From acrylic nails to nail art, the nail craze has inspired many aestheticians to specialize as nail technicians. Although mostly conducted in a seated position, this profession is riskier than it looks!

At first sight, a nail technician’s work seems much easier than waxing or standing in an overheated shop all day. However, if you have chosen this profession, you know it can cause physical discomfort, and when precautions are not followed, serious health issues.

Studies have shown that the chemicals used by nail technicians can cause health concerns. Solvents, glues, gels, acrylic resins, thinners, and paint brush cleaners release substances that can be irritating and cause allergic reactions in the respiratory tract and on the skin.

Aches and pains related to bad posture and repeated movements also occur frequently. They can appear at any age, and often become chronic problems after a few months or years.

Although the situation seems pessimistic, daily gestures and precautions can help prevent these side effects.

Here is a short list made by nail technicians and instructors, who have decided to share tricks of the trade gathered during their careers.


At the forefront of occupational hazards are the chemicals used daily for the application of false nails, or the removal or application of nail polishes. Many of these chemical components (ethyl methacrylate, ethylene dimethacrylate, formaldehyde, etc.) emit strong odours. When inhaled regularly, they can irritate airways and can even cause allergic reactions. Primers, used to facilitate the bonding of resins, or glues used to apply capsules can irritate and damage the skin. Dust particles generated by filing and buffing stay in the air, and, furthermore, spaces dedicated to nail care are often small and poorly
ventilated. Manufacturers have become aware of these issues and have begun Developing less allergenic products. In the meantime, the only solution remains good ventilation and limited exposure. A ventilation system that draws air outside is ideal, yet is not always possible, for example, in a shopping centre. Wearing gloves when handling hazardous products can also be helpful, but can make a nail technician’s job more difficult.


If your workplace allows it, open doors and windows to create a draft.

Particles stay suspended in dry air and are more likely to be inhaled. Use a humidifier, especially during winter, so harmful particles can settle.
Store harmful products in a separate, well-ventilated area.
Use airtight bottles with a release mechanism that delivers just enough product.
Empty and clean trash cans containing soiled cotton pads several times per day.
Capture dust and prevent it from spreading by using a sponge or damp cloth to clean your workspace.
Wearing gloves when applying false nails or doing nail art is a challenge! Wash your hands regularly and avoid wearing jewelry that could soak up harmful chemicals and come into prolonged contact with your skin.


Pain associated with repetitive movements and poor posture are the second most frequent complaint amongst nail technicians. Bending over a table all day, using vibrating tools that engage the wrists and fingers, and the stationary aspect of the work can put a strain on the hands, arms, shoulders, and back, not to mention circulatory problems in the lower body. To avoid these problems, adapt your workstation to your specific needs and morphology. Although the seated position is most suitable for this kind of activity, taking into account the following ergonomic tips will save you many aches and pains.

What Health Specialists Recommend

A wide table that allows natural support for the technician’s and the client’s arms, about 74 cm high. Comfortable tables are slightly curved and wide enough to accommodate tools without interfering with the technician’s work.
A mobile seat that is adjustable and adapts to your gestures and morphology. A mobile chair allows freedom of movement and a better posture when reaching for tools and performing tasks.
Functional and organized drawers and storage. Accessible tools will allow you to work without having to compromise your posture.
Sufficient space around your chair to access storage modules without having to bend over.
If your workspace is small, as is often the case in shopping centres or city centres, regularly reorganize your workspace. Change the position of your table and storage modules to avoid repetitive movements and tensions in the shoulders and neck.
When used daily, a few extra grams can weigh heavily on joints and articulations!


Another frequent complaint amongst technicians is fatigued eyesight. Between French manicures and sophisticated nail art, a technician spends hours staring at tiny surface areas. Strained eyesight is almost as common for nail technicians as for professionals who work behind a screen. Working in a room with no natural light can exacerbate this problem, which is often the case in shopping centres.

What Health Specialists Recommend

Visit an optometrist. Impaired vision, even though it does not affect your daily life, can become problematic in this kind of work. Dry eyes or headaches are signs that you should consult a professional. Correcting your vision will help alleviate tired eyes.
Equip every workstation with a lamp that emits approximately 750 Lux. Ideally, it must be adjustable and equipped with a dimmer to adjust lighting to the task at hand.
Natural or artificial, sufficient lighting is essential. Avoid large contrast in lighting between your general workspace and your table. Contrasts force your eyes to continually adjust, which can increase symptoms of fatigue.


Nail clippers, cuticle sticks, and nippers are part of the long list of instruments nail technicians must have on hand.

Although the risk of injury is low, contamination can be a problem, for both parties involved. Avoid passing on dermatological issues or nail fungi by following strict hygiene protocols.


Wash metal instruments with antibacterial wipes after each client, and soaked in a disinfectant solution at the end of each day.
Wash your hands between clients. If soap and water are not readily available, use a disinfectant solution instead.

** As seen in the Fall-Winter 2018 issue of Les Nouvelles Esthétiques Spa Canada, English Edition **