Photo courtesy City of Santa Monica

PICO NEIGHBORHOOD — Santa Monica has become the first city in Southern California to officially recognize nail salons that create safer environments for their workers, owners and customers by using less toxic products, city officials said.

Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day on Monday visited one such salon — Nancy’s Nails — on Pico Boulevard to officially recognize four local salon owners for agreeing to participate in the Healthy Nail Salon Program.

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day (right) talks shop with nail salon owner Chau Nguyen of Nancy’s Nails who took the pledge to create a safer, healthier work environment. He’s been in the nail salon business for 28 years. (Photo courtesy Thuan Nguyen)

Santa Monica joins the city and county of San Francisco and Alameda County in the growing movement to use recognition programs to promote healthier and safer nail salon environments, city officials said.

On July 16, 2013, City Hall, in partnership with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, held a kick-off press event to announce their intent to implement a Healthy Nail Salon Program. Since then Cute Nails, Nancy’s Nails, Santa Monica Beach Nail Spa and Tracy’s Nails have worked diligently to meet the requirements that warrant Healthy Nail Salon recognition.

On a daily basis, for long hours, nail salon owners and workers handle solvents, glues, polishes and other beauty care products containing a multitude of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, allergies, respiratory, neurological and reproductive harm. City Hall is concerned with their repeated and prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals.

Some of those chemicals include: acetone (nail polish remover): headaches, dizziness and irritated eyes, skin and throat; ethyl acetate (nail polish, nail polish remover, fingernail glue): irritated eyes, stomach, skin, nose, mouth, and throat, high levels can cause fainting; formaldehyde (nail polish, nail hardener): difficulty breathing, including coughing, asthma-like attacks, and wheezing; allergic reactions; irritated eyes, skin, and throat; formaldehyde can cause cancer.

To reduce exposure to these harmful chemicals, the Healthy Nail Salon Program requires that salons go through a rigorous checklist of safety measures including use of gloves by all technicians, installation of localized ventilation, hours of training for all employees, and choosing safer nail products. This voluntary program is available to all of the approximately 30 nail salons across the city.

There are roughly 120,000 licensed nail technicians in 48,000 salons across the state, according to a 2012 report by the L.A. Times. About four in five are Vietnamese women. Their health has long been an important issue for advocates, who say salon employees work long hours in hazardous conditions and suffer health problems as a result.

Actress and former model Tippi Hedren, who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” is believed to have given rise to the Vietnamese nail salon movement in the 1970s. According to Nails Magazine, Hedren’s nails were admired when she visited a Vietnamese refugee camp in Sacramento, which prompted her to help refugees receive training in the nail business.

There’s a national campaign with funding from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, in partnership with the U.S. surgeon general, to help communities develop programs like Santa Monica’s that can be replicated elsewhere.

The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative surveyed hundreds of consumers on the Third Street Promenade and found that roughly 80 percent support a city program that calls on nail salons to use less toxic products and 95 percent would be more likely to go to a less toxic salon than one that is not.

For more information about the Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and the nail salon community visit

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.