Pedicures can be unpredictable. Not really knowing how well your feet will be exfoliated is up for question. Will my feet soak long enough to soften my dry skin? Will I have to ask for more time spent on that callus? You see, I’m trying to bring myself closer to a foolproof pedicure I feel completely confident walking in.
There are many different kinds of pedicures that one can indulge in, and in my own personal journey to finding the most thorough of them, I’ve tried quite a few versions. There is, of course, the basic pedicure and any given nail salon’s version of the deluxe pedicure. There’s the citrus pedicure, paraffin pedicure, hot stone pedicure, spa pedicure, honey and milk pedicure, and fish pedicure — complements of the Garra rufa species.
My only constant is a coat of gel nail polish, which lasts longer on the feet, over regular nail polish. But at Ms. Glen’s Therapeutic Manicures & Pedicures, a fresh coat of polish is optional. It’s not about aesthetics. It’s about the care. And for that, I will ditch my gel pedicure. People who see Ms. Glen often come from demanding jobs that keep them on their feet — construction workers, servers, actors. But there are also folks like me, who are simply looking for the best pedicure (and pedicurist) in town.
Where medical pedicures are for people with foot conditions and are carried out by podiatrists or registered nurses, therapeutic pedicures take a gentler approach. Ms. Glen places an emphasis on massaging. A type of stimulation that can reorient you from the everyday cadences of life. Here, time is the luxury.
Located on the second floor of a plaza in Westchester, Ms. Glen’s suite has the feel of an office with its gray carpeted floors, but the decorative touches also make it feel like a nail salon: a flat-screen TV, a few Reader’s Digests, a leather couch. Her nail technician’s license hangs near the flat-screen. On the other side, a framed news clip from the Los Angeles Sentinel describes Ms. Glen in her past life as a real estate broker and “full of vim, vigor and vitality.”
Ms. Glen is the type of pedicurist who makes you trust her process from the jump. She greets you warmly; you can tell she’s in her element, which makes you feel comfortable. At 75 years old, she wears a short, soft afro and a thick, red flannel button-up across her broad shoulders. Her dark jean shorts hit right below her knees. Her delicate gold-rimmed glasses just above her nose.
Ms. Glen is meticulous throughout her entire process. Actually, even before the process begins. After introducing myself and setting my appointment, I received a text message with my appointment date, time and location with directions on how to get to the suite. All signed with a rose emoji and “Thank you.” She diligently keeps track of her appointments with a notepad. “I don’t like doing it online. It wouldn’t work for me, because I need to talk to you. I need to ask questions about what’s going on with your feet.” With each step of the pedicure, Ms. Glen removed a pair of plastic gloves she’d layered on for hygiene purposes, so as to not transfer product throughout each step. Once my feet were soaked and clipped, she exfoliated the tops of my feet. Rinse. Then, the bottom of my feet and the tips of my toes. Rinse again.
Her tool of choice on my calluses was a pumice stone. But seeing the defined lines of the muscles in her arms and hands showed that technique is key. “I don’t use no drills. After all, this not building a house or carpentry,” she laughed. She got up to prepare the paraffin to mold around my feet and seal in the treatment.
Ms. Glen talks quickly, telling me her story in between clips of my soaked cuticles. One-time married and divorced, Glendora Strickland moved to California in 1966 from Hattiesburg, Miss., with her then-husband and never left. She was a real estate broker rarely satisfied with the pedicures she received. She began to research how to take care of feet when she started to develop cracked heels. “See these lines?” Ms. Glen pulled off her own sock to show me her smooth feet, no dryness in sight. My own feet were soaking in a tub of warm water with a dash of apple cider vinegar, known for its antibacterial properties.
“When you don’t hydrate these, they crack open. I taught myself how to care for it to keep it from coming back and it never came back. I use my own [oil] every morning after my shower, I exfoliate once a week and I wear socks.” (This is Ms. Glen’s No. 1 rule: Keep the feet wrapped in socks to create a barrier between your skin and the floor.)
Encouraged by a friend, Ms. Glen began to give friends and family pedicures for a year. She earned her nail technician license in 1999. In 2000, she made a household name for herself on KJLH-FM (102.3). She heard, by way of a request that came through the spa she was working at, that radio host Janine Haydel’s husband wanted to surprise his wife with a pedicure, but it had to be done on-air. “I had told the sales rep [at the radio station] that I was going to do some advertising. So I’m at the radio station that morning … I’m like, I’m dreaming. This can’t be real.”
While on air, Haydel would toss it to Ms. Glen for a quick word. She’d say hello and plug her services. After that, Ms. Glen continued to do her own advertising, coming in to do more pedicures on air and promoting her gift certificates for Mother’s Day. “They’re getting ready to log off the air and Cliff [Winston] would say, ‘Come on, Janine, we gotta go. I’ve got an appointment with Ms. Glen.’”
Ms. Glen only takes one client at a time. Back in her suite, she attended to my feet for an hour. Her approach to feet is straightforward: hygiene and attention to detail. “Are you getting polish?” Ms. Glen asked with slight hesitation as she wrapped up my pedicure treatment with one last foot massage. I looked over at the organized display of nail polish colors and declined, sensing it wasn’t her thing anyway. “Or would you rather put some socks on?”
I came into Ms. Glen’s with a chipped coat of magenta polish on my toenails, and no socks. I thought I’d walk out in my slide sandals to keep my nail polish from smudging, but Ms. Glen returned with a pair of pink Puma ankle socks.
My feet layered in oil, I slipped on the socks and stood up. Immediately, I felt the power of a therapeutic pedicure. My feet and toes were moisturized and hydrated. The calluses were gone. My heel felt smooth. The tops of my feet were baby soft. But what made me truly excited was how confident I felt overall. Rejuvenation can feel like a miracle, especially when the search for a great pedicure is one less thing you have to worry about.
This story originally appeared on LATimes