POL­ISH UP YOUR ACT

Meet the wo­man at the FORE­FRONT of a move­ment to cre­ate a TOXIC-FREE en­vi­ron­ment in the nail salon IN­DUS­TRY, that BEN­E­FITS the well­be­ing of BOTH em­ploy­ees and clients.

Collective Hub - - BEAUTY - WORDS KELLI ARM­STRONG

When I was younger, I would go to a tem­ple with my mum to pray and med­i­tate,” says Amy Ling Lin, who from an early age was in­ter­ested in well­be­ing and com­ple­men­tary treat­ments, such as mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion.

But it wasn’t un­til she was granted a schol­ar­ship to study fash­ion and re­tail man­age­ment in 2010 at Syra­cuse Univer­sity in New York State that she be­came in­ter­ested in the beauty ben­e­fits of the nail in­dus­try. De­spite hav­ing never been to a nail salon, a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend about the shock­ingly un­fair prac­tices behind the scenes of so many mani-pedis peaked her interest.

The New York Times re­ported in 2015 that man­i­curists are reg­u­larly un­der­paid and ex­ploited. De­spite soar­ing growth (the number of sa­lons in New York City tripled to over 2000 in a 10-year pe­riod) in the in­dus­try, it was dis­cov­ered that em­ploy­ees, mostly im­mi­grants, were paid be­low min­i­mum wage, some­times as lit­tle as US$3 per hour, and were suf­fer­ing on­go­ing health is­sues due to chem­i­cal ex­po­sure.

“I al­ways want to help im­mi­grants, and the nail in­dus­try has many im­mi­grant em­ploy­ees,” says Amy. “My dad wanted me to be­come an immigration lawyer but that’s not my pas­sion – he dis­agrees with my interest in beauty and fash­ion. To him it’s not a very de­cent job, but, to me, I just love mak­ing peo­ple feel beau­ti­ful.”

Amy’s fam­ily is from Chang’an in south­ern China. Her fa­ther re­lo­cated to the United States when Amy was seven. She didn’t see him again un­til she too moved to the US in 2006, aged 19.

“I heard crazy sto­ries about im­mi­grant life [in New York]. When [my fa­ther] ar­rived in the US he was wash­ing dishes. He’d had a business in China so it was a huge tran­si­tion. Sud­denly he was mak­ing $300 a month and didn’t speak English. He gave me a lot of strength and en­cour­aged me to do some­thing for the com­mu­nity, to give back.”

Amy felt that she’d be sup­port­ing the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity if she could make a pos­i­tive im­pact on the nail business that in the US is largely un­reg­u­lated.

“In 2012 I’d fin­ished my re­tail course and I was work­ing for a mar­ket­ing com­pany. I stud­ied beauty after hours and took some business cour­ses. That’s when I started look­ing for lo­ca­tions and ask­ing if any­one was in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in the business.”

What proved most dif­fi­cult for Amy was find­ing a lo­ca­tion that would al­low her to sign a lease.

“I didn’t have a credit record, and my salary wasn’t high so I got a lot of re­jec­tions,” tells Amy, who even­tu­ally rented from a land­lord who ini­tially de­clined her ap­pli­ca­tion.

“They told me my business would fail in six months. They thought they were do­ing me a favour.” Amy didn’t give up. “I reached out again and told them I un­der­stood their con­cerns, but that I knew the risk more than any­one else. I said, ‘Please trust me, if I didn’t have the con­fi­dence in this, then I wouldn’t do it.’”

They TOLD me my BUSINESS would FAIL in six months.

Amy was ap­proved and opened her first nail salon on Man­hat­tan’s Up­per West Side in 2012.

“That made me be­lieve that we can make some­thing that seems im­pos­si­ble, pos­si­ble,” she says. It was in the throes of run­ning that business that Amy re­alised the high level of chem­i­cal in­gre­di­ents that were con­tained in many of the nail prod­ucts. That was the cat­a­lyst to launch her lat­est business ven­ture, a salon that’s free from harm­ful in­gre­di­ents that have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on clients’ nails and the health of salon own­ers and tech­ni­cians.

Man­i­curists han­dle chem­i­cals and breathe fumes from a range of pol­ishes, sol­vents, dry­ing agents and glues all day – some of which have been linked to can­cer, mis­car­riages and com­pro­mised fe­tal growth. >

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