The Outrageous Truth Behind Manicures

If you’ve never considered what life is like for your manicurist before, you might want to read the New York Times report on underpaid manicurists, called "The Price of Nice Nails." The eye-opening article, which details the horrific working conditions and low wages that many salon workers face, might just make you consider canceling your standing manicure appointment.

The article reveals some very startling facts about the nail service industry. For instance, you probably had no idea how little most manicurists are being paid, or how overworked many of them are. I'm definitely inspired to start doing my research and supporting salons that treat their employees well after reading this article, and hopefully you will be as well.

Awareness is the first step to solving any issue, so here's hoping that the Times report sheds some light on the problems with this industry and encourages change.

It's worth reading the entire feature, and I strongly encourage you to do so, however if you're short on time, I've distilled the piece down to the seven most shocking fact.s Find out exactly how much those nice nails are costing the people we pay (or don’t pay) to paint them.

1. Manicurists are sometimes unpaid

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Instead of making money immediately, like with basically any other job, manicurists have to prove that their skills are worthy (whatever that means) before receiving pay.

2. Manicurists sometimes pay their bosses (yes, really)


"Among the hidden customs are how new manicurists get started. Most must hand over cash — usually $100 to $200, but sometimes much more — as a training fee," according to the Times.

3. Manicurists survive on tips


"Nail salon workers are generally considered 'tipped workers' under state and federal labor laws. Employers in New York are permitted to pay such workers slightly less than the state’s $8.75 minimum hourly wage, based on a complex calculation of how much a worker is making in tips," according to the New York Times.

"But interviews with scores of workers revealed rates of pay so low that the so-called tip calculation is virtually meaningless. None reported receiving supplemental pay from their bosses, as is legally required when their day’s tips fall short of the minimum wage."

4. Child care is difficult


"On weekdays, women walk from door to door like Pied Pipers, taking nail salon workers’ children to school for a fee," according to the Times. "Many manicurists pay caregivers as much as half their wages to take their babies six days a week, 24 hours a day, after finding themselves unable to care for them at night and still wake up to paint nails."

5. $10.50 is the average cost of a manicure in Manhattan

Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

No wonder the workers can’t get paid much. With prices so low, there’s got to be cut-backs somewhere.

6. NYC has TONS of nail salons

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

With the most salons per captia, much of this is happening in NY, and going virtually unnoticed.

7. NY State Labor Department first investigated nail salons in 2014

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"Last year, the New York State Labor Department, in conjunction with several other agencies, conducted its first nail salon sweep ever — about a month after The Times sent officials there an inquiry regarding their enforcement record with the industry. Investigators inspected 29 salons and found 116 wage violations," the article reads.

So, how can you help the situation? Think twice before getting your nails done and be mindful of where you’re go for your manicure. The places with the lowest rates are usually the biggest offenders when it comes to wage violations. Also, tip generously. And most importantly, spread the word about this issue. Knowing about a problem is the first step to solving it.

Read the article in the NY Times for more information.

Images: Getty Images (7)