Natural Nails

Moisturizing Manicures: New Service Twists for the Basic Manicure

Chase away clients' summer's damage wtih salt scrubs, seaweed wraps, mud treatments, and glycolic treatments. 

After a long, hot summer, most people welcome the first signs of autumn – the smell of pine needles in the air, the taste of hot cider on a cool evening, and comforting embrace of a favorite sweater. What they liked leave out in the cold, however, is dry skin that appears dull, scaly, and rough.

For a long time, the best most salons had to offer to combat the weather’s drying effects were hot oil manicures learned in school. With the popularization of spa services, though, has come an abundance of products and services. Salt scrubs, seaweed wraps, mud treatments, and glycolic treatments are just a few body treatments that have been scaled down for the hands and arms – and clients are booking them up as fast as they can. Even better, these downscaled spa services can be offered in any salon because they require no special equipment (although a private space adds ambience and relaxation to any service). Here, a few salons and spas share their clients’ favorite moisturizing manicures.

Ummelina International Day Spa, Seaweed Manicure

Time: 45 minutes, Cost $35 ($40 with polish)

Nina Ummel, owner, conceived the Seaweed Manicure more than 12 years ago based on her own experience as a manicure client. At 5’2’’, Ummel always had to hunch and stretch over the table to have her nails worked on. So when she opened her day spa, she designed all of her nail treatments to be done in a private room on a contoured treatment bed complete with eye pillows, soothing music, and aromatherapy.

Ummel addressed the particulars of the services itself. At Seattle-based Ummelina, the seaweed Manicure on the menu, through it can be customized with a variety of add-ons. All of the spa’s services are based in natural healing, and no artificial nail services are offered. While reluctant to reveal all the details of her signature manicure service, Ummel agreed to share a brief overview of the service.


Cleanse the hands and do a thorough analysis of the condition of the nails. Then, file and shape the nails.

Apply an herbal sea centrate to one hand to remineralize the skin, followed by cuticle softener on the cuticles themselves, wrap the hands in flannel knit and place them in electric mitts for approximately seven minutes.

Next, repeat this process on the second hand.

Massage the hands and arms with nutrients-rich lotion.

Push back the cuticles and trim if necessary (and only with the client’s permission). Then buff the nails, first with a three-way buffer followed by chamois buffer. 

Use a white pencil to color the underside of the free edges, giving the nails a very natural, buffed French manicure.

Finish with a paraffin dip. “This mask forces all of the moisturizers and nutrients deeper into the skin, “Ummel adds. “You can see a definite difference all the way up to the below.

Par Exsalonce, Spa Manicure

Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour, Cost: $35

After 14 years of offering the basic manicure, nail technician Karen Morande says she was thrilled when Creative’s Spa Manicure line debuted in March. The Scottsdale, Ariz., Salon immediately added the service to its menu, and so far has had a great response from clients, even though it is almost twice the price of the basic manicure.

“They’re getting more products, more massage, and more pampering,” Morande notes, “The service definitely feels better and the result seem to last a little longer. The lotion used in a basic manicure seems to lose its effect after just a few hours.” Some clients, she said, have chosen to alternate with the Spa Manicure


First, add as small amount of a citrus scented hand soak and cleanser and soak the client’s hands for 3-5 minutes.

Next, pat the hands dry, shape the nails, and push back the cuticles. For the cuticles needing extra attention, apply an AHA cuticle treatment to each fingertip and massage it in.

Working one hand at a time, apply Exfoliating Crystals and massage them into the hands and arms (including the elbows) for 2-3 minutes.

Next, massage an equal amount of Crystal Activator onto the arms, mixing into the Exfoliating Crystals. The Crystals Activator dissolves the crystals into a serum containing AHAs that penetrate for even deeper exfoliation. Continue massaging until the crystals have completely dissolve. Then repeat on the other arm.

Next, dip both of the client’s hands in paraffin, wrap them in plastic, and invite the client to relax for 10-15 minutes.

After removing the paraffin, massage Finishing Lotion into hands and lower arms.

Prep the nails for polish by cleansing them to remove all the lotions and oils. For clients who complain of peeling and cracking nails, Morande recommends Creative’s Nail Intensity as a base coat.

