San Francisco Department of the Environment

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Healthy Nail Salon Program

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San Francisco has about 250 nail salons employing over 2,200 nail technicians, primarily women of reproductive age. In San Francisco, a large majority of nail salon employees are Vietnamese and speak little English. They work long hours without a break and without health insurance.

Nail salon employees are exposed to industrial chemicals without adequate protection or education. During their professional life, they have repeated and prolonged exposure to toxic products and unsafe practices, which increase their chances of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and asthma. Currently, there is a lack of effective, enforceable laws regulating the level of exposure for nail salon employees. San Francisco was the first city in the country to adopt legislation to create a recognition program to help nail salons use safer products and practices and highlight them for their efforts. 

Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program

The San Francisco Healthy Nail Salon Program is a free and voluntary program open to all nail salons in the City.

The goal of the Healthy Nail Salon Program is to reduce exposure of nail salon employees and residents to the toxic chemicals in nail products. The benefits of the Healthy Nail Salon Program include:

• Enhanced health and well being of staff
• Safer environment for customers
• Recognition and promotion by San Francisco’s Department of Environment
• Potential to attract new customers

Process of Creating the Program

To protect the health of nail salon technicians and customers, San Francisco adopted legislation to create a recognition program to help nail salons implement safer practices and highlight them for their efforts. In 2012 regulation was adopted  and San Francisco’s Healthy Nail Salon Program was created. For information on how the program was created and program details please see the Healthy Nail Salon Program White Paper.   

Benefits of Becoming Recognized as a Healthy Nail Salon

San Francisco’s Recognized Healthy Nail Salons can:

  • Attract more clients – The Recognition Program offers the salons a plaque, a decal and certificates for all employees to help them stand out from other salons. The salons are also mentioned on SF Environment’s website, its partner websites and in newsletters.
  • Enhance the health and well being of employees– In many salons, employees are also family members. This incentivizes the owners to look for business practices that will benefit the health of their employees. Better products and practices also mean fewer sick days, lower turnover of employees and happier customers.
  • Create a safer environment in the salon for customers – Studies have shown that reduction in indoor odor at a nail salon has been known to increase customer retention in nail salons. Similarly, safer products and practices encourage customers to feel more comfortable. This could lead to an increase in the value and frequency of the service.

Process of Recognition:

Nail salons interested in becoming recognized as a Healthy Nail Salon can benefit from the free training and recognition process available to them. This is a 3 step process:

  1. Free Training: SF Environment conducts a free one hour training in Vietnamese and English to train all nail salon employees. The training can be held at the salon or in a centralized location.
  2. Meeting Criteria: Once the training is done, the salon owners and employees must work together to make sure all the criteria to become a Healthy Nail Salon are met. Apart from procuring safer products and implementing safer practices, the salons are also encouraged to maintain the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all their products, make sure they store and dispose their chemicals safely and have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed.
  3. Site audit: Once the criteria are met, the salon owner can request a site visit to make sure all the required measures have been met. When the salon passes the audit, they become recognized as a Healthy Nail Salon.

San Francisco’s Healthy Nail Salons

San Francisco currently recognizes a growing number of nail salons located throughout the city 

To learn more about the program or request a consultation, call: 415.355.3700 (English) or 415.562.5516 (Vietnamese).


Related Downloads

Healthy Nail Salon White Paper – A summary of the efforts to implement the Healthy Nail Salon Program in San Francisco
Healthy Nail Salon Registration form - English & Vietnamese
Healthy Nail Salon Application form - English & Vietnamese
Ventilation System Options by brand and function - English
Ventilation System Options by brand and function - Vietnamese
EPA Nail Salon Checklist - English & Vietnamese
Factsheets about choosing safer products, equipment and disposal - English & Vietnamese
Healthy Nail Salon Program Training Presentation - English & Vietnamese
Healthy Nail Salon Program Brief Training Video – Vietnamese with English subtitles

Additional Resources

Regulations defining the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program
Evaluating a Count-based Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program
California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative website
Healthy Nail Salon Program in King County, Washington
Nail Salon Health & Safety Resources by Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP)
Nail salon staff and customers are at risk of exposure to the various chemicals used in the salon (Video, 3 minutes)

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