Do Beauty Salons Need Air Purifiers? | The Number One Reason Why Your Salon Needs an Air Purifier

According to the US Small Business Administration, there are nearly 100,000 beauty salons spread across the US. Beauty salons are very prevalent across the whole of the US and this is a trend that shows no sign of reversing.

However, there is an invisible danger to going to a beauty salon, and it’s one that most people fail to think about when they’re visiting.

That invisible risk is the pollutants in the air. Beauty salons need air purifiers because of hazardous substances in the air ranging from airborne germs to allergens to VOCs. There are a lot of pollutants in the air that beauty salons should strive to keep in check for the sake of their customers and employees, and an air purifier can help in that effort.

Now, I’m not about to leave it there since I haven’t really explained anything. After all, I can say whatever I want. What matters are the facts that I can or can’t bring to the table.

So, here are the facts.

(Before I dive in too deep in this article, let me just say that I take a deeper dive with more research in this other article I wrote where I examine the best air purifiers for nail salons (and other beauty salons) and why they need them.)

Why Do Beauty Salons Need Air Purifiers?

Beauty salons that take care of peoples’ nails and hair are incredibly popular because of their expertise and skill. People are willing to spend hundreds of dollars in order to get their services.

However, those services come at an added, invisible price.

That price is the negative impacts brought on by poor air quality, something that is quite prevalent in salons worldwide.

But why do nail and hair salons have bad air quality?

Well, it all boils down to the same reason why everyone showed up to these salons–it’s because of the services they provide.

All those manicures, pedicures, hair styling, and other beauty services all release things called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the air. Those VOCs can cause long-term health problems and even death. However, it must be noted that the odds of death are usually much lower than the odds of getting some long-term disease caused by one’s extended and repeated exposures to various chemicals that are commonly found in beauty products.

When those products are used and their VOCs released, those same VOCs remain stuck in the air, if the salon isn’t doing anything to address the issue. That’s why a lot of beauty salons invest in various systems to address the VOC risks involved in their business.

However, those steps that salons take can be quite costly, potentially several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on what they opt to do.

A good air purifier can take care of a lot of the problems VOCs bring about for a whole lot less money.

What Causes VOC Levels to Increase in Nail and Hair Salons?

You’re probably wondering what you’re doing that’s causing VOCs to be released and what you might be able to cut out to get rid of those VOCs. After all, getting rid of those things that release VOCs would save you the money you’d need to spend to get rid of the VOCs.

Well, that’s probably not going to work, unfortunately. Why? Well, VOCs are released by the products that you’re using on your customers.

All that hairspray, tanning lotion, acrylic nails, nail polish, nail polish remover, glues, and many more things all release VOCs.

While there are some low-VOC products and some products that only have less-dangerous VOCs, those can oftentimes be more expensive and might not suit your specific needs.

That’s where air purifiers come in. The right air purifier can capture those VOCs out of the air and give you clean, fresh air in return.

And, since beauty salons are using VOC-releasing products all day, that means that VOC levels can get pretty dangerously high if steps aren’t taken to reduce them.

What Can I Do to Reduce VOC Levels in My Salon?

Indoor air is known to be between 2 and 5 times dirtier than outdoor air in most indoor environments, but salons, which have a lot more aerosols and VOCs, will have much higher levels than that.

So, what can you do to cut down on that?

Coke soda bottles near vacant black armchair beside white pedestal fan inside white room

Well, the cheapest thing that you might be able to do (if weather permits) is open your windows and doors to air things out. Get a few fans to shoot all that smelly, VOC-filled air out of your shop and pull in some cleaner air.

However, fans can be expensive (especially if you need to buy multiple to cycle out the air effectively) and you can’t have your windows and doors open all year if you live in rainier and colder parts of the nation.

That’s where air purifiers come into play. For one, a single air purifier might end up costing less than all the fans you’d need in my previous potential fix idea. Air purifiers have gotten pretty cheap over the years, since so many people are making them and the technology has improved so much. As such, they aren’t as scary to buy anymore.

If you’d like to see a list of my top recommended air purifiers, check out this article where I lay out my top picks for various-sized rooms and areas. In that same article, I outline in greater detail the things that you can do to clean the air in your salon as well. I won’t be explaining that anymore in this article, since you can hop over and read it there.

Why Should I Worry About VOCs in My Salon?

While a little bit of VOC exposure over just a few minutes isn’t likely to hurt anyone in the case of safer, more common VOCs that will be in a lot of beauty products, long-term exposure and exposure to higher levels of VOCs can be quite dangerous.

If there is a high enough concentration of a VOC, it could even kill you on the spot.

