Are your products doing what you THINK they are?

We all want to get a great value, but I’m amazed by how many friends, family members, and clients are not getting the results they should from certain products or treatments, but are reluctant to change.  Here are a few I’ve caught recently.   I’ve really been re-thinking a few of my own product choices lately too.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Moisturizers with SPF

I read an article online recently quoting a dermatologist who recommends sunscreen only as opposed to facial moisturizers that include sunscreens.  It made really good sense, actually. I had always felt fine knowing that my beloved Derma E BB Creme has SPF 25.  BUT…the dermatologist argued that for sunscreens to work, they have to be applied liberally to the skin. I only dot the BB Creme where I need help evening my skin tone.   Many people who use moisturizers with SPF only dot them where needed and certainly don’t apply heavily under make-up.  This is fine for walking from Gong Fu to the spa, but not for prolonged sun exposure.  I need to invest in Derma E’s facial sun screen in addition!

Hand Cream for Nails and Cuticle Care

For dry skin on the hands, hand cream is a must, but most lotions are too heavy to do much to help dry cuticles and peeling nails because the molecules are too big to be effective.  A cuticle oil with smaller molecules is more appropriate as it will absorb quicker to moisturize dry cuticles can even penetrate through nail polish to hydrate nails underneath.  Clients who complain that their Shellac chips after a few days of wear but refuse to use an oil designed for cuticles that can penetrate through gel polishes because they believe their thick hand cream can do it all won’t get the results they want.  Fortunately, a mini bottle of Solar Oil is less than $3 and will help keep nails from peeling underneath Shellac and will work wonders on dry cuticles and overall nail appearance.  Partner the cuticle oil WITH your favorite hand cream for the rest of your skin, you’ll be looking like a hand model in no time.

Daily Exfoliation Cleansers:

You only need to exfoliate 1-2x/week with a good exfoliation product like Derma E’s Microdermabrasion Scrub.  Daily cleansers with plastic beads are not doing enough to exfoliate, some drug store scrubs that are promoted for daily use are far too harsh due to the jagged edges of the abrasive ingredient.  Even a good quality exfoliation product should not be used more than twice weekly.

Callus removing tools

Many people mistakenly believe that metal blades to shave or scrape calluses are the most effective way to remove them, but in reality, these harsh tools actually can damage skin leading to scarring and harder calluses as the skin works to repair itself.  In many states, including Iowa, Credo Blades (metal callus razors) are  illegal in nail salons so if you see one, RUN!

If you have hard calluses that are bothering you, the safest way to soften them is to use a gentle foot file like the ones we give you during your pedicures at the spa regularly in the shower, but not TOO aggressively.  Products like Farmhouse Fresh Honey Heel Glaze can also gently soften calluses.  Our calluses do serve a purpose in protecting our feet, especially for runners, walkers, and people who like to wear sandals or walk barefoot, so it is important to leave some callus!

Epsom Salt Baths:

We are total advocates for baths with Kneipp aromatherapy salts or Epsom Salts (even the drugstore epsom salts!) but you can get too much of a good thing.  Some people mistakenly believe that salt baths soften the skin, but in truth, they can be quite drying, especially when combined with the hot water.  If you take baths regularly, either add a softening agent to the bath in addition to your salt like a light bath oil (almond or jojoba) or the Kneipp Skin Soft Almond Bath, or be sure to rinse the salts off briefly after a soak and apply a good moisturizer.

5 Easy tips for your DIY manicures

Of course we love to have you come into the spa for a relaxing mani/pedi, but we know that sometimes in a pinch you need to do it yourself.   There can also be something really meditative and relaxing about taking time to tend to your nails at home.

CND Offly Fast Home Shellac Removal Kits

CND Offly Fast Home Shellac Removal Kits

5. You CAN safely remove Shellac at home, it just takes longer since you will be doing one hand at a time.  As long as you are patient and follow recommended instructions, you should be fine.  As soon as next week, we’ll even have DIY Shellac Removal Kits.  The video linked to this post and the removal kits are intended for CND brand Shellac which comes off easier than other gel-polish brands, but you can research safe removal methods for other brands.  We used to advise only getting professional removal (which is still the ideal) but we have too many clients who pick their polish off at home and damage their nails so we might as well make sure you know the best ways to remove it safely!

