What do you actually get for the price of a fancy spa pedicure?
January 6, 2008 7:58 PM   Subscribe

What is the difference between a $75 pedicure at a fancy spa and a sub-$25 pedicure at some hole-in-the-wall storefront? Is it just about the ambience and the expensiveness of the products, or are the services qualitatively different?
posted by matildaben to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I find the more expensive places do a better job (though for me, "more expensive" is more like $50). After a cheap pedicure, my heels still feel rough and the nails are often still jagged or sharp on the edges; with the more expensive ones, my skin feels much smoother for much longer, the polish tends to last longer, and I'm not worried about snagging my nails on stockings.

Around here, a lot of the more expensive places use more eco-friendly products, too, which I tend to think is better for the employees as well.
posted by occhiblu at 8:06 PM on January 6, 2008

I've gotten excellent pedicures for very little money, but usually in large city where there's lots of nail salons. I've read that cheaper pedicure places can have cleanliness issues, but personally, I've never had any trouble.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:43 PM on January 6, 2008

Usually, the nicer places bring you a glass of wine. Other than that it seems pretty much the same. I've had great pedis at cheap places and I've paid a ton for some that were only so-so.
posted by 26.2 at 9:13 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

The fancy pedicures I've gotten (all two of them) were notable for a couple things: the time that was taken and the disposal of tools. I noticed that in the expensive places every little bamboo cuticle pusher, etc. was snapped in half before discarding and the metal tools were put in a device that sanitized them. By comparison, in the cheaper places tools are just dipped in a solution to sanitize and are all re-used. A pedicure took longer and involved more active attention in the expensive places as opposed to sitting there soaking and waiting. That said, I love my cheap neighborhood spot and don't feel the spa places warrant the price difference.
posted by cali at 9:46 PM on January 6, 2008

I think the main difference is in the amount of time they spend on you and the quality of the products. My best pedicures have come from the expensive places and my worst ones from the cheap places, but I've had bad expensive pedicures and good cheap ones, too. I actually prefer the cheap places because the techs there are usually busy speaking to each other in a language I don't understand, so I'm free to read magazines. Seems like the expensive ones take forever and they want to talk to you the whole time, and always in this Manolo-Cosmo-girlfriendy way that wears me out. And their cheap champagne gives me a headache. Wow, I sound like such a grouch! But it's true.
posted by Enroute at 9:52 PM on January 6, 2008

For me there's always been a world of difference in the quality of the actual pedicure. Aside from nicer atmosphere/service/products, they just pay more attention, and do a better job.

Cheap 'mall' pedicures are ok if you're desperate, but there's nothing quite like finding a really good quality pedi.

Personally I highly recommend Spa de Servilles in the Auckland Viaduct (New Zealand). I'm never seen my toes so pink and soft.
posted by girlgeeknz at 10:25 PM on January 6, 2008

I go to cheap local places for my nails and often get top quality polish brands like OPI and Essie. The differences are that the tools tend to be reused, and in the time and attention you get, as cali mentioned.

Some fancy spas also use in-house concoctions when it comes to lotions and such, where cheap places will use a bottle of no-frills drugstore or industrial sized stuff.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:00 PM on January 6, 2008

$25 = toenail infections, bleeding cuticles, dead skin left on heels, foot rubs that hurt, annoying massage chairs that feel like a big lump rolling up and down your back, and nail polish that lasts about a day

$50 = the most heavenly foot rub, a well made martini, a lot of exfoliating, a gentle touch and polish that will grow out before it ever chips

I ended up with toenail infections twice from 'chop shop' nail places (in two different towns, many years apart) and swore off pedicures forever. Then I bought my sister and I fancy pedicures for Christmas one year and it changed my life. OK, that's dramatic, but it was certainly heavenly and worth every cent. I was hooked and will never go back to a cheap place again. I suppose you can find a cheap place that does a good job or a fancy place that sucks, but in my experience it's worth the money.
posted by slowfasthazel at 11:35 PM on January 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

i've never had a problem from any cheap pedicure or manicure.
i find the cheap vietnamese places are the best for this stuff. they're thorough, quick, efficient, and use OPI colors. some of them suck, but ive never had an expensive mani/pedi that was any better. in fact, in my experience they've been a lot worse. they just take a lot longer and give you a lot of fancy drinks and lotions and potions to distract you.
honestly, the best mani/pedi i've ever had was for $25 (total) in a crappy little shop in philly's chinatown. seriously.
posted by timory at 5:38 AM on January 7, 2008

