In Manhattan, a manicure costs around $10.50 – just about the price of a sandwich. That's where the trouble begins.
A vast, multi-section exposé from The New York Times' Sarah Maslin Nir delves into the underbelly of the greater New York area's manicure industry, exposing the nearly nonexistent wages and hazardous chemicals that form just one part of most nail artists' everyday lives.
In more than 200 interviews, which the Times notes were conducted in four languages over 13 months, the publication is exposing a miserable, sweatshop-like cycle of despair.
The first Times piece, "The Price of Nice Nails," reveals many manicurists aren't paid for their first few months of grueling work.
In fact, they often end up paying salon owners at least $100 to learn the trade, plus the added expenses for extra skills like waxing.
Even further into their careers, a majority of manicurists will make far less than minimum wage – especially if they're Hispanic or Chinese; Korean workers receive preferential treatment. Packed into crowded vans from the suburbs, many are immigrants who live in overstuffed apartments with their coworkers.
"Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers," a follow-up piece, investigates the rashes, asthma and miscarriages many manicurists suffer from due to chemicals used on a daily basis.
Discouraged from wearing rubber gloves and disrupting salons' luxury aesthetics, salon workers are reportedly plagued by skin conditions brought on by constant exposure to others' hands and feet.
It's a frightening revelation, even if your salon isn't in New York City. By exposing the reality, Nir encourages customers to help change the system.