Nail bars are being threatened with closure or fines of up to $20,000 if they breach new hygiene and safety rules.
The strict new rules are an attempt to crack down on salons using dangerous chemicals that can cause major organ failure and birth defects.
The Auckland Council is introducing a new bylaw and code of practice in July for all commercial services carrying health risks, including manicures and pedicures.
It's the first time such a system has been introduced for all Auckland nail salons. More than 300 businesses are providing manicures and pedicures in Auckland.
Auckland Council manager of environmental health Mervyn Chetty said: "It was prompted by a need for minimum standards to protect the consumer and it also guides the owners as to what is required of them as an operator, the training needed by their staff, cleanliness and so on."
All nails salons throughout Auckland will need to hold a health protection licence to operate. They will be inspected once a year.
Over five years up to 2013 Worksafe NZ visited more than 50 salons. Four were using methyl methacrylate (MMA) in their acrylic nails. The substance releases toxic fumes that can cause lung, kidney and liver problems as well as birth defects.
It was banned for use by nail technicians in 2006. No MMA was found by the Worksafe project after 2009 but there are still concerns it is being used.
Amber McIver of Verdo Nails in Parnell, said the industry was not regulated sufficiently. "Anyone can go and set up a salon. It's not like hairdressers, where you have to have so many people who are qualified."
She said the council's new system was unlikely to be enough. "These places are going to kill someone one day. In the US people have died because they're cutting cuticles and opening people up to infection."
ACC reported 54 claims relating to injuries received at nail bars last year, costing about $7000, up from 52 the year before.
Ellerslie beauty therapist Penny Lawler said she saw customers with what seemed to be MMA on their nails.
"I don't know anyone who'd touch it but every so often someone comes in to have a product taken off their nails. It looks like MMA. It behaves differently."
She said MMA was much cheaper - it cost about $20 or $30 a litre, compared to more than $200 for ethyl methacrylate (EMA).
Nine salons were given improvement notices by Worksafe last year after complaints, mostly to improve things such as ventilation. The most common reason for a complaint was the effect of chemical smells on customers, the general public and the staff in the workplaces.
Rule of thumb
• All nail technicians have to be trained or have experience of five years or more.
• Ventilation must be adequate.
• Broken skin can't be treated. If skin is broken mid-manicure, work on that area must stop.
• Skin must be swabbed with antiseptic before a treatment starts.
• Operators must be constantly aware of heat created by electric files on natural nails.
• Pedicure basins must be thoroughly disinfected between customers.
• Chemicals must be stored in airtight containers.
• Waste must be disposed in a sealed container.