But that might not sound like much of an issue, since your customers probably won’t be in your shop too long.

However, they aren’t the main person that you should be worrying about here. Instead, think about your co-workers and employees who are constantly breathing in all those VOCs for hours and hours on end. Not only that, but they’re also touching all those chemicals and likely getting a lot closer to where the VOCs are being released from (meaning higher VOC exposure).

The net result is that the people who are actually doing the up close and personal work are getting exposed to the most (potentially deadly) VOCs.

Several institutions worldwide, including OSHA, have examined salons at length and found that employees are at increased risk of many health issues due to all the VOCs in the salons they work at. They’ve concluded there are lots of ill effects that have been and will be present in these people if those VOC levels aren’t reduced. Any employer that gives a rip about their employees would try to do their best to reduce that risk.

Now, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t worry about your customers and their VOC exposure. There is still a risk to them. However, your employees and/or coworkers are likely going to be exposed to a lot more VOCs and will likely be more endangered by them because of this.

What Are the Effects of VOC Exposure?

Long-term, VOC exposure can cause cancer, liver damage, and/or damage to your central nervous system, in addition to other potentially debilitating diseases.

However, short-term exposure’s effects can be less deadly and potentially easier to take note of. Here is a list of signs that you’re being exposed to VOCs directly from the EPA.

  • conjunctival irritation
  • nose and throat discomfort
  • headache
  • allergic skin reaction
  • dyspnea
  • declines in serum cholinesterase levels
  • nausea
  • emesis
  • epistaxis
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • Eye and respiratory tract irritation
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • visual disorders and memory impairment

These are the most common signs that you are being exposed to VOCs, however, the list is not guaranteed to be complete, since everyone’s bodies are different and may react to VOCs differently.

In addition to the above signs that you’re being exposed to VOCs, your nose can be a good tool at detecting some VOCs as well, since some VOCs (not all) have distinct odors.

Those chemical smells that you may grow used to and may grow to overlook are common in the industry, but that doesn’t mean they are safe. In fact, those smells are likely early warnings that you’ve got a VOC problem in your salon.

As I’m sure you’ve now put together for yourself, cutting down on those fumes is very important. If the smell in your salon are excessively heavy, then it’s even more important that you cut down on them. It’s important for both you, your employees, and your patrons that you do everything you can to give them clean, safe air to breathe.

How Does an Air Purifier Address Bad Fumes and VOC Issues in a Beauty Salon?

Now that I’ve talked about the risks of VOCs at length, it’s time to talk about how an air purifier can help to address those issues.

In short, air purifiers are some of the best investments that a beauty salon can make in order to address VOC and other fume issues. An air purifier with a HEPA filter and activated carbon filter is ideal for removing odors and VOCs from the air, granting salon workers and customers the cleanest possible air.

An air purifier with just a HEPA filter may be good at removing some odors from the air they filter, however, they can’t get rid of all of them. Air purifiers with HEPA filters can’t get rid of VOCs either, since VOCs are just gasses.

That’s where the activated carbon filter comes into play. (The filter on the left with all the black is activated carbon.)

Activated carbon filters are specially made to filter the air that passes through them. Rather than capture solid particles, like a HEPA filter does, activated carbon filters clean the air itself. They are able to do this because they have tiny holes in them (like a sponge) that pull in bad gasses and they hold them there.

The end result is that your salon’s air will be a whole lot cleaner and will have a whole lot less VOCs.

And I’m sure a few of you are thinking about just getting an air purifier with activated carbon, since the HEPA can’t help with the VOCs.

That, sadly, isn’t really an option (as far as I know), but there are activated carbon bags that passively clean the air. They aren’t nearly as good, though. That’s because passive filtration can’t cycle the air in your salon.

However, wanting just an activated carbon filter is also shortsighted. HEPA filters have a lot of benefits that more than make up for their shortcomings in your fight against VOCs. I detail some of the HEPA filter’s positive traits in this article: Is a HEPA Filter Worth it in My Air Purifier – Why You Should Get an Air Purifier with a HEPA Filter.

If you’re ready to get an air purifier for your nail or hair salon, then check out my top picks for beauty salons in this article: 9 Best Air Purifiers for Nail Salons and Hair Salons in 2022. (And, even if it isn’t 2022 when you read this, these will still be great units for anyone who is interested in the cleanest possible air for their salon.)

What Specific VOCs Are There in Beauty Salons and What Are Their Health Impacts?

There are tons of VOCs in every kind of beauty salon, and even many (if not all) spas.

