Can I tell you a secret? I dread the holiday season. Oh, I love the parties, visiting with friends and family, and the traditions.

What I dread, though, is the list of everyone I’d like to remember with a gift this year. Trying to figure out that perfect gift for every person on my list has me making multiple trips to the mall searching for just the right item.

Not this year, though. This year, every woman on my list (and several of the guys) will receive a gift certificate to a local salon for some health and beauty pampering. From spa manicures to sports pedicures, I can take care of just about everyone.

According to the salon owners I asked, the nine weeks between Halloween and New Year’s can easily account for 50% or more of their annual gift certificate sales with the right promotions and, even more importantly, the right services.

According to Kelly Riser, co-owner of the New York, New York salon in Frederick, Md., gift certificates offer something for everyone. “We have a lot of women, who buy for men, and we’re finding that more and more men come in to shop for their wives and girlfriends,” she asserts.

While smart salon owners will offer a range of gift certificates that put less focus on the dollar value and more on what you’re offering in terms of innovative services. Gift-givers in particular are as interested in buying an experience as in its results. Here, four salons and spas share unique pedicure services sure to warm any recipient’s stocking – and heart.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian The Endless Energy Pedicure

Time: 80-90 minutes

Price: $110

“The best way to talk about the Endless Energy Pedicure is to experience it,” asserts nail technician Tracy Porten of the newly opened Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian, Las Vegas’ newest mega-resort. In addition to The Endless Energy Pedicure, the spa offers a Refreshing Rain Paraffin Quench Pedicure ($95) or Manicure ($75) and a Heavenly Hands Anti-Aging Hand Treatment ($35).

While Porten was understandably reluctant to provide the full details of the spa’s luxurious pedicure, it goes something like this:


The Endless Energy Pedicure actually builds upon the spa’s basic Essential Signature Pedicure, Porten explains. Clients can choose from four different soaks (Canyon Ranch uses the entire Gena line) to relax and clean their feet.

Trim and shape the toenails and cuticles. Next, vigorously rub the feet with a sloughing lotion, rinsing the feet in the soak.

Apply a lavish coat of warm mud; then wrap the feet in gauze and micron foil and leave on for 15-20 minutes. Apply a moisturizing lotion or oil and thoroughly massage the feet and lower legs.

Next, apply a cooling gel or lotion to the lower legs and feet. Canyon Ranch technicians use Cryo Tonic Gel, which is formulated to cool and tighten tissues, leaving customer’s legs and feet feeling re-energized. The gel remains on the client’s feet for 20 minutes.

I.a. vie I’orange Takes the Orient Express

Time: 1 hour

Price: $55

The grand opening of the all-natural Beverly Hills salon wasn’t actually scheduled until two weeks after we spoke, but co-owner Kelly Brown took a break from a last-minute working vacation in Hawaii to tell us about one of I.a. vie I’orange’s all-natural pedicures.

“We really wanted to go forward with natural nail care and get away from chemicals and acrylics,” Brown explains. “So from the salon environment to our products to the services, we are as natural as we can get.” The “we” she mentions includes herself and partner Sugar Hare.

The name of the service described here, Takes the Orient Express, comes from the borrowed Asian influence of the product ingredients, Brown explains. “Cucumber is a signature skin care product of Asia,” she says. “We chose the name because of the comfort and feeding of the skin it provides.”


First, soak the feet. The signature soak for this service is a mixture of rose water and chopped cucumber, which Brown rubs all over the feet to cleanse and exfoliate.

Wipe the feet with a hot towel to remove the mixture as well as exfoliated skin. Then trim and shape the nails and apply cuticle remover. Trim cuticles only as needed; then apply an orange blossom-based cuticle replenisher or soak and massage it into the cuticles.

In a bowl, mix heated paraffin wax with essential oils and herbs of the client’s choice (based on the desired scent and properties). Then paint the paraffin mixture onto the feet with a paint brush.

Wrap the feet in plastic and cover with a heated towel. Remove after 10-15 minutes.

Massage the feet using hot stones. While this particular type of massage requires some training, Brown says the most simple explanation is that using 1 – 2 hot rocks and massage oil, you apply pressure on specific points on the feet. Using the same premise as reflexology, the heat of the stones intensify and deepen the massages with less pressure.

Lake Austin Spa Resort Hot Rock Reflexology

Time: 50 minutes

Price: $70

Introduced late last year, the Lake Austin Spa Resort’s (Austin, Texas) Hot Rock Reflexology Massage has already caught on with clients. Performed by the spa’s massage therapists, nail technicians who are certified in reflexology could easily add to their repertoire their own version of this 50-minute service.

“We developed this treatment because the full body Hot Rock Massage is wonderful, but some people really want reflexology, and the hot rocks just enhance it,” explains massage therapist Melissa Murphy.


Have the client lay on the massage table and wrap first her hands and then her feet in warm towels. (Heated mitts set on the lowest setting also would work well instead of towels.)

Remove the warm towels from one hand and massage that hand using a rose hip lotion. Murphy recommends spending about five minutes per hand. She uses stretching, range of motion, and compression massage techniques. Remove the warm towels from the feet and rub an essential oil of the client’s choice into the feet. Spend a few minutes massaging each foot with simple stretches and range of motion exercises.

Next, remove the heated rocks from the water and perform reflexology on each foot, using the stones instead of your thumbs and fingertips on the pressure points. “We have different-size and-shape stones and you can apply very specific pressure to points with smaller stones with well-defined contact areas, while larger stones are good for the compression technique,” Murphy adds.

She notes the stones also benefit the therapist in that you can apply a deep pressure to each point without as much stress on your own hands.

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