HWTR Pollution Prevention

My Watershed

Pollution Prevention Checklist for Cosmetology Departments

Photo: Bottles of nail polish in a line.

The Washington Department of Ecology encourages schools and laboratories to find safer alternatives to reduce, or even eliminate the use of toxic substances.

The table below lists common hazardous substances found in cosmetology departments. Currently there are no preferred alternatives for chemicals often found in cosmetology so it is even more important to follow the best management practices also listed.

Throughout all departments there are common issues with proper management of dangerous waste that is generated on site.  The following bullets identify the most common issues and give best management practices (BMPs) for proper identification, accumulation, and disposal of dangerous wastes.

More resources are listed at the bottom of this page.

Download a printable checklist in Word, or pdf.

For more information contact your local Ecology Regional Office.

Items or Processes of Concern Best Management Practices
Hair Care Products
  • Ammoniacal hair dye: hair dye
  • Barium: heavy metal in hair dye
  • Chromium: heavy metal in hair dye
  • Hydrogen peroxide: hair dye
  • Lead acetate: heavy metal in hair dye
  • Methanediol/methylene glycol: Brazilian Blowout
  • Wear nitrile gloves, a face shield and/or goggles, and a chemical resistant apron when mixing and applying hair dyes.
  • Ensure proper ventilation.
Nail Care Products
  • Acetone: used in nail polish remover and fingernail glue remover
  • Acetonitrile: artificial nail remover
  • Methyl ethyl ketone: nail polish, nail polish remover, artificial nail remover
  • Toluene: nail polish, fingernail glue
  • Butyl acetate: nail polish
  • Camphor: nail polish
  • Dibutyl phthalate: nail polish, nail hardener
  • Ethyl acetate: nail polish, fingernail glue
  • Titanium dioxide: nail polish, powder for artificial nails
  • Tosylamide formaldehyde resin (TFR Resin): nail hardener, nail polish
  • Use non-acetone products.
  • Reduce solvent use.
  • Place a metal trash can with a self-closing lid at every work station.
  • Use dispenser bottles that have openings just large enough for the application brush.
  • Use pressure sensitive bottle stoppers.
  • Ensure proper ventilation.
  • Wear nitrile gloves, a face shield and/or goggles, and a chemical resistant apron.
  • Keep nail product containers closed when not in use.
  • Ensure proper ventilation.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: powder additive for artificial nails
  • Ethyl cyanoacrylate: fingernail glue
  • Poly (ethyl/methyl) methacrylate: powder for artificial nails
  • Don't use excessive amounts of product when performing services.
  • Methyl methacrylate: artificial nails
  • Do not buy or use any nail product containing liquid methyl methacrylate (MMA) monomer.
  • Butyl methacrylate: artificial nails
  • Ethyl methacrylate: artificial nails
  • Hydroquinone: artificial nails
  • Isobutyl methacrylate: artificial nails
  • Methacrylic acid: artificial nails
  • 4-methoxyphenol: artificial nails
  • Wear a dust mask, nitrile gloves, and long sleeves to minimize exposure to acrylic dust. Avoid latex gloves, which can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
  • Formaldehyde/formalin: hair smoothing (Brazilian Blowout), nail hardener
  • Also: methylene glycol, methanediol, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, timonacic acid
  • Use hair smoothing products that do not contain formaldehyde or any of the compounds that can form formaldehyde during normal use (see left).
  • Ensure proper ventilation. If insufficient ventilation is present to minimize vapors, wear a respirator or discontinue using these particular compounds.
  • Wear personal protective equipment when using hair smoothing products containing one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formaldehyde standard chemicals. Appropriate PPE can include gloves, goggles, face shields, respirators, chemical-resistant aprons.
  • Read OSHA Hazard Alert.
  • Keep nail product containers closed when not in use.
  • Always apply and remove polish in a well-ventilated area.
  • Try buffing nails instead of lacquering.
  • Lead: lipstick
  • E-mail, call, or write to the companies that make your favorite lipstick shades and tell them that lead-free products are important to you.
  • Persulfates: ammonium and potassium persulfate used in bleaching products
  • Keep all open packages and materials used for mixing in a designated area where casual contact is unlikely.
  • Store plastic scoops outside the container to avoid contact with persulfates.
  • Place used materials (caps, foils) in a designated area until disposal.
  • Train staff in the safe use of chemicals used in hairdressing.
  • General inventory
  • Use Environmentally preferable purchasing.
  • Review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substance information.
  • Properly store hazardous substances.
  • Encourage your favorite retailers and manufacturers of natural and organic products to clarify their use of the terms. Be a critical consumer and remember that natural is a marketing term, not a legally-binding description.
  • All generated waste streams
  • Spilled products
  • Unused and expired products


  • Use chemical inventory and tracking software to centralize product ordering, improve product tracking, storage requirement, waste management, reduce disposal of expired product, and minimize duplicate orders to prevent unnecessary disposal.
  • Identify all potential waste streams and establish designation procedures to determine if a hazardous waste or non-hazardous waste.
  • Establish dangerous waste designation, collection, accumulation, and disposal procedures for all waste streams.
  • See Common Dangerous Waste Compliance Issues.
  • Ventilation
  • Install an effective exhaust system with individual exhaust vents and dust and charcoal filters for each work table.
  • Vent exhaust outdoors in a manner that meets local building code requirements when possible.
  • Consider heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that bring in outside air to help dilute shop vapors.
  • Batteries
  • Fluorescent lamps
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use LED lamps when appropriate.
  • Use low-mercury fluorescent lamps.
  • Implement a battery collection program and manage as Universal Waste.
  • Implement a whole-lamp recycling program and manage as Universal Waste.
  • If not recycled as Universal Waste collect, manage, and dispose of as dangerous waste.


This page last updated September 2015