Imagine walking into a salon to get your regular manicure and pedicure, and the woman sitting across from you is a victim of human trafficking.

Trafficking in health and beauty salons occurs more often than many would think. Nail salons are becoming a new front for trafficking — where normal business is conducted at the front of the store while women are being forced into modern slavery in the back.


Human trafficking takes place when a person is forced into work usually without pay, or the person is forced, tricked or trapped in some form of prostitution. Surprisingly, trafficking can happen anywhere — on the streets, in hotels, and even in your favorite salon. Chris Healy, the assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security in North Carolina, raised concerns about a trafficking case at Luxury Nail Salon. “They were beaten. Their identification was taken from them. They were also incurred with $180,000 debt. We all have bills to pay but $180,000, that’s servitude.”

According to HuffPost, those who are most likely to be trafficked in nail salons are Asian women, and often, these young women have language barriers that can prevent them from asking for help. Norma Ramos, Executive Director at the Coalition Against Trafficked Women, said that “you can have these women being labor trafficked to work in those salons during the day, and then pulled into sex trafficking at night.”


What can you do to be a solution to the problem of trafficking in nail salons? The first step is to simply be vigilant. If you see something out of the ordinary, say something. Seeing something as simple as a man asking for a massage in a nail salon raises suspicions for a potential trafficking situation. Spas and salons that are fronts for sex trafficking will often have poorly trained workers who will take men into completely separate rooms after entering. A report by Polaris also states that a huge red flag is any sign that employees, especially women, are living on the premises. 

Nail salons illegally using victims of modern slavery are often cheaper for customers. It is no secret that we all love finding a good deal when we pamper ourselves, but often, we must ask ourselves if it’s worth it. Rachel Harper, from the modern slavery charity Unseen said, “Unfortunately if we always go for the bargain then we might unwittingly be supporting the situation that’s actually really exploitative for the staff. Is my discount worth the fact that someone might have lost all of their choice?”

Free for Life is committed to shining a light into the shadows surrounding our daily lives and local communities. Keep an eye out for more Spotlight posts, highlighting what trafficking looks like in various sectors of society.

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