As mani lovers and regular nail salon goers, we were saddened and outraged by the recent New York Times' two-part expose on the working conditions at some New York City-area salons. Though the reports prompted government officials to order emergency measures to create safer and more ethical salons, there are a few steps you can take personally to make informed decisions about where you go for nail services. Consider these five things before sitting down for your next polish change:
Consult Your Regional Healthy Nail Salon Coalition
If youre unsure about where to find a salon that treats its employees fairly (think: livable wages and non-toxic top coats) consult your states Healthy Nail Salon Coalition. Programs like those in New York, Oregon, and California can help you locate an approved salon in your area as well as give you tips on proper ventilation and safe polishes.
Consider What Youre Paying
Though its tempting to duck into your corner salon for a quickie $7 manicure, keep in mind thateven if you plan on tipping welllow prices are usually a sign of unfair wages for salon workers. As the Times article points out, With fees so low, someone must inevitably pay the price. (One salon mentioned reportedly paid its workers $1.50 per hour for a 66-hour work week.) In New York City, more upscale salons like Paintbox, Primp and Polish, and our own store in Soho offer fair pricing (and pay) for services like pedicures, nail art, and polish changes.
Look for Salons that Use Non-Toxic Polishes
One of the many troubling discoveries uncovered in the Times report was the laundry list of health issues many salon workers experience after continual exposure to toxins like dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, and toluene, found in many polishes. One thing you can do? Search for salons that stock 5-free polishes, which dont contain a handful of the most hazardous chemicals.
Get Involved with Your Local Community
Manicures aside, you can help make a difference on a grander scale by advocating for workers rights through the National Nail & Beauty Salon Alliance. The organization strives to make nail salons healthier and happier places for their employees by encouraging regulations for salons and health measures for workers. Check out their site to read up on more research and find who to contact in your region to support the cause.
Trust Your Gut
Ultimately, If you walk into a salon where things feel inherently offwhether its the too-good-to-be-true price tag, unclean conditions, or a lack of fresh airturn around and contact your local committee for occupational safety and health to file a report. In time, both big and small steps can add up to create change.
Maura M. Lynch
Burt's Bees addict. Watches way too much TV. Has never turned down a french fry.