6 Common Sense Ways to Patronize an Ethical Nail Salon

Rose Nail Art
Nail Art By Me!


The New York Times recently published an expose about the unethical practices of some nail salon owners in NYC. The short of it is, many nail salon owners don’t treat their workers right (read the article when you get the chance). Said workers are often paid ridiculously below minimum wage  (something like $30 a day on the high end, and tips aren’t much help), and are being taken advantage of because many of them are in the country illegally, or generally in dire straits.

I’ve always been leery of the types of nail spots mentioned in this article (assembly line type places) because something just never felt right. The energy was always off, and the staff wasn’t very nice, but after reading the NYT article, I get what those feelings were about.

I couldn’t find a list of sustainable nail salons, but I do know that there are a select few that I patronize based on how I feel about the environment, the energy, the staff,  and the services provided so, here’s my common sense guide to finding an ethical nail salon:

1. Pay Like You Weigh

Good manicures and pedicures are going to cost you. That doesn’t mean you should blow your last few dollars or money you don’t have getting work done, but if you’re going to treat yourself then go somewhere of quality, and when it comes to salons, the more you pay for services the better your experience and the more money the staff is most likely getting paid. I’ve noticed that the salons I patronize, (email me to find out which ones) are light years more superior to the run-of-the-mill neighborhood spots because they’re more meticulous about cleanliness (they tend to do pedicures in a bowl, which is more sanitary vs. the jet sink thingie), they take appointments only, so you won’t have to worry about sitting around and being herded like cattle, you can specify which nail tech you want, they’re not going to mutilate your cuticles because they are educated about nail and skin health, and they use better products (think essential and nourishing oils vs. watery lotion and dish soap–yes, back in my hood spot days I have seen dish soap being used).

One of the places I frequent is also frequented by Beyonce. That’s related to absolutely nothing, I just wanted to point that out lol. But seriously, you really do get what you pay for. I do my manicures and pedicures at home most of the time, but going to the salon is a treat that I look forward to so I make sure my experience is enjoyable and I feel satisfied about the quality of service.


2. Go Where the Nail Techs Are Actual Artists

Two out of four of the places I frequent (I rotate depending on my mood, what I want done, and where I’m willing to travel) are leaders in nail art, and have been at the forefront of the nail art, calgel (not to be confused with shellac) boom since before it was popular. The nail techs at said places are amazing, and can do anything you can think of (like Dragon Ball Z riding a unicorn into the sunset lol). That is because they are legitimate artists with track records. Many of them don’t just work at the salon, they do editorial work, nail styling, other types of art, and have personal websites where you can track their work. You’ll also notice that the make up of the staff at places like this will most likely be more ethnically diverse than assembly line places and they have actual cleaning ladies cleaning, instead of off duty nail technicians.

Assembly line type spots, on the other hand, have a board with set designs that you can choose from. You can change up the colors but you can only get a design that they have available (usually just some variation of dots and squiggly lines, or a color burst). This is because, as you probably got from the NYT article, those nail techs are trained to provide a specific set of services, nothing more or less.



I cannot stress that enough. I have picked up some tips and tricks in my years of getting my nails professionally done, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that acrylic is awful for you. Again, a professional salon where the staff is treated with respect and where everyone cares about your nail health, the staff’s general health, and their reputation as a business won’t even have it on the menu, which lends me to my next point.


4. Staff at an Ethical Salon Won’t Need Face Masks

Going back to ingredients and quality…you know how, at may of the common nail spots, the staff tends to wear surgical masks when providing certain services? That’s because they’re dealing with toxic chemicals and particles. They wear the masks because they’re around that stuff all day, yet many of them still suffer health issues.  Patrons aren’t provided a masks because the logic is probably that they’re not there long enough but, c’mon, yo! Toxic chemicals are toxic chemicals, and no one should be exposed to them–not for one second–not for 12 hours. So, again, pay for a place that uses 3 and 5-free polishes and other non-toxic ingredients.


