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LACQUER is a proud advocate of ethical beauty

What is Ethical Beauty?

The safety of our guests and the well-being of our staff are important to us and we are proud to be an ethical beauty provider. But what does that mean? To us, ethical beauty is:

  • paying our employees a fair, living wage - legally
  • using the best products in our services and minimizing potentially harmful ingredients whenever possible
  • following safe beauty practices in all of our services, never sacrificing someone's health and safety for any reason

Our Commitment

When you choose to come see us for your nail care needs, you are choosing to support an ethical beauty business, filled with a highly trained, well-paid professional staff in a beautiful environment with the highest quality products.

We provide extensive training and follow safety standards that are above and beyond State regulations. All of this requires investment in training, special equipment and supplies to ensure healthful nail services. We are the only Certified Safe Salon in Austin.

We are proud to be part of the movement redefining the industry and providing a better, safer environment for our customers and our employees.

Please read on for more details about what goes on in our industry and what to look for.


The Price of Ethical Beauty

You've probably thought about how much you pay for a manicure or pedicure, but you may not have thought about what's behind the price. Thanks to the 2015 New York Times exposé, The Price of Nice Nails, we can all become more educated about ethical salon practices and make better choices.



Understanding the Nail Industry

We are proud to be featured in this article, published by Glamour magazine, about tipping in the nail industry. While the article is about tipping at nails salons, it also focused on illegal employment practices that happen in our business. We are proud to be featured and help further expose unethical employment practices.


Illegal Employment Practices

Being an ethical employer is more than just paying our staff a living wage - it's also about paying them a legal, fair wage.

Many nail salons pay their employees cash under the table, often at rates below minimum wage (and sometimes nothing at all - see the New York Times article below) or misclassify their employees as independent contractors, placing all of the tax burden on the employee. These employment practices enable salons to have low prices at the expense of the employee.

In addition to mis-treating and underpaying their staff, these businesses are essentially practicing tax evasion by avoiding paying thousands of dollars in employer taxes every month. This ultimately hurts the employee because they miss out on things like social security and unemployment benefits, as well as the ability to verify their wages in order to get a car loan or approval for a home loan or lease.

We know about these practices because we have employees that have worked at salons that engage in these practices. And we are proud to say we've recently been audited by the US Department of Labor and our case was closed with no action, meaning we are doing everything as we should be according to US labor laws.

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Safe Beauty Practices

At LACQUER, safety and cleanliness is priority. We are a certified Safe Salon® which means the entire staff has undergone extensive training on safe and healthful nail care and we practice the highest levels of sanitation.

  • all of our services are soakless, meaning we do not soak the hands or feet in water, we use warm towels instead - this is better for your skin, and the environment and ensures a safe service free of cross-contamination
  • our technicians wear a new pair of disposable gloves for every service
  • all of our files and buffers are single use
  • our metal implements (nippers, pushers, and clippers) are sterilized in a medical grade autoclave after every use (you may ask to see ours if you'd like - we're pretty proud of it, it's super fancy!)
  • we use hospital grade EPA to sanitize all hard surfaces in the salon
  • we will not perform services on any clients that have medically diagnosed conditions that are contagious or put anyone's safety at risk

These are little things that not every nail salon does, and sometimes the things you don't always notice, but they make a big difference in cleanliness and safety for clients and employees.


How To Find A Safe & Ethical Salon

We understand sometimes you can't always make it to LACQUER for your nail appointments, so be sure to look for the following at any nail salon you visit:

  • 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 your 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.
  • Ask if they have an autoclave. Ours is pictured here. UV sterilizers are not adequate and do not offer sterilization. The only way to achieve sterilization is through a medical grade autoclave.
  • Files and buffers are used once and then thrown away (or offered to you to take home with you).
  • All-metal foot files with disposable grit or a raised surface that can be put in an autoclave (pumice stones cannot be sterilized, and callus blades or "graters" are not safe).
  • 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).
  • Gel lamps that match the gel brand they carry. Gel chemistry is complicated and must be cured with the appropriate light, or you risk under-curing which can lead to development of lifelong, irreversible allergies to the product. The best way to ensure a proper cure is to follow the manufacturer instructions and use the same brand of lamp as the gel. There is really no such thing as a "universal" lamp that many LED lamp companies would lead you to believe.
  • Cash only - businesses that are cash only, or offer a discount for paying in cash are not reporting all of their earnings and practicing tax evasion. Ask the staff or receptionist how employees are classified: are they independent contractors or employees? If they are paid legally as employees, they will be happy to answer this question. If they say independent contractors, 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, run! Over 90% of salons illegally misclassify their staff and/or pay them illegally (not paying overtime, not ensuring minimum wage, etc).
  • 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 is 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 NYT article above). 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.
  • When in doubt ask the salon receptionist or technician if they follow these practices before starting your service

We are working on developing our own national salon directory to help provide referrals to our clients that would like more options in Austin, travel, or move to another city. If you are a salon owner and would like to be included in our directory, please fill out this form.