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Posts from the ‘Beauty’ Category

The Best Mani Pedi in Singapore

In Singapore, with the year round hot and humid weather, feet and hands are on show a good deal of the time. It stands to reason then that manicures and pedicures have become essential maintenance for men as well as women. But not all mani pedis are created equal. Luckily the ultimate hands and feet grooming treatment is available here – at the St Regis hotel.

Bastien Gonzalez pedicure

Bastion Gonzalez’s tricks of the pedicure trade

The concept: Bastien Gonzalez tends to the talons of supermodels and celebrities (though he’s far too discreet to name names) so as you’d expect his isn’t any old run of the mill mani pedi. Following a skiing accident Gonzalez trained as a podiatrist and studied how the feet effect the entire body, earning him the moniker of foot virtuoso. He’s more concerned with the health of your feet and nails than applying the latest limited edition colour.

Where to find him: Originally flitting between Paris, London and New York to see clients, he now has studios in exclusive locations around the world (mainly five star hotels in financial cities and luxury resorts) where handpicked podiatrists personally trained by him put the Bastien Gonzalez principles into practice. In Singapore, that’s Steve Desobeau at the St Regis hotel’s Remede Spa.

Why the treatment’s different: For a start the tools used look more suitable for the dentists and the doctors than a beauty salon – with good reason: they are actual dentist drills and surgeon’s scalpels chosen by Gonzalez. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t hurt a bit. “A mani pedi should be completely painless,” says Steve Desobeau. “The nail is dead and the skin we remove is dead so you shouldn’t feel anything.”

And the treatment is dry – no soaking hands or feet in water beforehand. That way the podiatrist is in total control and never removes too much. Nails are smoothed and cleaned and dead skin around the fingernails removed with a diamond dust drill while hard skin on the feet is nixed with a scalpel. Cuticles are never removed, a la most beauty salons, as they are essential to the health of the nail.

To paint or not to paint: Bastien’s method is not to use polish (though he will apply laqueur if asked). Instead he buffs and shines the nails with a chamoix leather and a crushed pearl cream. The result is shiny nails that gleam with health.

“I don’t tell people not to wear nail polish but I tell them to see it like make up,” says Desobeau. “You wouldn’t wear make up for a month so don’t keep your nail polish on that long.” He advocates taking polish off after three days and allowing a 24 hours breather before re applying.

The experience: From looking at my feet Desobeau, a former professional footballer who like his mentor trained as a podiatrist after a sports injury, deduced that on my left foot I walk more on the back than the front. He ventured that I might experience pain in my knee as a result (I do). He then gave me a strong massage on the soles of the feet and calves to help address this (the manicure includes a firm hand and arm massage too)using a  hydrating but light cream. The treatment is finished off with a liberal dousing of talcum powder – “invisible socks” says Desobeau, and essential for the Singapore climate.

The verdict: I leave with neat, natural looking nails and super soft soles but most unexpectedly, feel like I’m walking on air.

Upkeep: Don’t assume you’ll need to go back every week or even month. “A good pedicure should last three months, a manicure one month,” says Desobeau. But every treatment is different depending on each person and how their feet and nails respond.

The last word: No feet are too gnarly for the Bastien Gonzalez approach. In fact, Desobeau says he finds the worst cases the most interesting. “I like to take feet that no one would want to touch and turn them into feet someone would like to kiss.” Vote with your feet and go see him.

[UPDATE Steve Desobeau is now at the Ritz Carlton in Singapore, Bastien Gonzalez’s studio continues to open at the St Regis.]

The details: Pedi:Mani: Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzalez:

Spa Remede, St Regis, Singapore. Tel: 65 6506 6896

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A Tantalising Time at the Capella

The Capella hotel, Singapore

Before I left London I had become mildly obsessed with fake tan. A new generation of self tanning treatments that promised non-orangey, non-streaky results coupled with a new awareness of the damage sunbathing can do to the skin meant that most women I knew were hitting the (fake tan) bottle. When I moved to Asia, it became evident that looking suntanned wasn’t so big among the Hong Kongers or Singaporeans in fact it was positively spurned. Slowly I began to embrace having pale skin too.

Recently though, following a trip back to London where everyone looked so golden limbed, I’ve been hankering after a tan again. And with the super strength of the rays here in Singapore a self tan seemed the way to go. Healthier still is the idea of a self tan from The Organic Pharmacy which rather than using chemicals is based on a 100 per cent natural ingredient derived from sugar beet. Auriga at the Capella hotel on Sentosa, which offers The Organic Pharmacy treatments and products, is one of my favourite spas in Singapore so I was pleased to see they’ve introduced the self tan. (Tip: If you do book a session here be sure to go a good half hour early so you can enjoy the heat and water rooms.)

Entrance to the Auriga Spa at the Capella Entrance to the Auriga Spa at the Capella

My friendly therapist explained the process to me – no oils on the skin beforehand, no showers afterwards for eight hours. As such she removed my make up with a non-oil based cleanser. She then used expert, massage strokes to first apply an exfoliator (green coffee which as well as sloughing off deadline skin tackles cellulite – bonus!). After a shower, the self tan cream was similarly expertly applied. I was asked how deep I wanted the tan to which I replied fairly light but you can go as dark as you like.

After a few minutes I noticed something: there was no strange chemical smell you normally associate with self tan lotions. Instead the aroma was more like an exotic massage oil. Better still, the cream took only one minute to dry and there was no feeling of stickiness or greasiness (a bug bear of mine).

