LACQUER Downtown 210 Guadalupe St. Austin, TX 78701

LACQUER North 11005 Burnet Rd Austin, TX 78758

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(512) 476-1211

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Ethical Beauty, Part 2: What to Look For

Finding a safe and/or ethical salon isn’t easy – a lot of salon practices are hidden and sometimes the salons that seem like they would meet high standards, are engaging in unethical or illegal practices behind the scenes. Here are some clues to look for.

Safety Clues:

  • Implements - Metal implements packaged and sealed prior to use. You should see a brown or black dot near the seal - that indicates it was run through an autoclave, if you don't see one then the salon is making you think the implements have been sterilized by using the pouches and sealing them without putting them through the autoclave. This is a common practice. Just because they are using pouches doesn’t mean they are using them properly!
  • Sterilization Protocol - Ask if they have an autoclave. UV sterilizers are not adequate and do not offer sterilization. The only way to achieve sterilization is through a medical grade autoclave.
  • Disposables - Files and buffers that are used once and then thrown away (or offered to you to take home with you). Or they could use glass files and sanitize them after every use.
  • Foot Files - All-metal foot files with disposable peel-and-stick grit or a raised surface that can be put in an autoclave. Avoid pumice stones, which cannot be sterilized, and callus blades or "graters" which are extremely dangerous and usually prohibited by state licensing boards.
  • Pedicures - Pipeless pedicure basins (no jets) or waterless/soakless services using hot towels instead of soaking in water. Whirlpool jet tubs can never be properly sterilized, even if they have a plastic liner - many salons "trick" you into thinking they are clean with this liner, and in fact they probably skip more cleaning steps when they use them, leaving you exposed to dangerous pathogens.

Ethical Beauty Clues:

  • Pricing - if their pricing is really low, or less than $1/minute, they are likely doing something either at the expense of their customers or their staff in order to achieve low prices. Nails are the most expensive beauty service, in terms of the cost of items used in service and it is very near impossible to do everything legally and make a profit with low prices (see this New York Times article). Many high end "non-toxic" salons illegally misclassify their staff as independent contractors, practicing tax evasion to make a profit at the expense of their staff.
  • Products - are they using products you've never seen before, unlabeled or repackaged? High quality products are expensive. What you really want to see is the product being used in your service for sale in the salon. Then you know it's high quality, and available for you to read and review the ingredients. This is another common area to cut corners.
  • Cash only - businesses that are cash only, or offer a discount for paying in cash are usually not reporting all of their earnings, resulting in lower tax payments (e.g. tax evasion).
  • Pay - Ask the staff or receptionist how employees are classified: are they independent contractors or employees? If they are paid legally as employees (they receive a W2), they will be happy to answer this question. If they say independent contractors (they receive a W9), know you are supporting a business that is practicing tax evasion by avoiding paying employer taxes and placing all of the tax burden on the staff. If they avoid giving you a straight answer, it’s usually an indication they are not completely on the up and up. Over 90% of salons illegally misclassify their staff and/or pay them illegally (not paying overtime, not ensuring minimum wage, etc). This becomes a problem when the employee tries to qualify for any type of loan and prove their income, or if the employee needs to claim unemployment. Employers also shirk the responsibility of paying unemployment insurance when they misclassify their staff.


When in doubt ask the salon receptionist or technician if they follow these practices before starting your service.

Sterilized Implements 

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