Every VOC is different, and, while they have some similarities, they can be hard to compare. Some VOCs are manmade, some are natural. Some are deadly, some cause long-term problems, and there are other varying levels of dangers beyond (and between) that. In high enough concentrations all of them can kill you (except it might be just about impossible to actually reach that level in the real world for some VOCs).

Whatever the VOC, however, there is still the risk of it harming you–even the natural ones.

Since every VOC is different, their uses are different as well. Some VOCs are used as aerosols in things like hairspray. Others are used to help nails dry faster. Some are used for their scents. Some are used to help a scent travel further. There are a lot of things that VOCs can do, and that’s why they’re present in so many of the things that we buy and use.

The VOCs that are released in nail salons often get the most attention from institutions and the press, since they are often some of the most dangerous. Rather than list them out on their own and explain things, I’m going to allow an expert to weigh in on things. Here’s an excerpt straight from EnviroKlenz, a manufacturer of high-quality air purifiers (including one of my all-time favorite air purifiers):

  1. Acetone: A chemical found commonly in nail polish remover; a highly used nail salon product used on nearly every Customer. This chemical has been found to cause headaches, dizziness, and eye, skin and throat irritation.
  2. Acetonitrile: A nail salon chemical found in fingernail glue remover, this has been found to attribute to irritated nose and throat, nausea, etc.
  3. Butyl Acetate: A chemical used in nail polish and nail polish remover that causes headaches and eye, nose, skin and mouth irritation.
  4. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): Present in nail polish that will cause nausea and skin, nose and eye irritation.
  5. Ethyl Acetate: A popular chemical used in many nail salon products such as nail polish, nail polish remover, and fingernail glue. This chemical can cause irritated eyes, stomach, skin, nose and throat irritation.
  6. Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA): Found in artificial nail liquid, this chemical can provoke asthma, irritation to the eyes, nose, and mouth, and cause difficulty concentrating.
  7. Formaldehyde: A very well-known chemical VOC, formaldehyde is present in nail polish and nail hardener used in a nail salon. This chemical can cause difficulty breathing, asthmatic attacks, allergic reactions, etc.
  8. Toluene: Toluene is a chemical found in nail polish and fingernail glue that will cause dry skin, headaches, dizziness, and eye irritation.

Again, that list of 8 dangerous VOCs comes straight from a list provided by EnviroKlenz, who did extensive research to create that list. (Link at the bottom of this article, if you’d like to visit their site.)

Luckily, as you can see from the list, a lot of the above VOCs aren’t likely to kill you on the spot. A lot of the more dangerous VOCs have been moved away from by industries and governments alike because of what they do to people.

Sure some people will be more prone to being hurt by them right away, including people with asthma, but I must remind you that the risks to one’s life isn’t based on the immediate reactions to VOCs. It’s the long-term problems and diseases that people develop because of their exposure to VOCs.

So, I say once again, that adequate ventilation and air purifiers are a must for any beauty salon in order to ensure that the air that their customers and employees are breathing is as safe and clean as possible.


Thanks for the read, and I hope my article helped explain things to you. Once again, I want to express that an air purifier isn’t the only thing that you can do to get the air cleaner in your beauty salon, but it can be an easier and potentially cheaper solution than some of the other ones out there. Ventilation is another important thing for salons, but getting adequate ventilation can be expensive (but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, it’s important).

If you’d like to continue doing research, or if you’re ready to buy an air purifier, here’s an article that I spent a ton of time researching and writing that should do a lot for answering your questions: 9 Best Air Purifiers for Nail Salons and Hair Salons in 2022. In it I detail why you might want an air purifier, why you need one, and what you need to look for in one (plus some other things).

Once again, thank you for your time, and I hope I was able to help you out a bunch!

Related articles I think you might want to check out:

What Are Air Purifiers For?

Water-Based Air Purifier Vs. Oil Diffuser Which is Better?

Are Air Purifiers a Waste of Money? | The Worth of a Good Air Purifier


U.S. Small Business Administration (SBDC) – Beauty Salon Business

United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – Health Hazards in Nail Salons

Health and Safety Authority (HSA) – Taking Care of Your Chemical Health and Safety in Nail Bars and Salons

J Immigr Minor Health – Indoor Air Quality Survey of Nail Salons in Boston

Food & Drug Administration (FDA) – Nail Care Products

New York State Department of Health – Review of Chemicals Used in Nail Salons

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality

EnviroKlenz – Dangers of Nail Salon Fumes to Indoor Air Quality

Jonathon Silva

Jonathan Silva is our longtime Air Purifier Essentials author. He has been writing on air purification technologies for his entire professional career.

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