4. Shellac doesn’t have to mean 2 weeks of the same color! You can use a regular polish like Zoya or Vinylux over the top of Shellac to add designs or just a quick change of color, the remove it quickly with a gentle remover and swipe nail with alcohol to bring shine back.  A quick swipe of gentle remover won’t take off the Shellac and this is a fun way to add a bit of art to your nails or paint a darker color over a light shellac shade or a shimmery sheer polish to add sparkle over a cream color Shellac.

I used Vinylux over the top of Shellac to create accent nails to wear for a day (I didn't use Vinylux top coat), and removed with Zoya remover and wiped with alcohol to restore shine.

I used Vinylux over the top of Shellac to create accent nails to wear for a day (I didn’t use Vinylux top coat), and removed with Zoya remover and wiped with alcohol to restore shine.

3. Love Zoya’s colors (especially the Pixies, glittery, and shimmery options) but the drying speed and long wear of Vinylux?  Layer them!  We like using similar shades and applying a layer of Vinylux as a base coat, topped with 1-2 layers of Zoya for color, and a layer of Vinylux top coat for quick drying.  It is also fun to use a darker shade of Vinylux as a base and top it with a shimmery sheer Zoya shade to change up the look.

Ideas for pairing Vinylux and Zoya for the best of both worlds.

Ideas for pairing Vinylux and Zoya for the best of both worlds.

2. Add flair to your nails with a metallic sharpie!  Even wobbly hands can do dots, hearts, stripes, or fun french tips with Sharpies (regular metallic Sharpies, not paint pens).  Apply to dry polish or a gel polish (see #5) then top with a base coat.  Full instructions and ideas here.

1. Whatever you do,  cuticle oil is a must! I hate bundling and am terrible at wearing my gloves in the dry winter air so my hands and cuticles are fried!  I snapped a before pic, applied CND Solar Oil, waited 10 minutes and it pretty much worked wonders.  Solar Oil is designed to penetrate through the tiny tunnels in CND Shellac so it will continue to hydrate your nails and cuticles while you wear Shellac to help it last longer and so your nails stay healthy underneath the polish!  Keep it on your night stand for a quick bedtime application.

My hands before and after Solar Oil.

My hands before and after Solar Oil. My nails are 1 week out from my last Shellac manicure and I’ve been really hard on them since!

Stop in to check out our selection of CND and Zoya brand polishes, or if you are more the type to let a pro pamper your nails, book your manicure or pedicure online!

Please believe us when we say…

Many of us have been practicing massage, esthetics, or nail care for a LONG time, but we were all clients before we were practitioners and we know how easy it is to ignore the advice of a pro.  I polled our team to get their feedback on the top 15 things they wished clients knew (or rather, they wished clients would believe their esthetician, LMT, or nail tech about!)

15. If you are indecisive about nail polish colors, bring an article of clothing you want help matching for a special event or come with at least a basic idea of the color family (i.e. red, blue, pink) and whether you want cream or sparkle.  Your nail tech has seen how all of the colors look with lots of different skin types so if you are torn between a few shades, defer to her for the color that will look best and get you the most compliments!  If you arrive a few minutes early, ask the receptionist if you can walk back to the nail room for extra browsing time!

14.  Sometimes the most effective massages aren’t the ones with the heaviest pressure.  Lighter touch might do wonders for tension and services like Cranio Sacral Therapy are incredibly gentle but effective.

13. Shellac is a name brand gel polish from CND, but like most people call all kinds of tissues “Kleenx” even if they are a store brand or “Puffs” brand,some places just call all gel polishes “Shellac.”  Real Shellac can remove gently in under 10 minutes with no damage to the nail, but if what you are wearing is an off-brand, it might take our nail techs longer which will cut into your other service times.  Please be understanding with our nail techs if they have to adjust your service  due to longer removal process of non-Shellac gel polishes.

