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SHEX Reviews: Helen Nail Spa

 

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Sonia Su

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SHEX Reviews

Open since December 28, 2013, Helen Nail Spa’s newest salon is smaller than its other two on Nan Chang Road and Julu Road, but has the same natural, comforting vibe as the other two locations. Customers looking for a relaxing escape from the everyday hustle of Shanghai can find solace through Helen’s variety of services, from the classic French manicure (130 RMB) to the more special SPA gold therapy treatment (1180 RMB). Cloth couches fill the first floor, while leather couches and massage rooms occupy the second. The décor—complete with wooden floors, tables and trays—is dimly lit, adding to the calm, nature-themed atmosphere.

One of Helen’s longest-working employees, Monica Yuan, tells me the three most popular services include the manicure (98 RMB to 498 RMB), the hand spa treatment (160 RMB to 278 RMB) and the Brazilian wax treatment (220 RMB). Monica specializes in waxing.

With an average of 20 employees at each of the locations, Helen is busiest during weekends, more often catering to foreigners. As a result, each employee knows at least a minimal amount of English. Despite her modesty in her English fluency, Monica tells me she loves her job because it makes her happy.

‘I like talking to people and when I’m done, I always think how beautiful the nails are,’ Monica said.

Curious about what it comprised, I agreed to a hand spa treatment. Another employee, Jesse Zhang, did the honors, beginning with a quick buffering and moisturizing of my nails, as I sat back on one of the many comfortable taupe couches and enjoyed green tea. Customers are given the option of teas and/or hot or cold water upon arriving.

Then, Jesse placed several towels on my lap before placing down a large bowl of hot, cloudy water for my hands on top. After waiting for my hands to soften further, she took one hand out and began several layers of moisturizing and massaging—first with a nice exfoliating bead scrub, then with a shea butter lotion and finally with a cool cream.

Meanwhile, Monica told me that my hands and forearms will feel as soft as a baby’s after this treatment. And with all the lotion being massaged quite forcefully into my hands and arms, I could believe it. In fact, many customers choose the reasonably priced hand spa treatment during the summertime when they wear more short-sleeved shirts, Monica said. But with what happened next, I think hand spas are also perfectly suitable during colder months.

When Jesse had brought over the hot bowl of cloudy water, she had also fetched two large, pink sleeves attached to white cords. Having rarely received spa treatments before, I ignored them, not knowing for what purpose they would be used. But as soon as she started wrapping my arms in thin plastic after the layers of moisturizing, I knew. The pink sleeves—about ten times the size of the sleeves used for hair straighteners—would be heated and fitted around my arms.

Once the sleeves were on and zipped up, I waited for about 10 to 15 minutes for the cool cream to warm up and work its exfoliating magic on my hands and arms. Sitting facing toward the entrance, I couldn’t help but imagine how silly I must have appeared to a passerby. Nonetheless, I felt relaxed, and my arms started feeling a numbness near the end—though I’m not sure if that was due to the cool cream or my frozen state. Either way, the warmth felt nice on a cool day.

Afterward, what remained of the cream was again massaged into my hands and arms. Although the pressure felt just right to me, feel free to request a softer or harder touch.

With the help of a small lamp, given the lack of bright lighting in the salon, a quick and meticulous manicure concluded the experience. It was certainly a long one, at that, lasting about an hour and a half. Still, I left feeling more at ease than I have been in a while. Look out for locations in Pudong and Hongqiao in the near future.

To make a reservation by location, please call 021 6333 7535 (Shi Men Road), 021 5403 7802 (Julu Road) or 021 5383 8957 (Nan Chang Road). For more information, find Helen Nail Spa in our listings here.

Pros:

•     The staff is very friendly, professional and experienced. ‘I think we are like a family. Everyone here is very caring,’ Monica said.
•     The atmosphere alone relaxes anyone who walks in, but maybe part of the reasoning behind that is timing. Going on a weekday afternoon means very few customers.
•     A wide variety of reasonably priced services are offered.
•     Couches are arranged such that chatting with a group friends is easy.
•     The convenient location on Shi Men Road is less than a 10-minute walk from the West Nanjing Road subway station on line 10 and is easy to find.

Cons:

•     Despite a nearly empty salon, I could barely hear the background music playing, making for a very quiet experience.
•     Especially if you get a nail treatment, occupying yourself may be very difficult. If there’s a language barrier, you may find yourself simply without much to do—which could be a good thing if total, silent relaxation is what you’re seeking.
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