By now, pedicures have become a sort of rite of passage – just glance at your social media feeds. As one of parents’ many photo-documented children’s “firsts,” there are few as squeal-inducing as a pint-size prince or princess beaming merrily from his or her perch on a pedicure throne, feet soaking in a spa of bubbling water.

It might not just be your imagination – this is a fairly new phenomenon. The nationwide presence of nail salons has grown exponentially since 2000 and is expected to continue its rise. You have to admit, there is a certain je ne sais quoi in slipping well-coiffed feet in those sassy summer sandals or transitional fall peep-toe booties.

Despite the seemingly recent surge of popularity, pedicures have been part of culture for millennia. During China’s Ming dynasty, as well as in ancient Egypt, nail color was an indicator of one’s social status. Back then, nail polish was made of beeswax, egg whites, gelatin and vegetable dyes. The emergence of red nail polish as a commanding color might even be attributed to the earliest practices of nail art: Supposedly, distinct shades of red were signatures for Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti, and the way someone could distinguish Ming dynasty royalty was by their black and red polish.

Fast-forward 5,000 years, when bright, colorful toes are still the most popular selections at nail salons throughout St. Louis. Nail-polish manufacturers come out with summer lines each year, and this year, the trend has skewed heavily toward pinks, oranges and corals. OPI’s Retro Summer collection features a line of six vibrant and bright hues, including the playfully pink “Flip-Flops & Crop Tops” and the orange-red “SPF XXX.”

OPI’s New Orleans collection, released in the spring of this year, features 12 brazen colors with saucy, clever names like the hot pink “She’s a Bad Muffuletta!” – a favorite at Go!Spa in Des Peres – and creamy orange “Crawfishin’ for a Compliment.”

Terri Kavanaugh, technical educator and nail technician at Ginger Bay Salon and Spa at the Town and Country location, recommends long-lasting CND VINYLUX nail polish, which has wear longevity similar to a gel polish but removes easily with an acetone remover. Ginger Bay’s hottest VINYLUX colors of the season include bright red “Lobster Roll,” creamy lavender “Lilac Longing” and deep pink “Sultry Sunset.”

If you’re hitting the beach, Huy Ho, owner at Clayton Nail Spa, recommends a gel polish, which is applied to the nail in layers and hardens for a longer-lasting polish than traditional lacquer.

Ginger Bay also offers various trending nail treatments, such as crinkle foils, which give the nails a metallic-textured look, but with a smooth feel, as well as nail art, such as St. Louis Cardinals and Blues logos. “Some of our nail technicians have their own favorites,” Kavanaugh says, “like Minions, Harry Potter, flowers, fireworks, flags and other seasonal designs.”

With back-to-school and seasonal transitions, fall spurs many of us to change up our color palette. Go!Spa owner Lisa Oliver expects shades of plum and navy to have the spotlight as popular colors darken for the cooler months.

The idea of pedicures as a treat reserved for special occasions is a common misconception. Even if you don’t like your piggies painted, regular pedicures carry their own health benefits. “Pedicures act as a preventative measure against future foot problems,” Kavanaugh says.

Kavanaugh’s recommended frequency is a pedicure every four weeks. A basic pedicure at most places includes a soak in a warm-water foot spa, a scrub with a pumice stone or foot file, nail clipping and shaping, foot and calf massage, exfoliation, moisturizer and polish.

This process is especially important during the summer months. “We’re wearing a lot of sandals, and [that tends to] dry out our heels,” Oliver says.

“Avoid wearing flip-flops,” adds Kavanaugh. “The lack of support contributes to heel cracks, foot pain, blisters and other foot disorders. The lack of coverage exposes your feet to bacterial and fungal infections.”

All three of our experts recommend using heel and cuticle moisturizers daily between regularly spaced appointments. We might not have our toes on display during the drier fall and winter months, but it’s always a good idea to maintain healthy feet – and it can’t hurt to get a jump on putting your best foot forward for next spring.

Clayton Nail Spa, 7933 Clayton Road, Clayton, 314-669-5340, claytonnailspa.com

Ginger Bay Salon and Spa; 437 S. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, 314-966-0655; 1184 Town & Country Crossing Drive, Town and Country, 636-333-1800, gingerbay.com

Go!Spa, 11735 Manchester Road, Des Peres, 314-822-0772, gospagirl.com

Denise is a contributing writer at Ladue News. She is a Chicago native, wife to Vince, mama to two and Chicago magazine dining team alum. She hopes to one day live in a world where semicolons are used responsibly.

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