5. Chat With Your Nail Tech

You should develop a rapport with your nail technician. You don’t have to become besties, but people who provide you with service should be happy and healthy. As a customer, your voice matters most. So, if you don’t like the way the staff is treated, you can help spread the word, which obviously doesn’t look good for the business. There is so much competition in the nail salon world in NYC that a good business knows not to piss the customer off. However, you wouldn’t really know what was going on if you didn’t get in good with your service provider.


6. Go to an Indie Nail Stylist

This may not work in the case of pedicures, but if you’re someone who is all about the nail art or a good manicure period, then you should consider finding an independent nail tech like Naomi Yasuda, Ami V Nails, or the like.


As I mentioned, these tips aren’t based on scientific research, just logic, which is why I didn’t list the places I frequent by name. But again, if you are interested in where I go in NYC, email me and I got you!

Naked 3 Palette Swatches on Dark Skin, Tips For Fall Out

Naked 3 Swatches Dark Skin

Admittedly, I am not an eyeshadow person. I think it looks really pretty on other people but I rarely wear it because it almost always makes me feel too dressed up. However, that doesn’t stop me from being a sucker for pretty colors, especially when it comes to Urban Decay palettes. I have Naked 1, the Smoked palette and Naked Basics. Again, they don’t get much use but when I do use them, I really like them and make an oath to  wear more eyeshadow. I always shirk that oath, so it’s a vicious cycle, but I’m back in an “I want to wear more eyeshadow” phase again. So, here we are with Naked 3.


Initially, I was concerned because Naked 3 is a lot of pale pinky colors, which can make dark skin look  ashy so I wasn’t trying to be about that life. But then, I got sucked into the Sephora vortex and started swatching. The colors are actually really pretty pinky, mauvy rose gold kinda colors. I love rose gooooold! So, the respective Sephora and Urban Decay forces took over and I was commanded to purchase the palette. What you’re seeing in the photo above is a date night look that I freestyled. Sorry, I’m not a photo retouching wiz so it’s the best I could do. Here’s a slightly better glimpse (I think):

Dark Skin

I used Strange as a base and put Nooner over my lids. Blackheart went in my crease. I used concealer as my highlight and I got to blending something serious because I didn’t want too much of a smokey eye. If you’re not familiar with the palette, you’re probably like soooo…what are these colors you speak of? Lemme splain…

It’s 12 colors. Starting on the left side are the paler hues, and then it gets darker as the palette continues right.


Before we proceed, the lighting kind of effed up my swatches. Again, I’m still figuring out how to maximize my photo light potential so work with me. I didn’t use flash with these photos, which would have made the situation worse but know that each of the colors swatched on my arm below are a little more pink than they’re showing up except for Strange.

Naked 3

Remember in my date night look photo where I said I used Strange, Nooner and Blackheart? Of course you do! I used Strange as a base because I think the first three colors on the left are better for that purpose, or for using as highlights in the eye ducts, on my complexion.


Blackheart is my absolute favorite. I’m a fan of smokey eyes so it’s perfect. The other part of this is, while the colors are highly pigmented, there’s a lot of fall out. Seriously, it could get really messy with sparkly eyeshadow making it rain on your clothes, counter tops, sink, and other parts of your face. My tip to you–which I got from a Sephora makeup artist–is to dip your brush in a little bit of setting spray or primer before dabbing it in a color palette.

The overall verdict: I give this palette an A, no plus because of the fallout. It’s perfect for creating feminine or even feminine with a touch of edge kind of looks.

Five Muscle Pain Relief Products For Blasting Post Workout Discomfort

 photo Insert_zps37c985f9.jpg

I often feel and look like I got crushed by an anvil hours after exercising or even when I wake up the next morning (it gets that real). This is especially true after pole dancing where I often bruise, or hardcore Pilates and H.I.I.T., where my muscles may feel stiff or strained.

Check out this doozie following a pole dancing class:

So, yeah…don’t ever believe the hype that dark skin people can’t bruise but I digress.

Anyway, I’ve amassed an arsenal of sore muscle pain relief products that I want to share them with you because they need angel wings even though they’re inanimate objects.

