Airborne Hazards in Beauty and Cosmetic Treatments

Nowadays we are very aware of our health and the effects the world around us has on it. From food and drinks to walking down the road and to the work place. The Health and Safety at Work Act covers a whole host of provisions, guidelines, laws and directives for protecting workers health. A large part of this is controlling exposure to harmful substances in the air – particularly dusts and fumes.

Why do I have to have extraction?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is very clear on this. You are legally required to reduce the risk of exposure to harmful fumes and dusts in the work place - for everyone in that environment.

This is mainly detailed in The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, more commonly known as COSHH.

COSHH states you legally have to provide exposure controls to protect not only your employees but also ANY members of the public whom may be exposed, as well as the wider environment.

Basically, you have to make sure that anything in the work place that your staff or customers breath in won’t make them ill. If it will make them ill, you have to put something in place that will either remove or reduce what they are breathing in to reduce the risk of it making them ill.

This is a vital stipulation for businesses that service the general public, such as salons, beauticians, nail bars, spray tanning and many more cosmetic and beauty treatments. Many of these treatments that can produce even small levels of harmful dusts and fumes.

Even if you are working as a lone technician and see customers in your home or their homes, you have a legal responsibility to protect them.

Why are these treatments dangerous?

Let’s look at a few of the common cosmetic products that are often used in beauty treatments and the chemicals they contain. In fact, most products used in beauty treatments have hazard warnings on them that say “Harmful if Inhaled” and “Use in well ventilated areas”.

These warning are not merely there to protect the manufactures interest, they are there because there is a proven risk to people’s health. It might be a very small but the risk increases the more you use.

So, First point of call; Nail Polish Remover.

This is readily available and used by the bucket load worldwide. It can also contain Acetone.

Acetone is pretty nasty – just look at YouTube videos of it dissolving plastics. Repeatedly breathing in the fumes (the bad smell) can commonly cause headaches (these can be severe) and it causes irritation to the eyes, skin and throat.

Removers also contain Butyl Acetate and Isopropyl Acetate – both of which cause headaches and irritation to the nose, throat, eyes and skin. Let’s try another – Artificial Nail Glue Removers.

These commonly contain Acetonitrile – The fumes from this can cause irritation to the nose and throat. It can also cause breathing problems, nausea, vomiting, weakness and even exhaustion.

Glue removers can also contain Ethyl Acetate – which can severely irritate your eyes, skin, nose, mouth, throat and stomach and at a reasonably high level of exposure – one that could be found in a small, busy salon, on a hot day – can cause dizziness or fainting.

One last one – Nail Polish itself.

Commonly found in nail polish are Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Toluene, Formaldehyde and Dibutyl Phthalate.

Besides all being awkward to say – they're pretty harmful. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, as in we can directly link people whom have been exposed to Formaldehyde to developing cancer. When mixed with air Formaldehyde vapours turn into Formic Acid and that is what you breathe in.

Toluene has also been directly linked to liver and kidney damage and most scarily, harm to pregnancies and unborn children.

All of these chemicals mentioned above are also proven to cause headaches, breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, allergic reactions, irritations to eyes, nose, skin, throat and mouth.

But I don't use much

No, you may not use much for each client but these chemicals build up over time in the atmosphere and in your body – lungs and skin cells. Each time you use it you absorb a little more of the airborne fumes. We refer to this as Repeated Exposure. This is what does the damage.

All the above is before I have even mentioned dust.

What about dust?

Dust can be just as dangerous as fumes. As an example, the process of filing false nails (either manually or via a tool such as a Dremel) will create a lot of dust. This dust can be made up of Acrylic from the nails, Dried Glue or Nail Polish particles and even Human Skin.

Not only is it unsightly on your equipment, work station, your clothes and potentially your customers – it is also bad for your health. Dust that gets into your nose and throat can irritate these areas and cause allergic reactions, coughing, sneezing and other discomforts - we call these Inhalable Dusts.

However, the real danger is the dust you can’t see. The human eye can see down to around 30 microns (Human hair is around 100 microns in thickness), but the vast majority of dust is much smaller than this. Its small enough in fact to pass into the Bronchi and Bronchioles of your lungs and effect the Alveoli – the parts of your lungs that let air pass into your blood stream.

