UCLA Labor Center

Reopening During COVID-19: The Experience of Nail Salon Workers and Owners in California


2021 / Lucero Herrera, Saba Waheed, Monica Macías, Lisa Fu, Tony Nguyen, Dung Nguyen

Nail salon workers and owners have faced financial and emotional strain during the pandemic due to cycles of openings and closings and higher occupational health risks. Despite being a thriving multi-billion dollar industry pre-pandemic, there are limited studies concerning the impacts of COVID-19 on the nail salon sector. Reopening During COVID-19: The Experience of Nail Salon Workers and Owners in California examines how nail salons are navigating safely reopening, and identifies their needs for an equitable recovery.

Among other findings, the report notes:

  • Only 14% of owners are confident they can cover business expenses over the next month, including rent and payroll, and 83% of workers reported a reduction in earnings.
  • 88% of owners disclosed not having enough customers to meet business expenses, including rehiring workers, and most workers are now taking home less than $400 per week.
  • About half of nail salon workers and the majority of owners feel moderately to extremely anxious since reopening. Most workers state that health and safety is their main concern, while owners are primarily worried about having sufficient customers.
  • 89% of workers and 83% of owners reported convening with their coworkers to discuss workplace concerns and ideas for health and safety, but both groups need further in-language assistance to access up-to-date information about COVID-19, financial resources, and personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Report authors recommend providing accessible COVID-19 updates and support to nail salon workers and employers who have and continue to face financial, physical, and emotional stressors; ensuring that strong worker protections are in place as the nail salon industry recovers from COVID-19; and conducting further research on the impact of COVID-19 on this sector.

The report is based on a survey of 158 nail salon workers and 42 owners, and interviews with 4 workers and 2 owners. It is a collaboration between the UCLA Labor Center and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative

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A Survey of Nail Salon Workers and Owners in California During COVID-19