watch and wonder what she was doing to my fingers. So for those just as clueless as me, this is what happens.
It begins with cuticle removal. Yes, the skin at your nail bed is pushed down and cut away to make the nail appear larger and therefore more beautiful. To prep, the manicurist had me soak my fingers in warm water, then she applied a substance from a bottle labled “cuticle softener” onto my cuticles. This couldn’t be good.
The manicurist, like a dentist, pulled out her metal tools and laid them on a towel, then quickly and painlessly (unlike a dentist) removed my cuticles. I have nothing against my cuticles, so I kind of miss them. (Especially since cuticles help protect your nails from infections, such as paronychia, an infection around the base of the nail fold.) But she did clean up my hangnails, made the whites of my nails whiter, and buffed them to a shine.
Next, the more familiar but probably just as unhealthy process of painting the nail. The salon was well ventilated, considering how many nails were being painted. There were more than several layers involved and some nail paint thinner salvaged the partially dried up bottle. It’s easy for me to exclaim at the amount of chemicals involved in my nail care, but regular and prolonged exposure puts all the salon workers at a major health risk (read more).
Lastly, to top it off, there is a UV lamp for customers to dry their nails under, like a tanning bed for your hands. Apparently it takes hours for nail polish to fully dry. Well. There’s very little that can be done without your hands, including paying the nail salon artists (they kindly helped my friend and I with our wallets). This provides you a good moment to appreciate your working limbs, and look forward to the moment that your nail polish chips and you don’t need to care anymore.
Anyways, the dangers of beauty should be no surprise to anyone, so next time (particularly the first time) you walk into a nail salon, be ready.