For ladies in the UAE, having fabulous feet is just as important as owning the latest It bag or booking the perfect blow-dry.
Tips & Toes performs more than 6,000 pedicures each week, while NBar says its most popular treatment off a huge menu is the All In One pedi. Ute Ontong, quality control and training manager at the brand in the UAE, tells us, “With good weather all year round, women’s feet are largely exposed to sun, sea and sand, leaving their feet dry and neglected. In Dubai particularly, women are always wearing open-toe sandals, which means beautifully polished toes are required to be on full display most of the time.” So in a city where feet are constantly on show, be it in high heels, in a fine dining restaurant or in flip-flops on the beach, neglected feet just aren’t going to cut it.
But how do you put your best foot forward 365 days of the year? Maxime Lureau, operation and development director at the Studio by Bastien Gonzalez in Dubai, says it’s time to give your feet some TLC. “The main trick to keep your feet looking great is to start liking them so it becomes a pleasure to take care of them. Feet are usually abused, wearing high heels and nail polish is not fundamentally an issue but daily ‘wear and tear’ can become one. It’s important to address their needs.” With party season under way, now’s the time to make your feet fabulous with our top tips and treatments.
When was the last time you saw your nails au naturel? We’re not talking coated with a clear or pale polish, we mean bare. No top coat, no base coat – nada! Thought as much… Nail polish may allow us to get creative and jazz up our toes, but it also creates huge problems for nails and feet.
Ever noticed your toenails have turned slightly yellow, or rather than being smooth and flat they’ve developed ridges? Instead of loading on more lacquer, see this as a sign you should be steering clear of nail varnish for a while.
“Nail varnish is full of chemicals that burn nails and the nail bed,” Maxime says. “Nail polish should be worn for a period of two to three days and not for days or weeks, as this does not allow the nail to breathe.”
Swarn Kaur, Scholl brand manager in the Middle East, agrees, and recommends giving your toes time without polish whenever you can. “You may like the look of polished nails, but over time they may become more fragile and prone to breakage. When you remove polish that’s been left on too long, you’ll often see white spots, which means your nails are too dry. This is why you should go without polish for a few days in between fresh applications.”
Use hydrogen peroxide solution to fix the staining, says nail expert at Gelish, Danielle Candido. “Baking soda paste, or whitening toothpaste also works.” And as hard as it might be to part from your polish for a while – taking regular breaks and going bare will make feet even more beautiful in the long run.
A recent survey conducted by the UK’s College of Podiatry found that most women’s feet start to hurt after just one hour and six minutes of wearing stilletos and one in three women admitted to walking home shoeless due to throbbing. And it’s not just your feet you can end up hurting.
“High heels force the weight of the body on to the ball of the foot, which can cause a build up of calluses and bunions and an increased incidence of corns under the metatarsal,” warns foot expert Margaret Dabbs. “Posture is affected as the body is thrown forward and the spine can become misaligned, leading to a painful back, hip and knees.”
Dabbs recommends we “vary the style of shoe from day to day [platforms or wedges are better than stilettos despite their height]. Gel insoles are also good for reducing pressure on the ball of the foot”.
Or you can try Maxime’s top tip, which is to massage for two to three minutes after wearing heels, “working on each joint and muscle to help rebuild the normal alignment.”
Most of us have dry, hard skin on our soles, and dry heels can turn into cracked skin, which can become painful and prone to infections. So we need to moisturise using special water-based foot cream.
“Feet age in exactly the same way as the face so our treatments are very much about anti-ageing of the feet,” explains Dabbs. “The skin thins, the sweat glands reduce in effectiveness, and the subcutaneous fat is lost. General body moisturisers do not work for the feet, as the skin of the feet is 12 times thicker than the rest of the body!”
The perfect pedicures - treatments tried and tested
The treatment: Ginger wrap reflexology, Mary Foot Spa, Al Wasl road
An invigorating Oriental foot treatment that leaves you feeling light-footed...
The experience: Coming from an Irish family I’m used to hearing wise old sayings and a handful have stuck, one being: “If your feet hurt, it shows in your face.” Now it may sound silly, but it does ring true. If my toes are being pinched, it does induce a wince or two. But what about a treatment that not only looks after your feet, but treats your entire body to a bit of TLC too? That’s what reflexology is all about, or so I’d heard…
Now I know reflexology isn’t a new thing. In fact, it’s an ancient treatment developed as early as 4,000BC in China and has been a staple in mainstream spas across the world for a couple of decades now. Experts say our feet provide a map for the body’s organs and any problems are reflected in them. Problem areas are found through the application of pressure to the feet with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques.
Until recently I’d always bypassed this popular alternative therapy and gone for a prettifying pedicure. Having someone prod and squeeze my feet never appealed, but as an all-over relaxing body boost is the promise, I was willing to rethink.
I booked myself in for the ginger wrap reflexology treatment at Mary Foot Spa, on Al Wasl Road – just at the top of Safa Park, tucked away behind a Tim Hortons coffee shop.
