Exfoliate the feet and lower legs with the exfoliant of your choice, trim and shape the toenails and moisturize the cuticles.

Exfoliate the feet and lower legs with the exfoliant of your choice, trim and shape the toenails and moisturize the cuticles.

Editor’s note: Too often, salons spend time looking at what the competition’s doing, while completely missing the opportunities found in what they’re not. After all, a manicure can be had anywhere, but a “Sedona Mud Manicure”? And just how many salons that you know of do a “Scrub and Rub Hand and Foot Treatment”? From technical twists that make the service unique to marketing those differences, the savviest salon owners are capturing and exciting clients with exclusive services. This article is the first in a series we have planned on Signature Services, those services personalized and marketed to a salon’s clientele. While all are not necessarily exclusive — the aromatherapy manicures and pedicures a good case in point — they are much less common than the basic manicure and fill, and are presented as examples of how you can expand your service menu, create a captive audience (after all, where else will they go for the same thing?), and increase your average service ticket.

Have a toothache? Try clove oil. Headache? Peppermint oil. A fungal infection? Apply some tea tree or thyme oil Swollen feet or a sunburn? Use lavender oil. Nasal congestion? A few whiffs of eucalyptus should do the trick. Or perhaps you’re just feeling in need of a pick-me-up. In that case, try a blend of peppermint, rosemary, and thyme. If, on the other hand, you need to unwind, some ylang-ylang mixed with lavender and tangerine should soothe the body and the soul.

Backed by thousands of years of anecdotal research as well as the emerging results of modern scientific research, the practice of using the aromatic and concentrated oils extracted from various parts of plants to treat complaints ranging from muscle aches and pains to symptoms of stress and tension is gaining new validity and popularity. From candles to shampoos to air fresheners, smell sells.

As a promoter of health and well-being, the brick and mortar, so to speak, of beauty, aromatherapy goes hand-in-hand with salon services, as many salons have found. Some of the newest and most popular spa services incorporate aromatherapy, and salon owners and practitioners alike report that offering it gives them a slight edge in their competitive market. Services such as aromatherapy massages and manicures aren’t found on every service menu, which helps engender client appreciation and loyalty.

Whether or not your clients are interested in the therapeutic benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy, they are sure to enjoy the oils’ impact on their mood. With the continuing trend toward natural nail care, aromatherapy offers an ideal opportunity to upgrade and expand your manicure menu. The use of aromatherapy oils has little impact on service time, but many clients perceive such enhanced benefits from the service that they happily pay $5—$15 more for it than for a basic manicure or pedicure, especially if you combine it with one or two extras — like an Aroma Scrub or paraffin dip. Too, salons report it provides a great boost in the re­tail area because salons can sell not only aromatherapy oils but related items such as lotions, candles, and bath salts. “We do fabulous retailing aromatherapy products, especially of custom-blended lotions and body polishes,” reports Melinda Follen, nail director at Horst Salons + Spas in Minneapolis.

Here, three salons from around the country share the steps for their aromatherapy manicures and pedicures, inviting others to use them for inspiration or comparison.

Bellisima Aromatherapy Manicure

Price: $17

Time: 45 minutes

Maria Fajardo charges just $5 more to add essential oils to the basic manicure, and more than 80% of her clients take it every time, she says. Scent is very important to this Pasadena, Calif., salon owner, who removed acrylics from the salon because of the odor. She now offers clients tips and wraps. While the manicure service is very popular with clients, so is Bellisima’s Aromatherapy Pedicure. Clients enjoy soaking in an antique washbasin while sipping their beverage from vintage cups.


Have both the technician and client wash their hands; then prep the nails by removing old polish and shaping thenails.

If she doesn’t already have a favourite, ask the client to choose one scent from your selection. Fajardo sometimes puts a dab of the chosen oil on the client’s neck so she immediately begins enjoying the benefits.

Soak the hands in warm lotion enhanced with a few drops of the essential oil. (Even in her regular manicures, Fajardo says she adds a few drops of oil to the warm water soak.)

Massage a small amount of essential oil into each cuticle.

Massage the hands and arms with the essential oil, spending 5-10 minutes per arm.

Clean the nails to remove the oils and apply polish, if desired.

