What Are the Hazards of Being a Cosmetologist?

Posted on December 04, 2020

Those working in the cosmetology field may wonder, “what are the hazards of being a cosmetologist?” Cosmetologists are exposed to a variety of workplace hazards that may endanger personal safety and cause serious health conditions with long-term consequences. Every year, a Chicago injury lawyer might handle cases involving cuts and burns, skin infections, slip and fall accidents, repetitive motion disorders, and chemical exposure.

The Hidden Dangers of Cosmetology Occupations

Cosmetology is a profession chosen by millions of people within the beauty industry. Cosmetologists include hairdressers, barbers, skin estheticians, and nail technicians who perform a variety of services for clients. Whether servicing the public or working behind the scenes for private clients, cosmetologists are trained, licensed professionals.

Although cosmetology may provide a creative and often lucrative career, it may also pose serious health hazards that may cause people to become ill or injured. Cosmetologists are exposed to a variety of conditions that often result in illness, long-term health problems, and even death. Common hazards in a beauty salon include:

Cuts and Burns

Scissors, straight razors, curling irons, electric trimmers, and hair dryers are tools of the trade found in all hair salons and barbershops. Although cosmetologists are trained in the proper use of these tools, accidents still happen. Lacerations from scissors, straight razors, and trimmers, and burns from curling irons and hair dryers, are common injuries to cosmetologists. While some injuries are minor, others may require medical treatment to prevent infection and complications. Chicago injury lawyers often see cases where serious cuts and burns cause scarring and physical limitations.

Skin Infections

Any injury that breaks the skin can cause an infection if not properly treated. If a hairdresser, barber, skin esthetician, or nail technician gets a cut, burn, or injury that breaks the skin, an infection can develop quickly while performing beauty services to clients. Styling hair, giving skin treatments, and grooming and polishing nails present a perfect opportunity for germs to flourish under the skin. To prevent skin infections, cosmetologists must cover and treat injuries right away and properly sanitize work areas, tools, and supplies.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Hairdressers and barbers are especially vulnerable to slip and fall accidents. In salons and barber shops, it’s common to find water, shampoo, loose strands of hair, and towels on the floor around sinks and styling areas. In most cases, slip and falls happen suddenly without time to brace for the fall, so injuries can be severe. This is especially true when the falls occur on the hard tile or stone flooring used in most salons for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Slip and fall accidents are the most common hazards in a beauty salon. Slip and fall accidents account for more than 50% of workplace injuries including fractured and broken bones, neck and back injuries, head trauma, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). They also account for the highest number of lost workdays due to work-related injuries.

Repetitive Motion Disorders

Cosmetologists are particularly vulnerable to repetitive motion disorders such as bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pinched nerves in the arms, hands, and fingers. The dexterity required to handle scissors, straight razors, and trimmers all day long can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful musculoskeletal disorder of the hand and forearm.

Cosmetologists must practice good posture and use properly designed equipment to minimize the effects of repetitive motion disorders that can create joint pain, limited movement, and long-term disabilities. Injury lawyers also see a high percentage of carpal tunnel syndrome injuries in construction, industrial, assembly line, and office workers.

Chemical Exposure

Cosmetologists are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace on a daily basis. Hairdressers handle a variety of substances that can cause harm such as:

  • Hair dyes and tinting solutions
  • Bleaching products
  • Chemical relaxers
  • Permanent wave solutions
  • Styling gels and creams
  • Hair sprays

The above products are known to contain potentially harmful chemicals that, when exposed to in small doses, generally do not cause harm. However, hairdressers suffer from repeated exposure to these products throughout a work day, thus increasing their chances of harmful reactions. 

In addition, nail technicians breathe dangerous solvents, such as formaldehyde and acetone, found in nail polishes and removers. Formaldehyde is a human carcinogen, as defined by the IARC, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and OSHA. It has been associated with nasal cancers in workers exposed to it through their occupation. Additionally, some human studies suggest that formaldehyde may cause reproductive issues, such as fertility issues and miscarriages. 

Heavy, frequent, and prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals found in all of the above products can cause skin inflammation (dermatitis), eye inflammation, respiratory allergies, asthma, lung infections, and long-term lung damage. Some chemical relaxers and dyes contain carcinogens that can increase a hairdresser’s risk of developing cancer. 

Using less harmful products when able, following product use instructions properly, and reducing exposure to chemicals by wearing proper protective equipment are just a few methods of protection against these harmful chemicals. However, they are not guaranteed to fully protect you from exposure.


There is also the risk of contracting an infectious disease. While it is common practice to stay home and avoid human contact when we are sick, not everyone follows this simple rule. Many people don’t even realize they are sick until it’s too late, as you can be infectious without showing any symptoms of illness. Cosmetologists interact with their human clients up close and personal while they work, and this up close interaction can easily cause illness to spread from the client to the cosmetologist. 

Infectious diseases can spread fast, and often without warning. Wearing a mask can reduce the risk of infectious disease, but it’s important to maintain proper hygiene practices while working with clients to further reduce this risk. Even a minor illness can cause a cosmetologist to have to miss work days, thus costing them those days’ profits.  

Psychological Hazards

In addition to the above-mentioned physical hazards, psychological hazards are also a big issue in the workplace. Long work hours, aggressive customers, and odd shifts can contribute to severe stress and anxiety. Even when a customer is rude and hurtful, workers are expected to be helpful and polite. This can lead to feelings of stress in workers who are forced to work in hostile conditions such as this. Treating employees in a fair and respectful manner, having a balanced schedule, and taking steps to assist one another can help reduce stress in the workplace.

A Chicago Injury Lawyer Can Help With Workplace Injury Claims

In Illinois, workers who suffer work-related injuries while performing normal job duties are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, the state defines a hazardous work environment as a workplace with dangerous work tools including knives, scissors, sharp cutting tools, electrical tools and equipment, and hazardous chemicals.

Cosmetologists may be permanent, full-time, or part-time workers employed by hair salons, skin care centers, and nail salons or barbershops. In Illinois, non-employees (contract workers) are usually covered for workplace accident claims. Freelance workers, consultants, and day laborers are typically considered contract workers. However, filing a workers’ compensation claim may be more complicated without an injury lawyer to ensure that proper documents are filed.

If a worker’s compensation claim is approved for benefits, a worker should seek continued medical treatment for injuries through the employer’s provider, regardless of whether or not the worker is a regular employee or a contract worker. A Chicago injury lawyer can assist injured workers with their claim, and help them get the compensation they need to recover lost wages and medical bills.