This means they are small enough (less than 10 microns) to get in to the vital workings of your lungs and once they are there (pause for dramatic effect), they don’t come out. We call these dusts Respirable Dusts.

Dusts inhaled in the work place has been directly linked to the steady increase of occupational asthma, damage to lung tissue, masses in the lungs and worse.

Check out our Dust Extraction page for more info on dusts.

What do I do?

Luckily it is actually very easy to protect yourself and your clients – without destroying your bank balance. Firstly, make sure the working area is as open, spacious and as well ventilated as it can be. Open windows, avoid confined spaces and, you guessed it, purchase an extraction system.

Where do I get one and Which one do I need?

Well…… funny you should ask, we happen to have the perfect Beauty Fume and Dust Extractors for protecting you and your customers from the nasties in the air that beauty treatments can produce.

We have well priced products that are HSE and COSHH compliant and will remove the harmful dusts, fumes and vapours from the air in your salon and working place. There are some links below to the ideal products and we are always on hand to talk it through with you, answer any questions and help you get the right product for you. You can also see our upcoming blog post detailing the units we recommend.

Will they handle the dust?

Yes, they will. HEPA Particulate filters in our units will remove 99.997% of dust in the air down to 0.3 microns (remember a human hair is around 100 microns). Some of our unit options don’t include a HEPA Particulate filters but still have a highly effective F8 VEE Pleat Dust Filter more than capable of protecting you and your clients.

Check out our Filtered Extraction page for more details on how filters remove the harmful fumes and dusts from the extracted air.

But please remember

These extraction systems are not hoovers. Extractors will remove airborne dust (the stuff you can breathe in) but it won’t clean your work station, clothes etc. Its designed to protect people’s lungs and health. If the dust is falling straight to the floor, work surface etc you aren’t breathing it in and it doesn’t need extracting. Good housekeeping will keep on top of that. One thing it will improve is by removing the airborne dust in the first place it will stop the fine dust (in the air) from settling over time – such as overnight – improving the working areas over all cleanliness and reducing repeat exposure.

How do they work

Our SalonAir and Pure Beauty ranges work by using filters to clean the harmful dusts and fumes (smells) from the air. The cleaned air is then returned back in to the work area. We refer to this as a filtered or recirculating extractor.

In the simplest terms these types of extractors are a fan in a box with filters and a capture device – usually an arm or down draft tray (like our File-O-Way II).

The fan in the box sucks air through the arm or down draft tray with enough volume and force to “capture” the dust and fumes and draw it through the filters. It is important though to know that these systems have an effective range. The closer the capture arm is to the job making the dust and fumes the better it works.

There are two types of main filters. The dust filter and the carbon filters. The dust filters – regardless of what grade they are - work like a sieve. They are made of lots and lots of interwoven fibre’s which catch the dust particles in the air, keeping them locked in the filter while the air passes through.

The carbon filters work like a sponge. They “soak” up the nasty smells and fumes in the air. Each piece of Carbon in the filters have a massive surface area compared to their size, so they are able to “soak” up a lot of fume.

Filters do become full over time. The dust filters will clog up and will need changing periodically and the carbon filters (like a sponge under a running tap) will reach a point where they can soak up no more.

At this point the filters will need to be changed.

The cleaned air is then blown out the other end of the unit into the work place.


It is vital to make sure you know your legal responsibilities in the work place. It is also important to understand that the work place is any place you perform your job – be it a professional Salon, your home or even you customers home.

You legally have to know the hazards the jobs and products you do and use can pose to yourself, your staff and any members of the public that may be affected, such as customers.

You are also legally required to make sure you are properly protecting yourself, your staff and you customers in the work place. Make sure you know the best way to do this to ensure that a) you meet the legal requirements and b) you don’t waste money on ineffective control products.

Vodex Extraction Services

Vodex Ltd has over 30yrs experience in handling specialist extraction beauty applications and we offer a whole range of extraction products for fumes, dusts and vapours. We have worked in a very wide range of beauticians and Salons. As always if you need any further information, have any questions or just want to chat about your application or requirements then please feel free to contact us. Its really easy to do.

You can email us at, use our website Contact Form, use our online, secure web chat or call us on 01489 899070.

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