Tootsie nirvana

This past May, the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa at The Westchester in White Plains reopened after a $2 million facelift that refurbished the signature lobby; opened up the space of the hair salon; added a treatment room, bringing the total to nine; and renovated the relaxation room, with its soothing earth tones and woodwind soundtrack.

The overhaul was designed to underscore what patrons already know and first-time clients soon discover — “It’s a little oasis in the mall,” said general manager Alisa A. Oliver.

WAG got a taste of that recently when the spa, which offers a full complement of services, invited us in for the seasonal Brandied Pear and Marshmallow Melt Manicure & Pedicure. Yes, we know: It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to take a hit for the team. Our expert guide for the morning was Katherine Alegre, who’s been doing nails more than 10 years, having been trained as a teenager by her mother, also a nail technician. With Red Door for 18 months, Katherine has been with the White Plains locale since the grand reopening. Before that, she was with the Red Door in Union Square in Manhattan. (There are seven in New York state, including the Fifth Avenue flagship, and 32 nationwide, with corporate offices in Stamford.)

First we selected two polishes from the Essie collection — the popular Ballet Slippers, a pale pink that wouldn’t show the chips that are inevitable on fingernails, which get a workout; and Luxedo, an edgy black cherry for the tougher, more protected toenails. Then we slipped off our panty hose and slipped into a comfortable custom chair with a foot bath beneath a movable foot rest and soaked our feet in an antiseptic while our neck was swathed in a pillow (red, of course) containing cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The Proustian effect had us longing for grandma’s apple pie and ghosts of Christmases past.

Having established that we had no health issues or concerns, Katherine went to work. The old toenail polish came off with an acetone remover, which may be more drying but removes the polish better than the nonacetone removers people tend to use at home, Katherine said. She filed our already trim nails, pushed back the cuticles with the blunt edge of a metal cuticle stick and smoothed the rough edges and calluses. (All implements are either disposable or meet the standards of medical-grade sterilization to prevent infection.)

Then it was time for the fun stuff. Katherine rubbed our feet with Farmhouse Fresh’s Brandy Pear Sea Salt Body Polish, which contains antioxidants (the brandy, who knew?) and vitamin K (the California Bartlett pears). This was washed off and followed by the Marshmallow Melt, actually a shea butter cream heated to luxuriousness. But the best was yet to come: Our feet were swathed in paraffin-filled plastic bags that enveloped us in warmth. Once the residue was wiped off, our skin glowed.

Now it was time for the toenail polish. A tip on application: Katherine said start in the middle of the nail working toward the cuticle so you establish an edge then come down to the tip. Repeat on both sides of the nail. The only time you can’t do this is with the topcoat. For that, start in the middle at the cuticle and work toward the tip. Repeat on both sides.

Wearing toe separators and disposable thong sandals, we hobbled to a manicure stand to repeat the whole process. Katherine explained that a nail gel — as opposed to polish — would make the manicure last two weeks instead of one and require no drying time. But it would also have to be removed at a salon or it could peel the top layer of the nails. (Gel is also set by UV lighting, the equivalent of putting your fingers on a tanning bed. The Red Door uses LED lighting instead.)

We chose to stick with Ballet Slippers polish and to wait out the drying period in the relaxation room where we ran into Gina Tighe, a homemaker from Cornwall, Katherine’s next client.

“I love coming here,” she said. “There are no cell phones and it’s complete relaxation. This is why I come.”

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