The professional beauty industry goes under the microscope

By Simon Pitman contact

- Last updated on GMT

The professional beauty industry goes under the microscope

Related tags: Professional beauty, New york city

It has been a couple of weeks since the New York Times published its two-part exposé on the professional nail care industry in the New York area. And justified or not, the entire professional beauty category is now under scrutiny.

Published in the online edition of the publication at the beginning of May, the articles highlighted how immigrants have been financially exploited and exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals, often without any protective gear.

With the headlines ‘The Price Of Nails’​ for the first part and  ‘Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers’​ for part two, the front page stories got New Yorkers and the nation talking.

As a result, the articles have put the professional beauty industry under the spotlight like never before. Beauty consumers have been forced to consider their regular salon visits from a new perspective, while professional beauty executives might be feeling either misjudged, vulnerable or both.

Salon owners and nail care manufacturers get blamed

Researched over the course of several months, author Sarah Maslin Nir is said to have interviewed 125 nail salon workers, medical experts and salon owners.

The articles pointed the finger at nail care products – specifically gels with potentially toxic ingredients, while salon owners bore just blame for their employment practices, which often included no minimum wage and no requirement for protective gear.

Health repercussions were said to include respiratory illnesses, skin infections and birth defects, while the low wages resulted in the obvious poverty trap, the article cited.

Most nail care manufacturers have defended their products by claiming that the amount of potentially toxic substances is so low that it does not pose any threat to health, while the known cancer causing BHA compound mentioned in the article is only found in a handful of nail gels available on the market.

However, the article cites that when it comes to nail care professionals, those trace amounts of toxic ingredients may prove to be more dangerous during prolonged and continuous exposure to the chemical fumes, particularly without the required use of protective gear.

Legislation hits salon owners

Although nail care manufacturers remain under the spotlight, the immediate fallout has hit the salon owners.

New York City Governor Andrew Guomo introduced two emergency measures to protect nail salon workers; the first being to ensure that nail technicians have to wear respirators and protective equipment that includes goggles and gloves, while the second tackles the issue of employment terms and pay.

The measures, which were introduced to the State Legislature last week, also gives New York State authorities the right to prosecute salons flouting the new rules, as well as giving it the ability to shut down unlicensed salons.

But the finger pointing is not likely to stop there. Already there has been a plethora of media coverage that has also scrutinized the multi-billion dollar professional beauty industry.

The finger pointing won't stop there

One such article, titled ‘The Price Of Nice Hair’​ was published in the liberal political blog Think Progress, this week. It brought attention to the plight of hair salon workers, highlighting the fact that exposure to chemicals from a variety of products can lead to skin conditions and a heightened risk of certain cancers.

This is one example of a long list of similar articles that have been written off the back of the New York Times articles.

Although the professional beauty industry may in many cases be an easy and often misguided target when it comes to this kind of criticism, the resulting media pressure will spell continued scrutiny by both consumers and legislators alike.

Whether culpable or not, industry is cornered and has few options but to remain accountable and transparent.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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