12. While we love that people think we’re just naturally gifted, our professions do require quite a bit of education and continuing education.  Many of our employees have over 1,000 hours of industry training, some over 2000 hours!   All of our licensed employees are required to attend regular continuing education (which is awesome because our classes are so cool!)

11. Men visit the spa and not just for massage!  Guys need skin care and facial treatments even more than women because of how irritating shaving can be on the skin.  Did you know that lots of pro football players regularly get manicures and distance runners often get pedicures to keep their toenails healthy so they can survive the abuse of training?

10. You will enjoy your service more if you arrive 5-10 minutes early to relax and shake off the day’s stresses so you can start your service in a place of relaxation.  Arriving late sets the wrong tone, means it takes you longer to get “in the zone” and means a shorter session.  If you just can’t seem to make it on time, book 15 minutes later.

9. Real change takes time.  While our LMTs, Estheticians, and nail techs are experienced and well educated in their specialties, it usually takes more than one visit to help you achieve your goals.  If you have had pain from your posture at work for years, it will take more than one massage for relief.  If you have been a nail biter working to grow your nails, a series of manicures can do wonders.  Working to see big improvements with your skin?  It will take more than one facial.  While one spa visit is great for an occasional indulgence, for real change, doing the recommended home care and visiting on a regular schedule will really improve the health of your skin or nails or decrease your pain.

8. We really do book up, especially for evenings and Saturdays.  Our happiest clients are those who set aside a regular time for sessions and book standing weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly services so they have something to look forward to and aren’t stressed when they can’t get in last minute.  It is easier to give us a day’s notice to cancel than to get in at a popular time on a day’s notice.

7. Everyone’s skin needs change regularly, especially with seasons which is why monthly facials are good.  Plus it is really nice to come regularly for a deeper cleanse with steam and extractions.

6. It is totally fine not to chat during your services!  You’ll get to a deeper state of relaxation and your therapist can focus more on his or her work for a more effective session.  If you snore, even better!  We consider that our highest compliment!

5. If your nails are dry or brittle, your hands are frequently in water or you have a job requiring lots of hand washing, or you don’t regularly moisturize nails with cuticle oil, your polish (including CND Shellac) will chip sooner.  Really, cuticle oil and starting with healthy nails will make a huge difference in how long your polish lasts.

4. Don’t plan a big night out drinking before (or after) your massage.  Trust us, it is very hard to relax with a hangover and massage will not help.  If you have a massage on the books and plan to go drinking afterward, you might feel extra crummy the next day.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

3. All bodies are awesome.  Trust us, we see pre-teens, great-great-grandmas, people with severe injuries, people undergoing cancer therapies, pregnant women, people of all heights and weights and we are not judging our clients on their bodies.  Your therapist is not focusing on your weight or your body hair, or blemishes.  He or she is focusing on how to help you feel great in the body you have and it is a really, really wonderful job.

2. Yes, our significant others are lucky (because we are awesome people) but no, they don’t get massage all the time.  In most cases, they have to schedule appointments like everyone else.  And often, they see our co-workers who are focused more on their therapy needs and not whether or not the dishes got done at home. 😉

1. Having regular massage will assist in strengthening the immune system by lowering stress levels and helping to keep stress in the body to a minimum.   And, considering that stress is a huge risk factor for many major life-threatening diseases, reducing stress can save your life!

Planning your wedding spa service timeline

The holidays are one of the most popular times to get engaged and if you were part of a couple celebrating your recent engagement, CONGRATULATIONS!  Hopefully you are able to enjoy planning a celebration with family and friends, but we know sometimes wedding planning can be stressful and confusing.  Here are a few helpful hints for planning spa services to prepare for your wedding.


Whether it is a bride looking to schedule a first Brazilian or a groom wanting his first back wax, the worst time to experiment is the day or two before your wedding!  For best results, we recommend getting the wax services you’re considering for your wedding and honeymoon at least 6 months out and then keeping up the routine until your wedding.  The first wax is often the most painful and until you have a wax, you won’t know how your skin will react.  With regular waxing, you’ll likely get a smoother result and less irritation for the big day.