1. Shea Moisture Joint and Muscle Relief Balm

The Shea Moisture joint and muscle relief balm has a nice lavender and wild orchid scent, and they’ve added shea butter for moisture. As per the container, lavender has anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate muscle spasms, shea butter moisturizes and heals skin, and it also contains peppermint, which is anti-inflammatory and good for muscle tension. It’s greasy but there’s no testing on animals and it doesn’t contain petroleum, synthetic fragrance, parabens, gluten, paraffins, phtholates, and other chemicals I can’t pronounce. It’s simple to use. You just rub it into the affected area and wait until that good numbness starts to take effect. I like this stuff because it won’t leave you smelling like an 80-year-old woman (no shade to grandma, but I’m just saying), thanks to the nice floral infusion.

2. Arnicare

Arnicare is a creamy white homeopathic medicine that is also paraben-free and scent free. It’s good for general massages as well as bruising, swelling and stiffness.

3. Traumeel (by Heel)

Traumeel is similar to Arnicare in that it’s a white, creamy, homeopathic and scentless. I find that it’s excellent for bruises and according to the Vitamin Shoppe, it’s also paraben-free.

4. Tiger Balm Ultra Strength

Tiger Balm Ultra Strength is a miracle in a jar. It’s a white petrolatum-based herbal infusion of goodness. This is my go to for so-sore-that-I-can’t-move muscles.

5.  Tiger Balm Cream

The cream is not as strong as the jelly but it still works. Tiger Balm is best for soreness and stiffness but the thing I hate about the cream is that it smells like toothpaste. That’s not the worst smell in the world but c’mon son, you don’t want to walk around with your entire body smelling like toothpaste. Keep this one in the house!

I don’t think any one is better than the other because they’re suited for different things, and different levels of pain, but that’s trial and error based on the individual, hence why I have so many (that and because I’m a product junky). From my experience, my favorites are the Traumeel for bruises and the Tiger Balm Ultra for sore muscles, because it gets that serious for me. The Shea Moisture Balm has the best scent and I enjoy using it for massaging muscles at an intermediate level of pain. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like grease, because I know some of you are texture freaks, then you’re better suited for the creams.

Product Love: Shea Moisture Problem Skin Face Lotion

Shea Moisture African Black Soap

I got a hold of several Shea Moisture products during a trip last summer to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival and have been up to my neck in trying out the product. That is a good thing, especially with regard to Shea Moisture’s Problem Skin Moisturizer with Tamarind and Tea Tree Oil from their African Black Soap line. As you can see, the packaging says the product’s goal is to clear and balance blemished, oily skin. My skin isn’t oily, it’s more combination than anything but man oh man does it have problems with acne!

It’s rare that I find a face moisturizer that doesn’t make me feel like I just slathered lard on my face so I’m always skeptical. When I first noticed how thick this Shea Moisture stuff was, my side eye was on high alert. But I was wrong!

Shea Moisture Facial Lotion

Shea Moisture African Black Soap

Details: It’s thick, like I mentioned, but a little bit goes a long way. Do you see that bit on my finger in the photo above? That is enough for my entire face. I’ve had this thing since last July and have been using it twice a day for at least four times a week so think about it, July 2013 to March 2014 and I still have a bunch left. You can’t beat that for $11.9 at Target. Plus, it doesn’t feel too heavy and doesn’t clog my skin. It makes my face feel soft and supple (sorry to be cliche, but it’s true) and doesn’t seem to break me out. Score!

It has a mild sweet smell that, to me, is neither pleasant nor bad but if you’re a fan of Tamarind scents then that is the driving smell and you’ll enjoy. It’s also paraben-free and not tested on animals (snaps for the hippy-bohemian divas).

The Verdict: I’ve found a new face lotion worth incorporating into my daily routine.


Nope. I like it that much. Talk about serendipity!

P.S. I was given this product for consideration.

Models Own Offers 50% Off the HyperGel Collection

Models Own  Hyper Gel

You ladies who may know my writing from GangStarrGirl.com know that Model’s Own in one of my favorite nail polish brands. It’s a UK-based brand that I got to experience firsthand during a visit to London last year. I encourage you to check out that link after you read this so that you understand how serious this request is.