Sylvie Day Spa, Paraffin Manicure

Time: 1 Hour, Cost: $20

Located in a “very funky, very hip, and upscale” area of northwest Portland, Sylvie Day Spa has moved within this small area three times in 17 years, but clients always find them. And while the spa’s five full-time nail technicians are still cooked up with pedicures, as the summer season ends, technicians Mary Henry knows from experience their thoughts will be turning to getting and keeping their hands and nails in shape through the winter.

While the spa offers a spa manicure, French manicure, and hot mitt manicure as well, Henry says the paraffin manicure is the most popular because they get is all exfoliation, moisturization, and massage, topped off with a relaxing paraffin dip. Here, Henry describes her paraffin manicure.


Greet the client and briefly explain the service. Then, remove the polish and apply an AHA cuticle cream.

Shape and buff the nails on one hand and place it in a warm water soak. “We add glass marbles to keep the water warm and give their fingers something to apply with.” Henry says.

Next, switch hands and repeat the first two step on the second hand.

Remove the water from the table and massage an alpha hydroxyl scrub into the hands, paying particular attention to any rough patches of skin.

Escort the client to the sink to rinse her hands, giving her a nail brush with soap to remove residue from the scrub.

Do any cuticle works needed, being sure to ask the client before you trim. “Some people get real funny about having their cuticles trimmed,” Henry notes.

Then apply a hand cream mixed with massage oil and do a full hand and arm massage. If client’s desire, they can add reflexology to the service for $1 per minute. “As we’re doing all of this, we’re explaining to steps so that the client feels involved in the process,” she adds.

Dip the client’s hand three times in the paraffin, pausing between each dip. Then wrap the hands in cellophane and then in hot towels. Have them relax for approximately seven minutes before removing the paraffin.

“Then bolt the excess oils and lotion from the hands, clean the nails, and polish,” she concludes.

Nails by Gina and Krista, The House Specialty

Time: 1 Hour, Cost: $20

When Gina Formica first opened her Middletown, Conn., Salon 12 years ago in nearby Essex, she notice one day that the neighboring Italian restaurant always had a “House Specialty” it promoted. Taking a cue from them, she quickly decided her salon should offer no less and quickly created her own service version.

Formica has since moved the salon and has joined by Krista Santagata, but some things never change. “At least half of our clients get service in winter, and at Christmas people love to give it as gift certificates because it’s  a great service and price - $20 – seems to be what most people wants to spend.”


First, evaluate the hands, then shape the nails as desired. “Then I usually put a cuticle cream on before the soak to help loosen the cuticles, “Formica explains.                

After letting the client soak for 3-5 minutes, put her hands dry and apply another coat of cuticle cream. If cuticle trimming is necessary, Formica recommends asking the client’s permission.

“Then, I use a sloughing of exfoliating cream and massage he hands and arms, “she continues. “Once that cream is absorbed, I put on a very thick coat of scented warming cream.”

Next, wrap the hands in cellophane and put them in heated mitts. Invite the client to relax for 5-7 minutes. (We’ve heard that a few nail technicians spend this time giving their clients a brief – but beloved – neck and shoulders massage.)

After removing the hands yet again to rub in the excess cream.

Check over the nails and cuticles one last time, then clean the nail plates and polish as desired.

Add It Up

Would you rather adopt a “back to the basic” theme for your menu and allow clients to customize their experience with add –ons? Happily, there are many, many mini-services to choose from. For example, many salons offer paraffin dips a la carte, and Mona Lisa Salon (Portland, Ore.) offers a paraffin dip and massage treatment that can be coupled with any nail service or enjoyed on its own.

Salon 505 (Austin, Texas) offers its French Spa Hand Masque to manicure clients for an additional $12. According to nail technician Becky Hogsed, “There are a percentage of clients who just get a basic service, but when I tell them about what we offer, 75% of them will add something. “And once they try it, odds are they’ll book it for their next service, too.

“A lot of clients enjoy our hand massage heated glove treatment,” she continues. “We also get a lot of requests for that while clients’ hair color is processing, especially in the wintertime.”




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