Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Famous Foot

AKA: Ahh…A Day at the Spa

The Following appeared in the regional newspaper insert “All About Her” in October. Although I sent the editor more than six photos to go with the piece, she chose only this one, assuring that my foot would be viewed by readers from all over South West Virginia.

Most young girls who play with dolls confine their hairdressing games to brushing and styling. Some are brave enough to give a haircut. As the daughter of a hairdresser, Elaine Braley (pictured in the photo) showed signs at an early age that she would follow in the family business. While other girls her age were perfecting the use of barrettes and making ponytails, she was dying her Barbie doll’s hair.

Eight years ago, Elaine made her interest in beauty and personal care official when she became a licensed cosmetologist, after graduating from the Virginia Hair Academy. In the spring of 2005, she opened “The Salon and Day Spa,” Floyd County’s first full service spa. Located at the Cross Creek Complex in a bright, plant filled suite, the spa offers manicures, pedicures, foot reflexology, body waxing, massage, and facials. Hairdressing services are also available and are provided by Elaine’s mother, Ellen Ambrose, whose business card reads, “Master Stylist.”

I tried hard to stay out of the garden in the days leading up to my scheduled manicure, but it was harvest time and there were potatoes to dig. “I guess I’m not they type who cleans the house before the maid comes,” I told Elaine, explaining the rough condition of my fingernails. She assured me that she had seen nails dirtier than mine and, as a gardener herself, she understood.

Although I’m hard on my fingernails, they are strong and grow easily. Some people have nails that peel and split, Elaine explained. For that problem she recommends taking Vitamin B, ingesting gelatin, which can be purchased at the supermarket, and following a regiment that includes the regular use of a nail hardener.

“Genes and diet determine whether you have good nails or not,” she said while rubbing exfoliating crystals into my hands and forearms. “If you’re having a problem it will show up first in your nails and hair.”

She hydrated my cuticles with almond oil. “Olive oil will do the same thing,” she said while applying a base coat to my nails, followed by two coats of polish and a top coat, which acts a sealant. The color I chose for my newly filed, buffed, and soaked in warm lotion nails was a neutral one with a shimmer of pink, called “Privacy Please.”

Nails are a big part of the spa business, especially at prom time and during the wedding season. Elaine applies artificial nails made of acrylic, but most often recommends gel nails because they are hypo-allergenic, odorless, and non-porous.

“How do you decide on what products you use?” I asked.

“Personal experience,” she answered. Her favorite products are from the Creative brand. She continues her cosmetology education and keeps up with the latest trends through study and by attending regular seminars.

“It keeps you excited,” she said.

We moved to a small alcove in the front of the salon where pedicures are done. There, I became convinced of the importance of using a pumice stone on my heels, which are prone to dry and crack. Following Elaine’s direction, I briefly soaked my feet water to which eucalyptus oil was added for its germicidal and anti-bacterial properties. She sat on a pedicure cart that looked like a hassock on wheels with pockets on either side to hold products. She clipped, shaved, buffed, and polished with the deftness of a skilled technician, but when she talked about the products she uses and why, she made the beauty business sound like a science.

My favorite part of the pedicure was when she rubbed an exfoliating cream made from lavender and sea salt on my feet and ankles. I learned that my heels will be less likely to harden, peel, and crack if I regularly remove a layer of dead skin with an exfoliant and a pumice stone. Although she isn’t a certified foot reflexologist, like the masseuse who works out of the spa, Elaine has studied it and uses reflexology massage techniques while doing pedicures.

“Oh! This is my new favorite part,” I said as she massaged reflexology points on my feet. Some people fall asleep during pedicures. Others are ticklish during a pedicure, she told me.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could have drifted off but found myself instead following the hubbub of spa activities; several women getting haircuts came and went, a few friends dropped by to say hello, a woman and her daughter came in to inquire about getting matching dyed purple streaks in their hair.

“We’re having a mother and daughter day,” she told Elaine, who explained the difference between permanent dye and a stain that washes out but can be reapplied when desired. Decided on the stain, but still deliberating on whether to go with purple or fuchsia, they agreed to come back in 20 minutes.

After Elaine had put the final touches on my toenails with a polish named St. Petersburg Burgundy, I was admiring the color and marveling at how soft my heels felt when the woman and her daughter returned.

They took their places in the salon swivel chairs that faced a row of mirrors. Elaine, Ellen, and Paige (Elaine’s apprentice) gathered around them enthusiastically making plans for the matching streaks, as I got ready to leave. I didn't stay long enough to find out whether the streaks would be purple or fuchsia, but I imagined I would run into them later in town and give a knowing nod.

“By the way, my feet haven’t felt this good since I was a baby!” I shouted out as I left. ~ Colleen Redman

~ Originally posted on looseleafnotes.comm on January 11, 2008.

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