Shortly after a New York Times article The Price of Nice Nails came out exposing the mistreatment of New York manicurists, a series of articles have been published exposing everything that is wrong with the manicure industry. The Huffington Post featured an article stating New York salons should learn from California’s ethical nail salon owners. I am proud to say that our family skin and nail bar is one of those ethical salons and definitely not one of the many substandard nail salons in Santa Barbara we compete against every day.
My family started Aqua so that my sister Karina, a young single mother with a young child, could support herself. At that time Santa Barbara was missing a stylish salon that featured nail, waxing and facial services with lower prices than the expensive day spas. With that idea I used my design and business experience and my sister Cynthia’s nursing expertise in infection control to create a new type of skin and nail salon. Nearly ten years ago, Aqua opened its new concept for Santa Barbara. Since then I have seen our best practices copied by many new and existing salons in order to compete against us. Our community has benefited from our bold steps to provide something new and different. We have won many best nail salon awards in Santa Barbara as well as recognition for our business practices.
Aqua started with a staff of three. Today we have a staff of 27. Many of our original manicurist still work for us. It is hard for me, as the manager of Aqua Skin and Nail Bar, to read the articles and not feel disdain for the owners of these nail salons. I know that if my staff cannot make a living then the future of my family’s business is destined for failure. This is why our prices are not the same as substandard nail salons near me in Santa Barbara, but they are fair when you consider we pay a living wage to our service providers. Some of our triumphs have been providing work for nine of our service providers who are the heads of their households and solely support their families. One of our service providers put herself through college and will receive her degree this summer. Two others have started their own business and three have purchased their own homes.
In addition to paying a living wage, our prices allow us to follow the state board regulation like disinfecting after each client or using a new liner for each client. In 2013 we set standards for all the products that our service providers use on our clients. Our pledge is to not use products with mineral oils, parabens or sulfates, and use only polishes that are 3-free.
As a consumer you have to be aware that substandard salon prices come at a cost, either to the service provider or to you the consumer. Some products used in substandard salons can harm both the service providers’ health as well as your own. Low wages might be paid and infection control protocols might not be followed. These are just the obvious ways a lower-cost nail service could negatively impact you and the service provider.
So, the next time you Google “nail salon near me” “nail salon near my location” or “best nail salon spa” keep in mind that lowest price is not the best consideration when making a choice.