Ok so…

Y’all know that the pound murders the dollar, so when you’re a fan of UK-based products any sale counts. Feast your eyes on this:

Models Own  Hyper GelThis is #HyperGel collection, the newest from Models Own. These polishes are said to give the appearance of UV Gel, without curing under a light, once dry. They’re not out yet but the brand hasn’t disappointed me thus far.

Models Own is planning to offer limited quantities of all 10 #HyperGel polishes for 50% off during an impending sale that will only happen if their Facebook Page reaches 250,000 likes before midnight on January 31 (individually they’re £5 each which is probably about $8).

This benefits all of us. Go forth and like!



Butt Loads of Pain – Vice Explores Illegal Butt Injections

Butt Loads of Pain Vice

Back when I worked for VIBE magazine, I interviewed a woman who got illegal butt injections and was fascinated upon discovering that she knew the potential liabilities involved but didn’t care because she wanted what she felt was a better body, for cheap. This woman was extremely lucky because at the time we spoke, she was a few years removed from her surgery but we were just a few weeks after a major sting that landed to person who injected her with calk (possibly), in jail for murder. A few women that this person inject had died.

The woman I spoke with, who chose to remain anonymous, explained that she went to a backroom operation in a salon to get her injections and she wasn’t exactly sure what was inside her, she only had an idea. Prior to her “surgery” she said she had a nice body and had worked as an urban model but felt her natural booty just wasn’t enough. Her desire for a bigger rump was so strong that she was willing to get it done illegally because it was cheap. Illegal butt injects cost hundreds versus a few thousand and so there went that.  This was a grown woman. At the time we spoke, she was 29.

I was reminded of the aforementioned story by Vice magazine. They created a documentary surrounding the disturbing practice of plumping butts.  The embed code wouldn’t show up here but follow this link to watch the full thing.

I’m sharing it because I can’t spread the message enough that it’s important to make peace with how you look. There are absolutely things I’d modify about my body if I could (I want a breast reduction), but I’d rather do it in a way that is safe. It’s not worth looking good if you’re going to be 6ft under.

Lipstick Love: Body of Royalty Reviews, Ombre Lips and Hollywood Glam

Body of Royalty Lipstick, Lip Gloss

I had the pleasure of learning about a company called Body of Royalty, started by Houston-based entrepreneurs Jermelle F. Pitts and Joseph Chargois.  They sent me some lipstick and lip gloss to sample from the collection, which includes, Queens Rage, Innocent and Natural Beauty.

Here’s a live version of each product in front of a white background for a good idea of the pigment:

Body of Royalty Lip Gloss

And here’s a darker background:

Body of Royalty Lipstick

Both photos were taken without flash, because I felt flash would take away from the true hues of each lipstick, but I like the colors. They glided on smoothly and felt emollient, luxurious and non-drying, which is the brand’s goal. They describe their products as a luxury cosmetic brand created for the young, elegant and sophisticated woman, but more on that later.

The top color is the gloss in Innocent, the middle color is the Queens Rage lipstick, and the bottom color is lipstick in Natural Beauty.

Each color, even the gloss, had a buildable finish, so it’s easy to control how you want them to look. My favorite is Queens Rage because I’ve been a sucker for the red lip since I was five, even though I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup (it started with watching my mom). Queens Rage is a creamy frosty cherry-toned true red that channels Hollywood glam, Natural beauty is a creamy frosty pinky-coral neutral, and Innocent is a pink subtle shimmery gloss.

The brand also carries eye shadows, mascara, lip balm, shadow primer, lashes and they eventually plan to expand to foundation. Right now the price points range from about $11 to $15, so these products are definitely for when you want to pamper yourself.

Body of Royalty Diamond

My husband happened to walk into the room as I was trying on the Queens Rage lipstick and his first comment was, “Ooh.” That is a big deal. He never comments on my makeup so it prompted me to ask the owners what they’re favorite products are since they are also of the XY persuasion (you should, of course, wear colors because you like them but it’s nice to be admired too).

