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Feet accompli: the Brazilians apply their all-or-nothing approach to the pedicure

Brazilians seem to do everything a little better in the beauty world. We’re talking not only about their supremely thorough approach to waxing, but their similarly hard-core approach to pedicures.

A Brazilian pedicure has a lot in common with car detailing. It’s defined by how carefully the nails and feet are cleaned. The goal is to make each toenail look like a sparkling little gem, so each nail gets clipped, shaped, and polished with the same care applied by Antwerp diamond cutters. Meanwhile, feet bottoms and heels get an exceptionally vigorous descaling a la Greek fisherman.

We’ve noticed that New York women waste no time jumping into their flip-flops, so we’ve compared two very serious spring-cleaning  pedicures. You can get your $20 quickie polish at your regular place through summer, but for the season’s first pedi, there’s no better approach than a Brazilian.

Iguazu gives the Brazilian-style pedicure a spa update

New School: Iguazu Day Spa
This spa celebrates beauty by way of Brazil in most of its treatments, including the Iguazu Falls Pedicure ($68), an hour-plus paean to your feet. Melanie Reid applies a dentist’s passion for teeth cleaning to shaping, cleaning, and filing each toenail. Instead of aggressively cutting the cuticle—“the old Brazilian style,” she said—she achieved the same results by using Be Natural’s Cuticle Eliminator and the literally sloughing off the cuticle. Ditto rough skin on the heel. Instead of using a razor (a common but not quite kosher technique in New York State), she used a chemical-peel-like Callus Eliminator then smoothed them with three increasingly fine files. My feet were baby soft at this point, but she added 20-minutes of foot reflexology, a coconut scrub, and a mint moisturizing mask, for spa treatment penache. As for the polish application, Reid subs what “customers think as the Brazilian slather-it-everywhere style” for a Faberge Egg painter’s precision. “That’s not necessary,” says Reid, who painted on 5-7 coats with deft touch.
Iguazu Day Spa, 350 Hudson Street (btwn Charlton and King Sts.), 212-647-0007,

Old School: J Sisters
The seven bare-it-all sisters who brought us Brazilian waxing created a $65 pedicure that’s more cleaning than preening. Yes, you’ll have your toes polished (though I found their house shades more Palm Beach bubby than Chanel Vamp). But the main event is the toenail shaping (no pointed corners), cuticle cutting (so shape of the nail bed looks like a piece of Chiclets chewing gum), and the shaving of your soles with a razor into a giant pile of Parmesan flakes. All to samba selections of Gal Costa. (On repeat.) It’s possible my exceptionally dry feet have never been this smooth and healthy looking. The Brazilians don’t actually have pedicures like this in Rio; the name actually comes from the founders’ heritage. And they’re proud of being “the only ones to really clean the feet,” instead of just dressing it up, says J. Sister Jonice. Even though the clipping and shaving is frowned upon by the State health department, it’s the piece de resistance to throngs of women who’ve been coming to the somewhat faded 57th Street palace of pedicures for 17-plus years. The notoriously sloppy method of toe-polishing is deliberate. My knowledgeable pedicurist Paola Lisboa swears the polish goes on thinner and dries faster when you coat the toe then clean it up afterward with a little wooden orange stick. I’d prized perfect strokes with pedis in the past—I mean why make a mess first?—but I think she might be right.
J. Sisters, 35 West 57th St., 3rd floor (btwn 5th and 6th Aves.), 212-750-2485,

Know a place that does perfectionistic pre-summer pedicures like the Brazilian ones? Tell us, here!