Not Without Gloves: Harmful Chemicals in Beauty Salons

Hairstylists and salon professionals have a unique need for superior barrier protection. There is a variety of extremely hazardous chemicals that these professionals come into contact with every day. In some cases, nail technicians or stylists may not be using the right disposable gloves for the job – or even using gloves at all! The chemicals used in salons may not pose a significant risk if you come into brief contact with them every couple of months… but for those who interact with them day after day, there are serious health consequences. Here is a list of the most common and dangerous chemicals used in salons:



This is a common ingredient in both nail polish remover and hairspray. Acetone may cause skin irritation if those working with it are not protected properly. The best gloves for professionals to wear while working with this chemical are latex. Nitrile gloves and vinyl gloves are not recommended for handling this chemical.



Found in nail polish and nail hardeners, formaldehyde is one of the riskiest chemicals for salon workers to handle because it may cause cancer after long-term exposure. Even short-term exposure can cause negative side effects such as skin irritation (also known as dermatitis.) The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommended respirators for all salon professionals handling formaldehyde. Salons are required by law to be well-ventilated, but N95-rated masks can help nail technicians prevent breathing in the chemical while they are working on a client’s nails. Disposable gloves should also be used to protect the hands of nail technicians. Latex, vinyl, and nitrile gloves offer protection from this chemical for concentrations up to 99%.



Often used in hair extension glue and lace wig glue, trichloroethylene may cause eye and skin irritation as well as nausea and disorientation. Long-term exposure may lead to dermatitis and liver and kidney damage. Nitrile or vinyl gloves are a good choice when handling products that contain this chemical.


Dibutyl phthalate

This chemical is found in nail polish and may cause skin irritation. Nitrile gloves are the best choice if a professional will be handling this chemical, as latex is less resistant to dibutyl phthalate.



This is one of the most toxic chemicals used in salons and has been linked to skin rashes, nausea, eye irritation, and headaches. It can be found in a great number of beauty products including nail polish, nail glue, hair dye, and hair piece bonding. If beauty professionals are exposed to this chemical for an extended length of time, it may lead to birth defects or miscarriages.

Toluene is such a dangerous substance that it has created a hot debate within the United States. However, with any chemical, it is important to know that concentrations may vary depending on the product. Concentrations may also vary by manufacturer, and salons need to ensure they select the right gloves for the application.  

No matter what chemical salon professionals come across, having proper barrier protection is crucial. Disposable gloves protect salon professionals from a variety of other health concerns including contact with customers’ blood and skin. Exam grade gloves are necessary to prevent the spread of blood borne pathogens.

Every year AMMEX hosts a fun #NotWithoutGloves social media contest where we challenge our followers to show us pictures of things they wouldn’t dare touch without donning a pair of disposable gloves. Most of these photos are fun and entertaining… but salon chemicals are a serious example of something you absolutely shouldn’t touch without the proper barrier protection.

Talk to us to find the right gloves for your industry.


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