Steaming the Feet during a Pedicure?

I have heard/read several comments on steaming the feet during pedicures lately. Most said it added luxury and relaxation to the service and added a notable difference to their protocol ~ I do see that and agreed but having never done this during hand and foot services, I thought I’d do some research in what it does to the skin and how beneficial (or detrimental) it is.

This trend was introduced as nail professionals considered adopting sockless protocols and thought adding steam from facial services would make their hand and foot care services different and better. ‘If steaming worked as a benefit to their services, possibly it can be one for ours,” was the thought behind it. But amazingly, while checking it out, I found that steaming during facials is now falling out of favor in esthetics ~ more and more estheticians are considering dropping steaming during their services or have dropped it already. Why?

1 – The premise of “opening the pores” with warm steam is false. Pores do not have a sphincter muscle surrounding their entrance, so they do not open and close. They stay the same, warm water/steam or not.

2 – The heated water in the steam dehydrates the skin, just as soaking does. If you do steam, you must rehydrate the skin well.

3 – A steamer is just one more piece of equipment to operate during a service and then clean and maintain. Ask an esthetician – it’s a pain.

4 – Then there is this “nails only” reason: As with soaking, steam will change the nail shape, affecting the retention of the polish (see the ANT).

Winter is drying

When this is being written, winter is approaching, and feet will again be subjected to dehydration. Winter-type dehydration manifests as flaky skin on the feet. If you see this on a client who throughout the rest of the year has healthy, normal skin, exfoliate the feet and legs well with a gentle scrub to remove the dead cells caused by dehydration.

Did you know that sweating inside warm boots is dehydrating? Very. And that even wearing warm socks on enclosed shoes can contribute to dehydration due to perspiration? But we certainly cannot give up warmth to prevent it. For that reason, it’s believed we as nail professionals should not contribute to dehydration with a steamer, even in a small way. And we know, of course how important hydrating home care is in the winter, right?

How to be different and effective

A way to initiate a soakless pedicure service differently may be to apply a thin coat of cream or balm hydration product after the cleansing massage and then to use warmed (dry) towels sprayed with an essential oil (sprayed on after the towel is removed from the warmer. Not much is sprayed on, just a little), and then wrapping the feet well with it while performing the cleansing massage on the other foot. (See soakless protocol in the ANT.)  After the scrub massage and appropriate service massage, one of two treatments can be performed:

1 – A paraffin treatment. A cream or balm product is recommended as best under paraffin as they penetrate the skin much better than lotions, taking the ingredients into the skin to add to the natural hydration of the skin. (Lotions are designed to perform barrier hydration to hold the body moisture in; little penetration occurs with most lotions.) It does not take much cream or balm. Next the paraffin is applied, and then a thin plastic bag is placed over the paraffin, and terry mitts are placed over the plastic bags – not electric mitts. Leave for 5-10 minutes. This cream or balm can be a great home care nighttime product also with a little massaged in at bedtime.

2 – Mitts on the feet. The same cream or balm is applied thin to the feet and then a thin plastic bag is put directly over the product. Then electric or terry mitts are placed on the feet, the electric mitts left the feet on low for 5 minutes, the terry ones for 10 minutes. A short massage after the treatment makes any remaining product penetrate fully.

It is great to be luxurious and different, and steaming sounds good to me – I’m also a licensed esthetician who always used a steamer back in my facial days. But now, after checking out current anecdotal evidence, I do not recommend it be used during pedicures or manicures. If you do, HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE!!

By Janet McCormick

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