Recently, The New York Times released an article that exposed the shocking working conditions of nail salons in New York City. The narrative was a grim one, documenting the terrible conditions, little-to-nothing pay, and gruelling hours that many New York nail technicians operate under each and every day. It’s safe to say that since then, we’ve become a bit warier when it comes to our own weekly manicure habits—suddenly, the dirt-cheap, hole-in-the-wall mani spot we frequent doesn’t seem quite as appealing. But are our suspicions grounded? How can you really tell if your go-to nail salon is operating ethically? To help us find out, we spoke with Samira Far, nail guru and founder of the Bellacures Nail Salons, a franchise of salons that prides itself of cleanliness and legal, ethical business practices. Ahead, you’ll find the telltale signs you should be looking out for on your next manicure stop—keep scrolling to see them all!
The easiest way to find out if a nail salon is operating ethically? Ask questions—even if they’re uncomfortable ones. “Ask the manicurists and the manager of the salon,” she says. “If they’re operating legally, they should be able to provide you with reassuring answers.” If you’re not sure your nail salon is employing its technicians legally, just ask to see their technician licenses. “All salons are required to keep them on file, and a lot of the technicians keep their license in their supply basket or on them at all times,” Far says.
You might think you scored by stumbling upon a manicure place with dirt cheap prices, but it could be reflection of how they operate—in other words, if the prices are suspiciously low, the workers may be getting paid under the books. If the prices in your favorite spot seem too good to be true, this might be a warning sign—and make sure to factor in the area and rent prices. “Look out for low-cost manicure and pedicure deals, especially in high-rent areas,” Far says.
A nail salon that is operating legally and ethically should also be following sterilization laws—so don’t be afraid to ask the manicurists about how they clean their tools. “They should be using some type of sterilization machine, or at the very least, they should be soaking all tools and brushes in Barbicide solution,” Far says. “Ask the technicians if they throw out their files and buffers in between each customer.”
There are some signs that you can look out for yourself, too. Far says to make sure nail files and buffers look new or are individually wrapped before they’re used on you, and steer clear of salons with spa chairs that don’t have disposable pedicure bin liners. “Often, these tubs and foot sinks are not sterilized between customers and can spread bacteria and fungus from one customer’s feet onto yours,” she warns. “If you have recently shaved or have a minor cut on your foot, it could be an infection waiting to happen.”
At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to trust your gut. “Do the manicurists at the salon seem unhappy, or are they generally in good spirits?” Far says. Ask yourself this, and trust your instincts—if you feel uneasy, the salon owners seem unwilling to share answers to your questions, or the manicurists have low morale, it may be time to look for another nail salon.
What did you think of the New York Times story? Did your nail salon habits change afterward? Sound off below!