Walking in the door there’s an instant no frills feel to the small reception area. My neatly dressed therapist greeted me with a huge smile. “Come this way,” she said, leading me through a door directly behind the reception desk. The room beyond it was long, dark and narrow with a row of large empty chairs running down one side.
Next to each chair stood a little table with a lamp. Only one lamp glowed so I sat down next to it. My therapist washed and dried my feet and lower legs. Next she applied a lotion and massaged it into my right leg from the knee down, before applying a layer of cool invigorating ginger gel and wrapping my leg up in cotton and plastic layers.
My feet are quite sensitive, so with her firm prods and pushes I was worried about spontaneously kicking her in the face. I really wanted to ask what exactly she was doing, or finding with each small movement. But it was a massage, after all, so I allowed my mind to drift.
She worked on the first foot for roughly 40 minutes, before it was time to unravel the ginger wrap. By then my lower leg had become pretty hot. In fact, it was burning hot from the ginger. My other leg was then cocooned in the same way and the whole process repeated.
The results: The reflexology seemed to be enhanced further by the enlivening ginger wrap. And when the layers were peeled off from each leg, even in the dim light I could see my skin looked softer. I left feeling relaxed, but also lighter and more energised from top to toe. And slipping my soft pampered feet into my sandals, I couldn’t help but smile.
The cost: Dh230, 90 minutes.
To book: Visit www.maryfootspa.com or call 04 388 4488.
The treatment: Paraffin Pedicure at Pastels Salon, Jumeirah branch
An elaborate treatment using warm wax that leaves your heels feeling baby soft
The experience: The first thing my therapist asked me was, “are you ready to be pampered?” From then on I knew I was in good hands and instantly relaxed! Upstairs in a quieter area of the salon my therapist talked me through the treatment. When she said the words “paraffin wax” my face gave me away. Thoughts of my feet getting burnt filled my mind, but she reassured me it wasn’t scalding hot and explained that feet are dipped into plastic boots filled with wax, and are left for 10 minutes. The wax creates a thick coating, and as it hardens the paraffin’s natural emollient softens skin and the heat opens the pores.
She started by soaking my feet in an antiseptic wash, then filed my nails and put cream on my cuticles to soften them before they were cut. She then took the plastic boots out of the heating chamber, and as I dipped my feet into them it felt all warm and squidgy, like they were getting big hugs from a satin blanket. Bliss!
My therapist went on to explain that this deep-moisturising treatment is also good for blood circulation in the feet. After the wax had been peeled off, my treatment finished with a leg and foot massage – by which point, I was in my element! I then got a splash of polish, opting for a rich, deep red for winter.
The results: My feet were ultra soft and gone were my dry cracked heels. In their place I had baby-soft and polished skin!
The cost: Pedicure Dh110, Paraffin treatment Dh120, 90 minutes.
To book: Call 04 388 3534 or visit www.pastels-salon.com.
The treatment: Margaret Dabbs Sole Lounge, The Dubai Mall
A five-star medical pedicure by a fully qualified podiatrist along with oxygen therapy to boost well-being
The experience: Nestled in the swanky shoe district of The Dubai Mall, I almost missed the narrow corridor leading to Margaret Dabbs’ Sole Lounge. A space-age white salon with a giant massage chair and podiatrists in white coats, this is the perfect combination of pampering and practical.
No leaving feet to soak in frangipani-scented water here; Margaret Dabbs, the British podiatrist behind the brand, has pioneered the medical pedicure performed on dry feet. “Water masks the area to be treated,” Margaret has said. “You can no longer see the area of dry skin or callus and therefore it’s missed. A foot file will not adhere to wet skin as well as to dry skin – the friction of the file will be reduced as a result.”
We begin and my therapist uses a myriad medical-looking appliances to remove my corns and dry skin on my soles without any anaesthetic – “there’s no need, it won’t hurt”.
She spots I have just had an in-growing toenail removed and identifies a verruca, which she treats with silver nitrate. Then she removes my old nail polish and attends to my ragged nails, cutting, filing and shaping – straight across – before using Margaret Dabbs’ award-winning products, which contain emu oil. Aboriginal, the oil has healing and anti-aging properties and has been used for thousands of years. It soon has my cracked heels and parched soles looking rehydrated and ready to show off. But we’re not finished yet.
I choose my nail polish and while it’s being applied and I’m given a manicure my chair is set to massage mode and I’m given oxygen therapy. I’ve never heard of it but my therapist explains Halo Therapy is used to detox the respiratory system from the effects of everyday pollutants. It’s great for anyone with respiratory problems and allergies, so I put on a plastic tube that blows oxygen up my nose, and sit back to relax.
The chair begins to massage – and boy, what a massage! I’ve had signature massages all over the world from experts but nothing comes close to this chair. It kneads, pummels, rocks and vibrates my muscles into submission while my hands and feet are buffed and polished to perfection.
I leave at the end feeling fantastic from head to toe.
The results: Pain-free with exceptional service and add-ons you just can’t get anywhere else, this was the best pedicure experience ever. My feet looked amazing. Brilliant.
