Monday, July 6, 2015

Getting Your Nails Done Is Wrong

One of my favorite indulgences has been to get pedicures. Since Singapore is so hot, I wear sandals every day and like having pretty toes to show off. Unfortunately, I recently read an expose series by the New York Times about the terrible state of the nail industry. After reading it, I've come to the conclusion that getting your nails done is exploitative and ultimately, wicked.

The first article in the series discusses how the immigrant and largely non-English-speaking workforce in New York is exploited by their employers, receiving far below minimum wage, having to work for free, and even paying fees for jobs. This is a very sad state of affairs, and definitely reflects badly not only on the employers but on the regulatory framework in New York. However, it is pretty locally specific to New York (where there is a glut of nail salons competing to offer pedicures and manicures at rock bottom prices).

What changed my mind about getting pedicures was this article. Apparently the chemicals used in nail polishes and other solvents are toxic. While using them occasionally at home doesn't pose any dangers, using them day after day poisons nail workers, causing respiratory and skin problems. There is also some evidence that the chemicals cause cancer and reproductive health issues, including miscarriages and abnormal fetal development. So basically by getting pedicures I am asking poorly paid and low status workers to risk their health (and possibly even lives) just so that I can have pretty nails.

When I realized how harmful pedicures could be to the workers who give them, I knew that I couldn't get them done anymore. I don't pretend to be an exemplar of righteous living, but in this case the issues seem pretty clear-cut (vanity and laziness versus people's lives). I was pretty disappointed to come to this conclusion, because I have really liked getting my nails done, and sort of wished that I had never read the article (since then I could continue exploiting people without feeling guilty: just kidding!). Guess I will need to brush up on my nail painting skills!

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