Category Archives: Nails

Check Your Own Pretty Price: What’s Your Beauty No-Fly Zone?

Retro Beauty Salon

Over on XOJane, Rachel McPadden says she will never get a pedicure because they completely creep her out.

What I don’t want is someone banished beneath me, scrubbing, dremel-ing and cursing my pompous American feet while I iPhone my pals and read up on celebrity babies. Although damn, I love celebrity babies and would die without my phone.

Ah yes. I feel her, because I wrote this story and it sorta changed my life. (See: This here blog.) But I still get pedicures. Um, a lot. Not to mention, I’ve now been on the business end of all sorts of undignified beauty work. And I don’t push for anyone to give up these beauty rituals — I mostly just want you to make more eye contact, be friendly, and tip really super well. Bonus if you’ve also put some thought into why you’re getting said beauty work and feel good about your choices.

Also, maybe don’t sit on your iPhone while they work on you. That is just bad manners. Would you sit on your iPhone at the dentist? That’s what I thought.

But it got me thinking about how there are a few beauty things that I will not do, the way Rachel will not do pedicures. And that’s cool. Here’s my list:

  • Facials. Because after ten months at Beauty U, I just don’t think they work. They are lovely for taking a nap while someone pets your face, but I don’t want to pay for that.
  • Hair dye. Because I did this whole fake blonde thing in college and I’m still not over it. Plus, carcinogens. 

Check Your Own Pretty Price: Are there any spa/salon services that you just won’t do? And if so, why not? Are you worried they’re too exploitative, uncomfortable with the beauty standard, freaked about chemicals or just cheap? We’re not judging. It’s just interesting. So go! 

[Photo: Typical Hungarian 05 by Huldero via Flickr.]


Filed under Beauty Labor, Check Your Own Pretty Price, Chemical Peels, Facials, Hair, Nails

Beauty Schooled and Safer Nail Salons on Lemondrop!

Screen grab of Lemondrop nail salons story

So, I told you guys a little bit about San Francisco’s new healthy nail salons ordinance last week, but now! I’ve got a brand spanking new piece about it up over at the lovely This story has some more dirt on the whole regulation situation, plus ideas on how consumers like you can help support safer salons and get your toes prettied up all at the same time. Which means everybody wins. So what are you still doing here? Go on and click right over!

And tweet it, tell your Facebook friends, good times like that. Word.


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Filed under Happenings, Nails

Safer Nail Salons in San Francisco

Nail salon photo from Molly Surno's The Smallest Canvas series

I’m pleased as punch about Patricia Leigh Brown’s new New York Times piece, “At Some Nail Salons, Feeling Pretty and Green.” It reports on San Francisco’s new Healthy Nail Salon Recognition ordinance, which gives props to nail salons who use products free of the Toxic Trio (dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and our friend formaldehyde). And it seems to be only the second piece of legislation in the country geared towards reducing occupational hazards in nail salons. (The first was a law passed by New York State in July requiring salon owners to make masks and gloves available to workers.)

This is a story that is super close to my heart, because way back in 2006, I spent a week traipsing around nail salons in San Francisco and Oakland with two amazing women: Lenh Tsan, a community advocate with the Asian Law Caucus’s Nail Salon Project and C. M. Nguyen, a salon worker who together do health and safety outreach to the Bay Area’s nail salons, where 80 percent of workers are Vietnamese immigrants often working against language barriers and other obstacles. Continue reading


Filed under Ingredients, Nails

[Muddling Through Milady’s] Chapter 3: Sanitation & Disinfection — and Formaldehyde, Too.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to subject you to Milady’s somewhat mind-numbing explanations of the three tiers of decontamination that should be used in a salon or spa. (But in case you’re wondering, they are sterilization, disinfection, and sanitation, and I have them down cold.)

Instead, I’m going to be all timely and share this little tidbit, from Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians, page 44 (in a red box marked with a big exclamation point, so you know it’s important). Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Hair, Ingredients, Nails, products

[Beauty Overheard] So Yes, Serena Williams is a Nail Tech Now

Serena Williams Goes to Nail School

We touched on this yesterday (when Jezebel posted the video over here), but I think Serena Williams giving Oprah a pedicure deserves a closer look-see, don’t you?

