Manicures and pedicures used to be reserved for special occasions but they have now become a staple for all ages of women across the economic spectrum.    

 Two recent articles in the New York Times, have exposed the harsh reality of the price nail workers pay so we can have those ‘pretty toes’

 The first, a May 7th NYT article explores how salon workers are underpaid, mistreated and even abused.   This exploitation by salon owners mainly focuses on Asian and Hispanic immigrant workers.  The majority of them are paid below the minimum wage---if they are even paid!    Some salons charge new employees a fee during their ‘training period’ and even when they are paid, many report wages as low at $1.50 an hour with no overtime pay.   Some salons skim tips and dock workers for mishaps that they may or may not have caused.

 The second NYT article,  focuses on the growing number of health problems reported by salon workers that may be due to the environmental dangers associated with the ingredients found in nail polishes and other beauty products.  There is more and more evidence showing a link between chemicals used by the industry to health problems including  miscarriages, respiratory diseases, cancer and abnormal fetal development.  Research on these issues is long overdue and organizations that work with immigrants are demanding more.  Laws that regulate the beauty industry are weak and outdated. Unfortunately, the beauty industry manufacturers are fighting more stringent regulations which may cut profits.

 Read the articles –they are truly enlightening and troublesome!   It is a classic example of exploiting the most vulnerable for the benefit of those with money to spend on personal pleasures.

 What can we do??    Ask a few questions about the salon you visit ---especially if it has really cheap prices (an indication that they DO NOT pay well).  If it looks like the workers are being exploited, report it and stop patronizing that place.    Give your tips in cash directly to your manicurist (not to a tip jar or on your credit card). 

 Well groomed nails are an important part of our personal hygiene plan and we all like a bargain.   But take a good look at the working conditions of your salon, ask a few questions, and only support salons that treat their staff well---even if it costs a few dollars more.  

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