Sadrieh says sea salt is abrasive and will debride tough skin but warns against sales gimmicks such as expensive microdermabrasion pedicure add-ons.
"Skin on the foot can be 50 times thicker than skin on other parts of the body. So basically a microdermabrasion cream doesn't do much — that's why it's called microdermabrasion — it's for microdermabrasion of the skin, which is what you want to do on the face," Sadrieh says. "The skin on the face is very thin. You can't afford to take a big chunk of skin off of the face."
Scrubs using ingredients such as peppermint, lavender or eucalyptus may have aromatherapeutic or pampering value and be worth the extra money for the relaxation factor.
Bottom line: Skip the far-out foot scrubs and microdermabrasion treatments, but tried-and-true scrubs that smell good can soften skin or at the very least polish up your mood.
Wraps, clay masks, tea bag soaks and carp
Sadrieh says that a clay mask can indeed soften feet a bit. Soaking feet in a tea solution can soothe a sunburn or poison oak, but he doesn't find much additional value in it. And when it comes to seaweed wraps for feet, "Scientifically, medically, I don't see any benefit," Sadrieh says.
As for soaking your feet in a tank full of live carp — a treatment introduced in some salons across the country a few years ago — forget about it. The idea was that the fish would nibble away dead skin on your feet. It doesn't take an expert to tell us "Ewwww!" The California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology thought the same thing. After looking into it, the board outlawed so-called fish pedicures in California.
Bottom line: Tea soaks and clay masks: maybe. Far-out gimmicks: Just say no.
Foot and shoulder massage
They feel terrific and are relaxing. Just remember that the nail technician "may not be a licensed massaged therapist, so you don't want them pushing on, let's say, an injured part of your body that needs to heal," Siegal says.
Still, while manicures and pedicures are about ending up with sleek, well-groomed feet and hands, "they're also about the experience and relaxation," Siegal says. "It's part of the beauty and what people enjoy about getting them. So part of the value could be just in the pampering."
Bottom line: Use common sense, but if it's been a long day, little extra luxuries go a long way.
Cleanliness is the most important part of any mani-pedi. Consider bringing your own tools, including an in-tub liner if possible — spa whirlpool-style foot tubs can harbor bacteria in the drainage or filtration system. Or have your pedicure done in a sanitized stand-alone basin (which is often cheaper too).
And if you're offered a mani-pedi upsell, make your decision as an informed consumer. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Be sure of what you're getting. And don't be afraid to say no.
Or yes if extra pampering at a price is worth it to you.