Salon 505 The Day Spa Aromatherapy Manicure

Price: $25

Time: 45 minutes

At Salon 505 The Day Spa in Austin, Texas, aromatherapy has become away of life more so than an individual service says nail technician Becky Hogsed. However, clients who choose the Aromatherapy Manicure or Pedicure are in for a special treat at the end of the service. Here, she describes the manicure service, but the pedicure service is much the same, although the oils added to the foot bath can be customized for swollen feet, varicose veins, etc. Hogsed says she often mixes up a powder blending a few drops of grapeseed oil with cornstarch to send home with clients who complain of foot odor.


To choose an essential oil, ask the client how she feels, or take your cue from her mood or the favourite scents noted on her client card. After adding a few drops to the warm water soak, leave the client to soak her hands and enjoy a cup of herbal tea for 5-10 minutes.

Perform a basic manicure, including cuticle care, and nail shaping and buffing.

Next comes the Aroma Scrub: Mix 3-4 teaspoons of regular sugar with enough of the essential oil to make a thick paste. Rub the paste into the client’s hands and arms. According to Hogsed, the result is an incredible (and very cost effective) exfoliant.

Next, massage the hands and arms with a small amount of the essential oil.

Wrap her hands and arms in hot towels and let her relax for a few minutes. All the while, of course, the air is scented with essential oils emitted from diffusers.

Clean the nail plates and finish the nails as desired.

Horst Salons + Spas The Ultimate Pedicure

Price: $47

Time: 1 hour

At Horst Salons + Spas in Minneapolis, The Ultimate Pedicure starts with an Aroma Journey, where clients choose their preferred essential oil from nine cards scented with Aveda’s different essential oil blends. And so begins a service that, Follen says, “takes clients away.” Part of the Aveda Concept Salon network, Horst employees can also go to Aveda’s Blaine, Minn., headquarters and take a six-week course to become an aromalogist, but most of the nail technicians rely on the printedmaterials and brochures Aveda offers to educate clients, as well as on their own independent study of aromatherapy from myriad books on the market.


Settle the client into the pedicure station and let her choose an essential oil. Mist a folded towel with the chosen blend and cover the client’s eyes.

Prepare the pedicure bath by adding Aqua Therapy Salts to the water, followed by a few drops of the essential oil. Let the client lie back, soak her feet, and relax for about 10 minutes with music or nature sounds.

Exfoliate the feet and lower legs with the exfoliant of your choice, trim and shape the toenails, and moisturize the cuticles.

Mix the essential oil with an unscented base lotion and perform a foot and lower leg massage, incorporating reflexology if desired.

Wrap the feet in hot towels, leaving the client once again to relax until the towels cool.

Next, give the client a paraffin dip and another relaxation break, followed by the polish color of her choice.

Move the client to a lounge chair, where she can sit with her feet up on an ottoman while her polish dries. During this time, Follen says she might discuss with the client any tender points she found during the reflexology part of the service. “They appreciate that so much, and it tells them it was more than just a foot rub,” she notes.

No New-Fangled Fad Aromatherapy

The term “aromatherapy” was coined in the 1920s by Rene-Maurice Gattefoss. The French chemist stumbled onto the powerful healing benefits of essential oils when, after an explosion in his laboratory at his family’s perfumery he plunged his burning hand into the nearest cooling liquid — a vat of lavender oil When the burns healed quickly and with minimal scarring, Gattefoss began to research the healing powers of essential oils, even as others researched their psychological benefits.

While modern researchers began to document the measurable therapeutic benefits of essentialoils, they are more validating ancient practices than breaking new ground Historians and researchers have traced the use of aromatic herbs, plants and oils in medicines, foods, perfumes, cosmetics back through time and across the continents — starting in 5000 B.C when formulas and prescriptions using essential oils were inscribed on clay tablets by Babylonian doctors. Its widespread and integral use was found in almost all aspects of life.

With the advent of “modern” medicine and synthetic drugs, many set aside the art of aro­matherapy and other products and practicesrooted in nature in favour of the science cultured in laboratories Yet the pendulum is swinging back again to nature’s healing powers as society has begun to realize that science, while having made tremendous strides in medical treatments, can offer no miracle cure That “magic pill” just doesn’t exist, and all the other pills have side effects that aren’t always desirable, Whether the effort is to simplify, to get back in touch with Mother Nature, or just to continue the search for the best cure for that which ails them, people are look­ing once again to plants and herbs.

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