If you are planning to wax your underarms or legs prior to your wedding, plan to have AT LEAST 6 weeks of growth for a smoother wax.  Hair needs to be a minimum of 1/4 inch long and the longer the better in those areas.  Brow and lip waxing should be planned at least 3-4 days in advance of the wedding.Leg Waxing at East Village Spa


If you are a nail biter looking to grow your nails for your wedding, we recommend at least 3 months out getting at least a basic manicure every 2 weeks to help keep your cuticles and nails in shape and reduce your temptation to bite them.  Applying a cuticle oil like CND Solar Oil and hand cream nightly will do wonders to get your hands and nails in shape for wedding photos.

Wearing a hard polish like Shellac is a great way to grow your nails because it makes it harder to bite your nails and easier to break the habit, especially with stressful wedding planning.  Using REAL CND brand Shellac (as opposed to one of the imitation versions some salons call “Shellac”) with proper removal will not damage your nails.


If you have skin concerns you’re looking to address before wedding photos, the best time to start working on them is at least 6 months out.  A professional esthetician can help you determine the best products are for your skin needs (and your lifestyle).  They can also help with clogged pores and clearing up your skin.  Once a month is best for a facial, but taking care of your skin at home with the proper products for your skin type between facials is going to make the most difference!

Avoid booking a facial the day or two before your wedding or your engagement photos, especially if you are traveling and aren’t familiar with the esthetician or product lines in case your skin reacts or because deep pore cleansing can lead to break-outs while your skin is purging impurities.  A facial with an esthetician you know well and products you are accustomed to should be fine the week of your wedding or photos, your esthetician can always go easy on extractions to avoid any redness.

An added benefit to facials is that they are super relaxing, with tons of massage on the face, scalp, neck, and arms.  Any bride-to-be can use that nurturing stress relief!

Men's Facial


Sometimes during the wedding planning it can be easy to lose touch with your fiance!  Booking a couple’s massage can be a great way to reconnect and relax together.

To book time to prepare for your wedding, give us a call at (515) 309-2904 or hop online to schedule when it is most convenient for you!

Top 5 products your skin needs this winter

It happens to all of us…you finally settle on a great skin care regimen and your skin feels awesome.  Then the dry winter air strikes and it seems like your products are no longer working like they should.  To get the best skin care results in the winter months, Camille Arbegast, our managing esthetician, shared 5 tips:

1. Switch up your cleanser.  A gel based or acne cleanser may have been what you needed during the humid summer months, especially if your summer activities lead to dirt and debris on your face.  In the winter when skin is more irritated, a switch to a soothing cream or hydrating cleanser may be the ticket to calm down skin that feels itchy and tight.

2. Use a microdermabrasion scrub.  This scrub can be more abrasive if used dry, or gentler if used in the shower or by adding water.  It is ideal to slough off dead skin so you are better able to absorb moisturizers, serums, or masks.  Do not over-do it though!  Once to twice a week is all you need to exfoliate!

Derma E Microdermabrasion Scrub East Village Spa3. Try a hydrating mask designed to nourish and replenish skin.  This is a great switch for a hydrating boost, especially if you have regularly been using a drying mask like a clay mask.  Derma E’s Hydrating Mask with Hyaluronic Acid can work as a face or hand mask.  And Farmhouse Fresh’s Honey Heel Glaze is like a miracle mask to soften and hydrate dry feet and hands.

Farmhouse Fresh Honey Heel Glaze hand and foot mask4. Use a proper moisturizer designed for the face.  Hydrating day and night creams are great for daily moisturizing.  Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid which draws moisture to the skin like a magnet.  Avoid creams with pore-clogging petroleum derived ingredients like mineral oil or paraffin.

5. Don’t forget your cuticle oil!  Dry cuticles are not only unsightly, but tears around the nails can lead to pain and even infection.  Use cuticle oil morning and night to keep your nails and the skin around them healthy.  And don’t forget gloves to help protect skin from dry, windy winter weather.  Cuticle oil and protecting nails with gloves will also go a long way to preserve a CND Shellac manicure so you can get a full two weeks wear!  Dry, brittle nails and cuticles make it easier for the polish to chip.

