Area salons and spas offer manicures that do much more than dress up your fingertips. From exfoliating scrubs and hydrating masks to aromatherapy and massage, the latest hand and nail treatments are designed to be as relaxing as they are beautifying. The Capital Style staff sampled services around town in search of the perfect manicure

Indulgent Escape

Even though I had only booked a manicure, I was offered a plush robe and comfy slippers when I arrived for my appointment at the Woodhouse Day Spa. The wardrobe change was optional, but I was ready to relax. And what better way to unwind than wrapped in terrycloth?

After slipping into my robe, I was led across the hall into the spa's "Quiet Room," a private sitting area where I sipped hot tea and enjoyed the glowing fireplace and soft instrumental music. The upstairs room, like the rest of the 6,000-square-foot spa, is designed to
make you feel like you're a guest in someone's grand-yet-cozy home.

The calming aura continued during my Woodhouse Manicure, which included draping a neck warmer scented with jasmine, lavender and sunflower oils across my neck and shoulders. (The sweet scents lingered on my skin and hair for several hours afterwards-an added bonus!)

The series of treatments that followed left the skin on my hands and arms feeling refreshed and softened.

The first was a creamy, sea-algae mask set with warm towels, followed by a volcanic stone massage. Using heated stones and gentle, circular movements, the esthetician melted away tension that I didn't even know I had in my wrists, palms and fingers.

Then, my hands were dipped in a paraffin-like liquid (the spa uses a paraffin alternative that's petroleum free and contains no chemical dyes) to moisturize and protect against signs of aging.

At the end of the hour-long service, I chose a shimmery, light pink hue called "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" from the spa's line of SpaRitual vegan nail lacquers. As a pregnant mom-to-be, I loved the option of a polish line free of potentially-harmful toxins and chemicals, such as DBP, formaldehyde and toluene.

The results left me looking expertly polished and feeling totally pampered.
- Dana Wilson

Skin Soother Halfway through winter-despite a bevy of lotions beside my bed, at my desk and in my purse-I still found my hands frustratingly dry. So I was anxious to see whether a manicure at J. Bentley Studio & Spa could help.

I wasn't after the latest and greatest color (I actually prefer my nails without polish) or even a super posh experience (though this casual salon/spa is friendly and comfortable-and even offers complimentary childcare on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

What I wanted was a skin fix. And this manicure (which features Dermalogica products) delivered.

After the traditional cuticle trimming and nail filing, the treatment began with a hand and arm scrub that doubled as a mini massage. Aside from its sugar-like exfoliation, the vitamin-packed scrub also included lactic acid to help promote healthy cell turnover.

Next, a power recovery mask with vitamins A, C and E was massaged on and removed with moist, hot towels.

I then opted for a bonus-soyaffin, which is a new, more moisturizing version of the paraffin long used for manis and pedis. The soyaffin was inside disposable plastic mitts that got progressively warmer while on my hands, allowing the wax-like substance to ooze on. After the mitts were removed, the remaining soyaffin was rubbed into my skin.

The final step was a hand and arm massage with a multivitamin hand and nail lotion-the cherry on top.

Though I opted to keep my nails polish-free, the professional treating me raved about Shellac, a long-lasting polish (and $20 add-on) that has both she and her clients giddy. The color dries immediately and lasts about two weeks, she said.

But in the end-and especially as the week progressed-I didn't need impressive color. Because I got exactly what I had gone for-impressive skin.
- Kristy Eckert

Blissful Bargain An affordable menu of deluxe-sounding manicures led me to Stile Salon & Spa, a gem that sits amid the apartments and town homes across from Easton Town Center.

The salon feels like a casual boutique, with neutral dcor, hardwood floors and a staff that welcomes new guests as warmly as its regulars.

I chose the Ultimate Bliss Manicure, an hour-long service that lived up to its name.

First, my nails were shaped and my overgrown cuticles were gently pushed back.

The gritty pomegranate and fig scrub that was slathered across my hands next smelled fruity and delicious, but left my sensitive skin looking a bit rough and red after washing it off.

That redness was quickly remedied with a hydrating Skin Medica mask painted on with a soft brush. With the mask still coating my skin, my hands were wrapped in hot aromatic towels lightly scented with lavender-a scent custom-picked to match my mood.

While seated at the nail station, I was then treated to a mini massage that helped ease tension in my neck, shoulders and upper back. The extra TLC felt so soothing that it made me wish I'd had time to book a body massage that day, too.

The final treatment-a milk and fig body butter mixed with jojoba oil-left my skin silky smooth. It's worth noting that the body butter, as well as the pomegranate and fig scrub, are part of Stile's signature product line, so you can extend the blissful effects of your manicure at home.

After two meticulously-painted coats of cheerful pink polish-OPI's "Party in My Cabana"-and a topcoat that made my nails shine like glass, I was on my way.
- Dana Wilson