Jiye Son

Improving health outcomes for NYC-based nail salon workers

Black and white image of Jiye Son
Keratin Nails
Technology & Science
Black and white image of Jiye Son

Nail salon workers in New York City are subject to difficult working environments: long hours, low wages (average of $33K / year), rampant wage theft, poorly ventilated spaces, and toxic materials. These workers are 94% women, 85% Asian and Hispanic immigrants, and 43% below age 40. They are 3x more likely to have babies born with birth defects. Yet article after article exposing salons and multiple attempts to enact new policies, little has changed. 

Introducing Jiye, who isn’t out to change a law that regulates salons, but is changing the very materials they use as one step to improve the industry. After 10 years working in nail salons herself, Jiye successfully completed her PhD in nanotechnology and materials chemistry and worked at Estee Lauder on cosmetic safety and regulations. She’s using her experience to test new ways of making nail polish and increasing awareness and education to salon workers. Her current hypothesis is stripping polish of volatile organic compounds (VCOs) and replacing them with newly invented formulas that are safer for both customers and workers.