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The Pampered Girl

Treatments for a Charmed Life

Ever since I was old enough to appreciate those 80s Calgon commercials and young enough to have only a meager comprehension of the word ďstressĒ I was wholly entranced by the concept of pampering. I got my first manicure at age 16 and was 21 when I got my first facial (and the rest is, as they say, history), but the delayed gratification was out of this world. After all, I grew up daydreaming about perfume bottles with glass stoppers, mysterious fragrant potions that lay beyond reach in my motherís armoire, and tubs fitted with frothy beds of bubbles. These were all symbols of pampering and entailed the idea of secret, leisurely rituals that were quintessentially female.

Thatís why itís easy for me to appreciate places like The Pampered Girl, an unabashedly girlie nail salon nestled among the fashionable boutiques and restaurants of Hayes Valley. The salon was opened over five months ago by Alexandra Armstead and Christina Yang, two former Saks bridal consultants, but itís already been attracting a gaggle of fans gaga over the modest yet swoon-worthy treatments and the casual yet distinctly Parisian ambience.

According to Yang, she and Armstead sought to create an establishment that vied with the most exclusive nail salons in the city but also offered reasonably priced treatments and an environment that was mellow and fun rather than stuffy and ďmuseumĒ-like. The result is a place that takes you back to your childhood princess fantasies. Baby-pink walls, plush white chairs and matching ottomans, high and airy ceilings, glass Art Deco chandeliers, and framed paintings of ladiesí silhouettes hearken back to Colette-era chic with just a dash of playfulness. French lounge music bubbles like champagne over the speakers and itís just enough to make you feel like purring.

An afternoon spent at The Pampered Girl is perfect fare before, say, an evening at the Folies Bergere -- or, closer to home, one of the chi-chi restaurants that lie within walking distance. Given the unfussy, intimate environment (which boasts six pedicure stations and two manicure stations), itís also fun to simply indulge on a morning or afternoon off. The treatment list is dainty, sporting six customized mani/pedi combos in addition to the basics, and, of course, the requisite waxing services.

Manicures and pedicures are cheekily titled with French female names. Women (or men) on their lunch breaks might opt for Amelie, a mani/pedi combo that includes a luxurious lavender soak and warm cream massage, while gals who want to go the extra mile will prefer Chloe, a sweet tooth-inducing combo that combines a honey milk soak, sugar scrub, and paraffin dip, among other things.

And yes, the folks at The Pampered Girl are well aware of the sanitation trend in the nail industry, so you neednít expect any bacteria-filled whirlpools. Their tool-cleaning process entails three steps -- and what they canít re-sanitize (i.e., nail files, buffers, and pumice stones) they simply wrap up and give to clients -- a gift to top off the scrumptious service. Armstead and Yang also place a premium on educating clients about their nail-care options as well as offering eco-friendly products. You wonít find any yucky, harsh acrylics here -- if youíre into chemical-free stuff, you can opt for Acquarella nail polish, a non-toxic and environmentally sound line. Of course, Armstead and Yang will also let you know that Acquarella is more likely to chip than some of the other polishes they offer since itís water-based, but not to worry, touchups are graciously offered here.

My own princess treatment begins with a warm lavender neck pillow, a comforting epicurean touch. Iím here for the Chloe mani/pedi combo, the perfect antidote to late winter blues, and just as hedonistic as any fancy spa package youíre likely to get elsewhere. My technician soaks my feet in a honey milk blend, which is followed by a circulation-boosting sugar scrub and a massage with warm honey milk cream that melts into my hands and legs like butter. After my polish is applied with lots of meticulousness and attention, Iím ushered on to the lavender paraffin dip. The wax creates a soft cushion against my skin, and my hands and feet are cozily wrapped in mittens, ensuring silky-smooth fingers and toes.

The wonderful thing about The Pampered Girl is that you can forget about life beyond their front door for as long as you care to, unlike other salons that rush their clients from their spa chairs to the nail dryers and out the door, you can easily spend a couple hours kicking back and enjoying the royal treatment here if thatís what youíre looking for.

The client base is also fairly diverse. Most of The Pampered Girlís regular hardcore fans come to get filed and buffered because of all the word-of-mouth hype. During my treatment, Iím sitting next to an elderly lady whoís tickled pink by regular weekly pedicures, but low-maintenance gals looking for the occasional fix often find themselves here, too.

Aside from offering surprisingly budget-friendly opportunities to soiree with a group of your girlfriends, The Pampered Girl also peddles yummy products for your boudoir, like soy-based candles from Gianna Rose Atelier. And while the environment may reek of European refinement, the modestly priced treatments easily alleviate any strain on your pocket money -- thereís nothing more American than that.