Our favorite cuticle oil: CND Solar Oil

Our favorite cuticle oil: CND Solar Oil

Easy Cuticle Repair Idea!

I will admit, I stopped biting my nails years ago, but excitement over the spa expansion has wreaked havoc on my cuticles which are somehow finding their way to my teeth.  Camille had her work cut out for her today, but my nails look and feel amazing so I won’t subject any massage clients to my rough skin!

She asked if I was using my CND Solar Oil (I feel like she busted me…it was obvious I had not been!) and then suggested I use the Farmhouse Fresh Honey Heel Glaze on my hands to dissolve the dry, dead skin around my nails.  It works on the thickest, toughest heel callouses, why WOULDN’T it work on my hands!

My hands after a REALLY good manicure from Camille.  I'll be testing out Honey Heel Glaze as an intense cuticle treatment!

My hands after a REALLY good manicure from Camille. I’ll be testing out Honey Heel Glaze as an intense cuticle treatment!

I’ll give it a try this week and report back!

If you have caught yourself biting your nails or cuticles, or trying to deal with the dry weather as the seasons change, book yourself a manicure at East Village Spa!  Camille, Cassandra, Cammie, Katie, Sheena, and Lydia are all happy to help!

Common foot care questions and solutions for runners

After Dam to Dam, we started seeing more pedicure and massage clients in with black toenails, a curse of distance running!  I’ve personally been upping my mileage for the first time training for a half marathon and can see the importance of good socks, great fitting shoes, blister management and keeping my toenails short.

Based on the experience of our team and friends, we’d like to share solutions to help runners address common foot issues.

Fleet Feet Des Moines Women's Running Group

Fleet Feet Women’s Running Group (photo by Andy Roat)

1. Black Toenails: Many experts recommend making sure your running shoes are about a half size bigger than you everyday shoes, especially in hot and humid weather when feet expand.  Keeping toenails short can also help.  Downhill and distance running are the biggest culprits in causing black toenails that will eventually fall off.  Pedicures can help keep your nails properly trimmed, but start getting them early in your training, not the day before a big race.  If you have black toenails, you can still get a pedicure and polish, but be sure the nail technician is properly trained and treats the nail gently.

2. Calluses: These are a GOOD thing!  If you are training for a race, you need your calluses to prevent blisters.  If you get a pedicure, be sure to tell the nail technician you want to keep your calluses and ask that the time she’d normally be spent softening them go toward lengthening the massage…which you really need!  At our spa, the best choice for runners is a Wellness Pedicure.  The EV Signature Pedicure features a callus softening heel treatment which you don’t want and the Eco Dry pedicure doesn’t include a massage which you need.

The Clarisonic Callus buffer is a gentle way to soften calluses and we use it for clients who want light callus work.

The Clarisonic Callus buffer is a gentle way to soften calluses and we use it for clients who want light callus work.

3. Blisters:  If you have a blister, please tell your nail technician or massage therapist ahead of time so she knows to avoid the area.  Good socks make a world of difference and our friends at Fleet Feet have socks meant to prevent blisters.  I personally started getting blisters during triathlons this summer because of putting my shoes on with wet feet.  I found that soaking my foot in a shallow dish of hot water, a handful of oats, and a few drops of tea tree or lavender essential oil (optional) zapped the pain and helped them heal quickly.  You can cut a moleskin adhesive (found at any drugstore) to pad around the blister too.  Just cut out a round or square piece and cut a hole out of the center so you aren’t sticking it to your blister.  This works like a charm!

4. Foot pain:  If you are experiencing foot pain from running, there could be many causes.  First, make sure you are wearing the right shoes and visit a business that can do a professional evaluation and fitting.  You can also try approaches like podiatry, massage therapy, or chiropractic (or a combination) if the pain is limiting your ability to run.  Our therapists can help address issues in the foot, but also tense muscles in the hips and legs that can contribute to foot pain.  If your foot pain is new or you just want to try a short service, book our Therapeutic Foot Massage.  If your foot pain is accompanied by back, hip, leg, and knee pain, you’ll need a longer treatment and we recommend trying the 60 or 80 minute Athletic Edge Sports Massage.

