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!

Grunty Crush of the Week: Ajia Maximillian the Fitness Savant


I met Ajia Maximillian back in 2011. She was one of my first pole dancing instructors at Shockra Studio. I’d describe her personality as sunshine personified. She’s a patient, kind and helpful instructor as well as a kick ass dancer, IFBB Bikini Pro, and all around fitness guru. I caught up with her to chat about how fitness has become a part of her life, what it is to be an IFBB competitor and her forthcoming event, Poling For Pets.

I know that you have an athletic background, so explain how being physically active played a role in your life growing up. 

Growing up, physical activity was a staple in my life. To the point that I didn’t even think about it as physical activity, it was just how I lived. As a child I was on a swim team, was a competition cheerleader, was on a basketball team and was on a dance team; as a teenager I focused my energy on dance such as West African, Samba, Hip Hop, and Jazz; and now as an adult I believe dance is really what opened doors for me in the fitness industry. Because of my love for and desire to dance, I became a dance instructor who eventually started trying other genres of exercise and realized that I loved exercising with others and helping others find their happy place through physical activity. Soon I found myself teaching bootcamps, stretch and tone classes, and different high intensity interval training courses. I love the adrenaline rush that working out gives me, the camaraderie with others, and the feeling of accomplishment once done.

How did you get into pole dancing and did it come easy for you given your background?

I got into pole dancing completely by accident. I was a nightclub dancer/gogo girl at various NYC lounges and nightclubs such as Avalon, Crobar, Discoteque/Spy, Umbrella, Monkey Room, etcetera and some of these clubs had poles. I have always loved dancing in cages and figured a pole was no different, so I just incorporated it into my routines. It came easily and flowed naturally until I took my first pole class and thought, “Whoa!, that is so much more than what I was doing on the pole!” I had not realized there was a whole pole culture growing so rapidly outside of the nightclub industry and the tricks I was seeing on youtube were mindblowing…I was so out of the loop!

What are some of the things you love about pole dancing? 

I love that athleticism can be displayed with sexiness while dancing. I love teasing my audience and feeling their desire while I am on stage and I love how one little apparatus can help your body to do so much, it’s freeing.

Ajia Max

Describe your pole dance style.

I would describe my style has gritty, sexy, and strong.

Speaking of sexy and strong, what is an IFBB Pro and what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about yourself on your journey to becoming one?

IFBB stands for International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness and it is a competitive bodybuilding organization founded in 1946 by brothers Ben and Joe Weider and according to many, is the highest level of competitive bodybuilding in the world. Earning my procard in August of 2013 was an amazingly fun, and rewarding journey and taught me that consistency is key. I learned that if I am consistent with my diet, my body will reward me, I learned what foods make me tired, which foods give me energy… and most importantly, I learned how to eat properly because I had never before been taught nor did research on proper nutrition for myself. On this journey I was fortunate enough to have a sponsor who enabled me to focus on competing and my coaches on my team, Team Bombshell, who gave me proper guidance with a nutritional plan and a workout plan.

What’s your diet like and why does it work for you? 

I eat 6-7 times a day, approximately every 3 hours, and my diet works for me because it is catered towards my body type and activity level. My meals are pretty much equally portioned with an emphasis on healthy carbs like quinoa, steel cut oats, various fruits, and spinach; fats like almond milk and various nuts; and proteins like grilled chicken breast, ground turkey, and lean fish. If I could eat grilled octopus and tuna sashimi all day, I would. I am pretty simple, yet specific when it comes to food. I am not big on gravy nor dressings. I usually leave my salads naked or with a touch of lemon, salt and pepper if anything at all. I cannot stand mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, or cream, unless it is really unhealthy Reddi-wip cream, but I will eat an entire chocolate mousse cake once in a while.

What are some of your current fitness goals in terms of nailing a new pole trick, entering another competition etc? 

Some of my current fitness goals are to compete in another IFBB Pro competition before the end of the year, I am still working on when it is realistic for me to compete; get a muscle-up; and make my pole routines more seamless and fluid; never stop improving.

What advice do you have for women who want to start a fitness journey but may be apprehensive? 

Just do it and do not be afraid to ask for help. A good place to start is with a mentor and or a trainer and that mentor and or trainer does not have to start you in the gym, sometimes a good dance class is all you need to get your booty in gear. Also, never underestimate the power of your diet. Good nutrition is key to fitness, health, and looking and feeling good. Meeting with a registered dietician can be beneficial in your journey and many health plans cover these visits now. If seeing a RD is unrealistic, the internet is your friend. While there are many false claims out there, there are a ton of resources online now allowing us to sort through the trash and make educated choices for ourselves. Do not be afraid to experiment, especially with workouts, sometimes it is just a matter of finding what you enjoy and sticking with it. Treadmill not for you? Maybe you enjoy outdoor running instead or even yoga, or walking, or tai chi, or boxing or hip hop dancing–try everything until you find your niche.

Tell us about Poling For Pets. 

After the success of our event last year, we decided to bring Poling for Pets back.

Poling for Pets is an annual charity benefit that features variety acts with an emphasis on pole dance in in order to raise mainstream awareness on the talent, strength and diversity present in the expanding, and at times controversial, performance craft of pole dancing. In addition to our passion for pole, Carolyn Chiu and myself, we are the producers, share a love for animals and use Poling for Pets as a liaison between avant-garde performances and aiding animals in need by donating a percentage of ticket sales, 100% of raffle proceeds, and 100% of donations from the Poling for Pets event to a local animal shelter. Our charity, for a second year in a row, will be Animal Haven Shelter, which is a 501 (c) 3 organization whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and place abandoned cats and dogs into permanent & safe, loving homes.

Poling For Pets
Ajia and Carolyn, founders of Poling for Pets.

This year’s event will be held Thursday, July 10, 2014 from 7-9:30pm at The Cutting Room. The show begins promptly at 8pm and tickets are on sale now at www.thecuttingroomnyc.com. Get them before they sell out. There will be a live vocalist, pole dance performances, burlesque performances, raffle prizes, and pets available for adoption.

Poling For Pets

How can people take your classes and generally keep in touch with you? 

Feel free to follow my class schedule at AjiaMax.com, follow me via Instagram @ajiamax, and Twitter @ajiamax. I can also be emailed directly via Ajia@AjiaMax.com.


Fun Facts: 

Ajia loves animals but she really loves pitbulls.

She is the owner of AM Fitness Groove, where she blogs about her fitness lifestyle.