Here’s what they said:

Jermelle: My favorite lipstick is First Time. It is pretty red lip and I think every girl needs a red lip no matter what your skin tone is. I hate when women say “I’m too dark for a red lip.” A red lip is sexy on every woman it’s about finding the red lip with the right undertone or putting primer on the lips first. I also think that a red lip makes your teeth appear whiter. My second favorite is Jet Setter. When we first launched the line, Jet Setter was one of our most popular shades. It is an orange lipstick and the press and beauty blogs loved it. My next favorite would have to be the Domme eye shadow which is a black eye shadow. I love a smoked eye. It’s so dramatic and bold.

Joseph: I love our Envied eye shadow. It’s a vibrant sea foam green that looks great on every skin tone and gives a nice pop of color. I love our lip gloss Innocent, because it is a beautiful nudey pink/brown that is subtly loud. My favorite lipstick is High Class because it’s a matte, plum color that’s very dramatic and classic.


As far as makeup trends for 2014, hey say it’s time to break away from the norm and get bold:

The ombré lip is going to be big in 2014. We are seeing more and more of that on the fashion runways. Our favorite Ombré lip is Scandal and Jet Setter, it looks so dope. We have been seeing a lot of our consumers playing with the ombré lip on Instagram and we love it. The super dramatic cat eyes will be popular too. Beyoncé did it in her video with Frank Ocean and we liked that look a lot. It’s very dramatic and over the top.

I give their lipsticks an A and look forward to trying more products. You can purchase Body of Royalty products by heading over to the company website. As I mentioned earlier, the brand plans to launch a line of foundations but in the meantime, they’ve announced Diamond (from Crime Mob) as their first celebrity brand ambassador. If you’re interested in how Jermelle and Joseph launched their company, why they teamed up with Diamond and why they decided to get into the makeup business, check out my interview with them over at GangStarrGirl.com.

Disclosure: I was sent Body of Royalty products for consideration. I did not receive monetary compensation. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by outside forces as I have full editorial control over Grunts and Glam’s content.

Brow Highlighting Abuse…a Hate Story

As a makeup junky I love checking out trends, new and old. However, I just can’t get with this pandemic of over-highlighting! UGH. Have you ever checked out a website or magazine and seen a celebrity that looked like they had a weird hyper-pigmented halo around their eyes or eyebrows (due to brow highlighting, or eye highlighting)? I’m sure you have. It looks a little something like…

Rihanna Highlight


Or like…



Or like…


I’m no makeup artist so I don’t know why this happens (but professionals should know better). But I’ve noticed that since the YouTube beauty guru boom, more and more every day women are trying their had at the obvious art of highlighting and contouring and failing miserably. It irks me. That is all.

There was absolutely no other reason for this post other then to rant. They say you get what you ask for when you put it out in the universe. So, I’m putting it out there that I really wish this trend would stop. If some professional makeup artists haven’t even figured it out, as clearly evidenced above, then maybe it’s time to STOP IT! Step away from the highlights, selfies and Instagram.

A Brief Look at Urban Decay’s Naked 3 Palette

Admittedly, I got caught up in Urban Decay’s naked hype and as a result, I purchased the Naked 2 palette as well as the Naked Basics. I don’t wear much eyeshadow so…I’ve word shades from Naked one a handful of times (one of them being my wedding) and I used the black in the Naked Basics once. So yeah, womp womp, not sure that I’ll be getting into Naked 3 but it does look pretty, and from my previous experiences with Urban Decay palettes (including the Smoked palette, which I love), I’m sure it will be good.

Naked 3 is said to be mostly rosy colors while Naked 1 is warm neutrals and Naked 2 is cooler neutrals. The colors in N range from matte to shimmery to metallic, and they’re all newly introduced to Urban Decay’s makeup collection (some of the previous palettes used an already existing color or two).

I’ll stop here and let you check it out for yourself.

In case you didn’t know, the UD Naked 3 palette will set you back about $52. That’s steep. Again, Urban Decay good quality, highly pigmented product but the price is still something to consider. The knock offs will probably start rolling out soon.

What do you think, is it something you can work with?