I remember my husband reading an article about how prolonged exposure to some nail salon products could lead to birth defects. It was absolutely terrifying. Beside that, I have also experienced skin problems, headaches and respiratory irritation for years.
Hanh Nguyen, Nail Care Professional
I’m Hanh Nguyen and I’ve been a nail technician in the Bay Area for 8 years. In November 2014 I suffered a miscarriage of my second child. I found out I was pregnant just a few weeks after graduating from manicurist school and starting working at a nail salon. In my fifth month, I started getting abnormal symptoms and awful stretching pains. I was bleeding and it was getting steadily heavier. In the middle of the shift, the pain was so intense that I had to call my husband to take me to the hospital, where I found out that I already lost my baby. Back then, I did not think my miscarriage may be linked with all the chemicals that I have to expose more than 10 hours a day and 7 days a week. I remember my husband reading an article about how prolonged exposure to some nail salon products could lead to birth defects. It was absolutely terrifying. Beside that, I have also experienced skin problems, headaches and respiratory irritation for years.
Bulk products are used widely in all nail salons because of their price. I have seen many bulk products that don’t even have labels, not to mention the ingredient list. I think it falls to the owners’ choice to pick what products are safe to use in the salon. As a worker, I feel like I don’t have a voice in selecting what product I use in the nail salons. Even though I know it’s harmful, I still have to use it. Not fully understanding the label because of the language barrier is also a challenge for me and all nail salon workers who don’t speak English as a first language. And, I feel like it won’t be easy to understand even if it is translated to Vietnamese because it is all in scientific words.
I wish the cosmetic/manicurist school could teach us how to read the ingredient list, how to distinguish what chemicals are toxic and how to minimize the exposure. Since joining the CA Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and attending their training, I have learned a lot about the trio of toxic chemicals in nail salon products and workplace safety but it is not enough because I still cannot address it to the owner and help change the system.