Therapeutic Foot Massage is a deep massage focused on reflex points and areas of tension.

Therapeutic Foot Massage is a deep massage focused on reflex points and areas of tension.

Our goal is to not only help you keep running, but to ENJOY the journey!  If we can answer questions, offer treatments, or refer you to other health professionals like podiatrists, physical therapists, chiropractors, or experts at shoe fitting, don’t hesitate to ask!

A manicure to remember

I received the sweetest phone call from a client recently.  She brought one of her family members who is living with Alzheimer’s disease to visit us for several services.  Her family member was a lovely woman and she smiled throughout her services.  The client called us later to say that while her loved one didn’t remember the massage afterward, she enjoyed it in the moment and that is what counted.

She did say though, that the manicure was especially nice for her loved one because of the compliments she received afterward at church and from friends who noted how pretty her hands looked.  She also said that while her loved one didn’t remember receiving the manicure, every time she looked at her beautifully polished nails, she knew something special had happened and was happy.bloghand

This call brightened my day.  Remember to enjoy pleasant moments as they happen and I wish you a week full of happy surprises and moments that make you smile.

“Cheap” nail services may come at a high price

I typically try to keep this blog focused on lighter topics, but the issue of human trafficking in the spa and nail industry lately has been bubbling up again on my radar.  Often people think of sham “massage” businesses when they think of human trafficking, but over the years criminals are getting more creative in hiding victims.

We know we are not the “cheapest” place to go for a manicure or pedicure.  We don’t compete on price.  We hire experienced, licensed, and just super nice nail technicians and cosmetologists to provide our services, use high quality products including many we send home with you, and our polishes are widely regarded as some of the best in the industry in their categories.  We love our employees and know if we treat them well, they will treat our clients well.  Providing manicures and pedicures is a great job, one that our employees thoroughly enjoy.  They get to be artistic, nurturing, and spend time getting to know their clients.  Their regular clients are like their family to them!  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all people working nail salons in the United States.

We know how expensive it is to provide great nail care (the spa cost of one teeny tiny bottle of CND Shellac is $18.95!), which is why I’m always shocked at the ridiculously low price of some manicure and pedicure services, especially in big cities that have a much higher cost of living.   To compete on price alone, salons have to cut costs elsewhere.  Typically this is done by using lower quality products.  Unfortunately “cheap” salons frequently cut corners on sanitation because they depend on high volume to make rent and proper sanitation takes time (it takes more than 10 minutes to disinfect a whirlpool tub in a pedicure lounge, but rarely would you see that happen in a high volume salon).

The most alarming reason for “cheap” nail services is that costs are being cut with labor.  It might be that employees are not being paid a fair living wage, but sadly,  some nail salons are being used as human trafficking fronts and raids and arrests in other areas of the United States are shedding light on this.  In recent years, nail salons were found operating as a front for human trafficking in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, and California.  Nails Magazine published one of the best articles on this problem specific to nail salons.    Click here to read it.  Just last month, a popular DC spa came under scrutiny for suspected willful refusal to pay wages and abduction.

Fortunately, the  majority of nail salons are like ours in that they strive to build nurturing relationships with clients to help them look and feel great while providing a supportive work environment.  The unfortunate reality is that unethical and shady business practices are more common in the industry than people realize so consumers need to be vigilant.  The Polaris Project works to educate the public and rescue victims of human trafficking.  These are the warning signs they recommend looking for.

It was never my intent to learn as much about nail salons and nail care as I do (I’m a nursing home activity director turned massage therapist!) but I’m glad I know what to look for and I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with the bright, enthusiastic, and creative women providing the nail services at our spa.  I appreciate them and I know for a fact, they appreciate all of you!

happyCassandra, Camille, and Leah posing for our New Year card!