First, we’ll deal with the obvious: Serena Williams is going to beauty school and blogging about it (over at Global Grind). This is going to have you asking some questions. Like, how do I handle being so awesome that even international tennis sensations are copying me? Understandable. I wonder that, too.

But it’s important to remember that as much we have in common (beauty school, blogging, awesomeness), Serena and I can be different too. Like, the tennis thing. And Serena has her own special reasons for going to beauty school. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Nails

What’s Going On With Nail Salons. (And Why They Aren’t the New Massage Parlors.)

So, tonight, a Beauty U student brings in the newspaper because the front page story is “Local Madam Arrested for Terrorizing Sex Slaves.”

“I can’t believe I went into that place!” she says. “I didn’t know what it was!”

She thought it was a nail salon. Because that’s what it said on the sign.

Our teacher has already seen the newspaper and is more world-weary. “You have to know the signs,” she tells us. Front windows painted up? A back room for “massage?” And — this is the part nobody quite says but we all know it anyway — Asian-owned and operated? Check, check, and check.

Let’s back up for a second. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Government Watch, In Class, Nails, week 35

Even. More. Nail. Art.

Abby Walton Nail Art #1 Abby Walton Nail Art 4

Abby Walton Nail Art 4Abby Walton Nail Art 2

Just a quick one to say that Molly’s show is still going on at Capricious Space through the weekend.

AND, tomorrow, they’re kicking it up a notch with NAIL SALON: Nails by Abby Walton from 1 to 6 PM. You can email Abby for an appointment (abbywalton [at] yahoo [dot] com) or call Capricious Space at 917.438.7015.

Amazing nail art above from Abby’s Flickr Set. I mean. That girl has got mad talent. I bet she could even do this disco ball awesomeness, if you bring your own diamond rhinestones:

Katy Perry Disco Diamond Manicure

Which is Katy Perry’s current manicure, according to The Cut. (Because I know you were wondering.)

PS. Even More Molly in this Q&A over on Vice.


Filed under Happenings, Nails

If You’re in Brooklyn Tomorrow


You should run not walk to photographer Molly Surno’s show, NEFER/NFR, at Capricious Space in Williamsburg. It will include work from her project, “The Smallest Canvas,” in Brooklyn nail salons. Talking about art makes me shy, so I’m just going to paste her artist’s statement here:

My images are meant to evoke a nostalgia for the massive and lonely terrain of the United States. They are insights into a vanishing Americana. The schizophrenic extremes and dreamy melancholy I feel for the country that I inhabit has been an endless inspiration to my artistic vision. I want to encourage and promote a sense of tenderness and moodiness for the kitschy subcultures of America. As our culture takes on new identities through technological advancements and globalization, I seek to document spaces that are slowly disappearing. In a time where borders and neighborhoods are becoming obsolete and replaced by cyber communities I record local subcultures such as bowling alleys, nail salons, cockfights, all-you-can-buffets, psychic shops, etc. with a sense of humor and homesickness. My images are intended to inspire the same feelings as looking through your grandparents photo album or collection of images in their hallway. They are emblems of the present that are soon to be “the good old days”.

Okay, so nail salons aren’t exactly disappearing (the number of licensed nail techs jumped 374 percent between 1997 and 2007, to almost 400,000 nationwide), though I’m sure many have closed up shop thanks to the recession. But promoting the “tenderness and moodiness” of American subcultures? Yes and yes. The press release describes the project as “a feminist celebration using photography and sound.” Damn, that’s my kind of party.

Thank you, Beauty Counter, for turning me on to Molly’s work.

And thank you, Molly, for letting me pull the above images off your website.

NEFER/NFR opening reception, Thursday, November 5 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Capricious Space, 103 Broadway, Brooklyn, N.Y., (718) 384-1208.

I can’t go to the opening reception (which will also feature a DJ and a nail artist doing her thing, for serious, people!) because I have beauty school! But you should. And then tell me all about it, please.


Filed under Happenings, Nails