The cost: Dh785, 70 mins.
To book: Call 04 501 6688 or email email@example.com.
The treatment: Bastien’s Pedicure at Bastien Gonzalez, The One&Only Royal Mirage
A luxurious treatment that goes a long way in treating feet woes, in an equally luxurious ambience
The experience: The first thing I noticed in my plush and private treatment room (none of that being sandwiched in a row malarky) was the giant fluffy pillow, large reclining chair and big cup of tea. Yes please!
But then I saw the dentist-esque tools lined up on the table, as if I were about to have a medical procedure, and my smile quickly faded. Nervously sinking into my chair, I was reassured I wouldn’t feel a thing. I didn’t.
Created by French podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez, these treatments aren’t just about making your feet look pretty (which they do), but they also tackle the medical side, getting to the heart of the problem instead of covering it up with a layer of polish.
First was the removal of the top layer of the nail using a whizzy electrical gadget with different wheels and buffers to gently rid you of damaged, discoloured dryness – mostly caused by wearing polish too often. Guilty. A crushed mother of pearl paste is then buffed into nails, leaving them shinier than any clear colour could. It also boosts blood flow to the nails, making them pinker so tips look whiter. This is the real French pedicure.
Then it’s on to tackling hard, dry skin. Under the close inspection of a lamp, your therapist gets up close and personal with your feet, using scalpels and knives to slough away dead skin. This is no half-hearted exfoliation using a sweet-smelling scrub.
Then comes the massage – oh, the massage. Your chair is fully reclined, lights dimmed, relaxing music turned up and you can zone out whilst your feet and legs are kneaded into a state of bliss. There’s the option to add a paraffin treatment, where feet are covered in hot wax and cocooned in what are essentially giant socks, to leave them feeling oh-so-soft.
The results: The fact I left polish free says it all – I’d never normally have the confidence to rock bare nails, but feet are perfected to the point where they’re almost unrecognisable. A week later my nails are still so shiny it looks like I’m wearing a clear polish.
The cost: Dh495 for 60 minutes.
To book: Call 04 315 2140 or visit royalmirage.oneandonlyresorts.com/healthandbeauty/oneandonlyspa.aspx.
The treatment: DDG Foot Facial, The Nail Spa
A short yet effective foot treatment
The experience: I am a big fan of DDG products so I was really excited to find out what the this ‘foot facial’ had to offer. The treatment is usually an add-on to your pedicure and is performed in the chair. The therapist started off with a good cleanse to remove any oil and surface dirt from the foot up to the knee and my skin instantly felt soft and clean.
Just like a regular facial – the next step was to tone the skin. My therapist used the DDG toning solution on a cotton pad and rubbed it in – at this point I noticed a massive difference in colour between the leg area it was applied to and the part that it wasn’t, and I was shocked at how immediate the effects were! First an exfoliating Alpha Beta Peel in pad form was applied all over my legs. The willow bark extract in the formula clears pores and exfoliates skin. Next came the application of a pad formulated with Retinol to smooth and even out my skin, which was left on for a minute before being wiped off.
After this a coat of the thick Age Recovery Mask was applied to my feet and legs and left for 10 minutes while my shoulders and back were given a quick massage.
To finish, my legs got the royal treatment with a 10-minute massage using DDG conditioning lotion to increase circulation.
The results: I could see a difference immediately. I was impressed by how bright, even and radiant my feet and legs looked. I loved this treatment, it works amazingly well as an add-on to your pedicure or on its own – especially if you’ve got a short dress and big event coming up!
The cost: Dh170, 30 minutes.
To book: Call 600 544 001 or visit www.thenailspa.com.
The treatment: The 1847 Pedicure, JBR branch
A great excuse for busy blokes to kick off their shoes and get some much-deserved TLC
The experience: If I’m honest I can’t claim to be entirely sure of how good the pedicure at 1847 is. Partially because it was my first-ever foot treatment, but also because, about halfway through, I shut my eyes and treated myself to a nap. By the time I woke up, all that was left was a quick exfoliating scrub, a slap of moisturiser and my shoes (freshly polished) being placed in front of me.
This treatment is great for tending to nails, corns and calluses and great for your general health as it gets the blood circulating, which is relaxing. It’s a strange thing, though, the male pedicure.
There’s a certain kind of clientele this place is designed for. I think, officially, they’re called Hotshots. The treatment list here is filled with phrases to appeal to them: ‘man-on-the-go’, ‘closing the deal’ and ‘forefront of business’. The pictures are of chaps on the golf course and in the boardroom. The message is clear: this is a place for your average alpha-male to have his eyebrows plucked. And who can blame them? For this JBR 1847 branch is ambient, beautifully laid out and has staff attentive to your every need.
The results: While being relaxing, it’s simultaneously invigorating. Highlights are the marine sea salt soak, the closing massage and the technician telling me I have “lovely feet, sir”. Charmer. I bet you say that to all the boys.
The cost: Dh190, 40 minutes.
To book: Call 04 422 1847 or visit www.1847uae.com.