I feel like I get more and better service at the cheapo places, actually. Certainly they're more perceptive as to whether or not I want to talk. How long the polish lasts before chipping seems dependent on the skill of the person doing it -- at the same place, same polish, I've had the polish last many weeks or barely days. And the shoulder rub while waiting for my toes to dry rocks. I don't find expensive pedicures to be worth the money at all. Nicer-smelling lotion and perhaps a little more time taken, but less attentive overall.
posted by desuetude at 6:38 AM on January 7, 2008

You can find $25 places that properly sterilize/dispose of their tools, or keep a set of tools just for you. Competition in most places is so fierce now, that's how they distinguish themselves.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:47 AM on January 7, 2008

I find the expensive spa places completely overrated and also dislike being forced into silly conversation. I'm there to relax and get pampered, not chat about Sex in the City.

I have found an ideal situation: the 'spa' pedicure at a regular nail salon. For an extra $20 ($45 total) they spend half an hour massaging each leg, take great care with the dry skin, use nicer products - it's just heaven. I really appreciate this salon - they play classical music on the stereo, not top-20, which makes such a difference to the whole relaxation aspect, and the massages while your nails are drying are excellent. They really take their time, and, with your permission, will unhook your bra and massage under the shirt, give head massages, and in general really pamper you - not the usual 'couple of weak strokes on the shoulder and off you go'. Also, this salon allows you to keep a box with your own tools - including your own razor for the dry skin, which many salons will no longer do. The whole process takes almost 2 hours and is well worth the $45 plus tips! Every single person I've taken there has become a loyal customer.

So my advice is: find a regular (non-spa) salon that tries a little bit harder than the average strip mall salon and then get their upgraded service. It will still be cheaper than at an actual spa and minus the chit-chat (hopefully!).
posted by widdershins at 6:52 AM on January 7, 2008

I get such great pedicures for $12 that I see no need to pay for the "spa" pedicure. But that's only at specific places- I've gone to enough places to know which provide the best value. I imagine it varies greatly by location.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:51 AM on January 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with the folks above who say that you can find great "cheapo" pedis. Yes, you have to be careful about where you go. But it's worth the effort to find a good place and stick with it. I get consistently fantastic pedis at my current "cheapo" place, and I've paid a mint at some fancy spas for pedis that were emphatically mediocre.
posted by somanyamys at 9:24 AM on January 7, 2008

Agreeing that it depends on the cheapo place and the expensive place. My very favorite pedi salon is Bollinger Nail Spas (northern CA) - they were in fact rated "best of the East Bay" by Diablo Magazine. Their signature spa pedicure is worth every penny - my feet felt silky for weeks. And they are very careful with sterilization and sanitation.

OTOH, one of my friends and I go to a cheapo hole-in-the-wall in Santa Clara and get lovely pedis there too - and they have black, blue and purple glitter nail polish which Bollinger doesn't (biggest drawback to that place, only "ladylike" nail colors! I happen to like purple glitter on my toes!), and they are sanitary. So definitely YMMV.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:40 AM on January 7, 2008

Yeah, I was thinking this morning that I used to get great cheap pedicures in Boston. I've just been disappointed with every cheap place I've tried in San Francisco (to the point of feeling like it was a total waste of money and time, not just in a "Eh, it's ok" sort of way), so I'm rather attached to the one or two places I've found that do a good job -- they just both happen to be in the $40-50 range.
posted by occhiblu at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2008

The WORST pedi I ever got was also the most expensive - Gene Juarez, $55, it SUCKED. They waved a file over my toenails, grazed my soles with a pumice, gave me a shitty paint job, never again. All the $20-$25 ones have been fine-to-great.
posted by tristeza at 10:25 AM on January 7, 2008

Response by poster: So where is a good cheap place to go in Seattle, tristeza?

My fave expensive place so far is Spa Scotta, but they don't give you a martini, only herbal tea. That's so Seattle.
posted by matildaben at 5:48 PM on January 7, 2008

i don't actually live in seattle, but i happened to get a manicure there when i visited a friend, and the place i went to was actually really amazing. i am almost positive it was this place: diamond nails.

$25 for a manicure and pedicure, very quick service (there were two people working on me at once), and a massage! a good one, too. i was really impressed.
posted by timory at 5:50 AM on January 8, 2008

anything in the Toronto area? a lot of cheap places around here (chinatown in particular), but no idea which one is any good.
posted by olya at 8:20 PM on January 13, 2008

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