I was told the tan would develop in three hours but after one I could already see a healthy glow. The next morning I woke with a lovely golden tan. If I’m being picky it was a bit patchy around the soles of the feet but that anyone would notice and had a faint fake tan, chemical smell but that disappeared the next day.

I was happy with the “natural” honey shade, not too dark for my colouring, just as I’d asked. The therapist told me the tan should last week, starting to fade after three days. I’m on day four and that seems spot on. I’m not sure my diary or my bank balance would allow me to go every week for a top up (although you can also buy a bottle to apply at home) but I would definitely return before a party or holiday.

[This piece was originally published in 2014]

Best Feet Forward for 2017


[UPDATE: The Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio at The Oriental Spa, Hong Kong is the first to feature BGA InSoles, tailor made to slot inside your shoes. Studio manager Albin Brion will custom make the insoles to fit your feet and address your specific needs after assessing  your posture and weight distribution. Turns out the ballerinas by a very famous designer that Chopstix has been wearing religiously have been terrible for our feet as they provide no support whatsoever.

The insoles are designed for flats rather than heels and we suggest taking a pair that are one size bigger than your usual shoe size – luckily we had pair of Common Projects leather sneakers in our usual size but which tend to fit a size too large. Following the 30 mins consultation your unique insoles will be made in an hour. Wearing them, Bastien says, will result in improved comfort and stability. We certainly found them immediately comfortable and after a month a chronic foot pain has improved.]

The Oriental Spa at the Landmark Mandarin hotel is Chopstix’s favourite spa in Hong Kong. As well as the spacious, gorgeously designed heat and water rooms there’s another reason to love it: Bastien Gonzalez who tends to the talons of celebrities and supermodels has a mani pedi studio here.

The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong

The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong

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Tip Top Toes – the Best Pedicure in Hong Kong

Bastion Gonzalez's tricks of the pedicure trade

Bastion Gonzalez’s tricks of the pedicure trade

The Oriental Spa at the Landmark Mandarin hotel is Chopstix’s favourite spa in Hong Kong. As well as the spacious, gorgeously designed heat and water rooms there’s another reason to love it: Bastien Gonzalez who tends to the talons of celebrities and supermodels has a mani pedi studio here. Read more

The Foot Whisperer


Bastien Gonzalez, pedicurist to the rich and famous, is scrutinising my bare feet and I feel nervous. He declares that my nails are healthy, my toes are nicely straight and I have no bunions but I can’t help but think he is disappointed. This is a man who has said he finds beauty in hideous pieds.

Gonzalez was a ski instructor in his native France before an injury forced him into a career change. He trained as a podiatrist and ran a successful, exclusive practice in Paris before turning his hand, literally, to creating a unique form of pedicure at the age of 27. “Men like to work with hands and machines,” he says matter of factly when I meet him on one of his regular visits to Asia. “I put together a concept: combining the beauty, the medical knowledge, the wellbeing with a good technical massage.”

Bastien Gonzalez

Bastien Gonzalez

Overnight he shut down his practice (“everyone thought I was crazy”) and set up shop in the spa at the then uber fashionable Hotel Costes. The Bastien Gonzalez pedicure began as a treatment for models about to strut the Paris catwalks and is now in demand from celebrities, sports stars and the merely rich.

Uniquely, the pedicure is “dry” (feet are not soaked in water beforehand which apparently demands less skill and accuracy from the pedicurist) and nail varnish is not applied (it encourages the very yellowing of the nail that we’re attempting to hide). “If you stop people on the street and ask them what a pedicure is, most of them will say colour on the toenails. But we are curing the feet,” says Gonzalez.

Inspiration came from an unlikely quarter: “I saw my 92 year old grandmother buffing her fingernails. She told me, ‘It would be vulgar to paint my nails but I want them to look nice.’ What struck me was the health of her nails. The friction of the chammoix leather helped the blood circulate and made them a healthy pink.”

Gonzalez uses an exact replica of the horn handled buffer his grandmother had in his mani pedis – clients were so delighted with the pedicures that they asked for manicures too. “So we developed a dry manicure treatment to go with the pedicure.”

His method also involves the use of dentist drills and surgeon’s scalpels for polishing the nails and removing dead skin. But in Gonzalez and his team’s hands you won’t feel a thing. “I’m against pain,” says Gonzalez. “Strong pressure is important but not pain.” Each pedicure is finished with a firm foot and lower leg massage, the result of which makes you feel like you’re walking on air.

Gonzalez's tricks of the trade

Gonzalez’s tricks of the trade

So popular has the Bastien Gonzalez treatment become that, unable to keep up with demand for his personal attention, he opened studios at luxury locations around the world with his own handpicked podiatrists in place. “I was working in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles and the Middle East. I didn’t even count the hours I worked, it became a passion.”

Bastien Gonzalez studios can be found in Hong Kong, Singapore, Danang in Vietnam and Tokyo. “I hire very good people and I share my vision with them. I want them to have the same energy as me, to go out and change the pedicure.”

In Asia, that includes Steve Desobeau (who was a professional footballer in France before injury too led him to retrain as a podiatrist) at the St Regis, Singapore and the equally engaging Albin Brion at the Landmark Oriental, Hong Kong.

Undoubtedly feet look beautifully neat and naturally healthy after a Bastien Gonzalez pedicure but there are times when you do want a burst of colour. “I’m not saying you should never wear nail polish but treat it as you would cosmetics on your face and take it off,” says the maestro. He also advocates always sprinkling talcum powder in your shoes: “When you have expensive footwear, it’s as much for the shoes as the feet,” he says.

Bastien’s Tips for Top Toes
If you wear nail polish remove it after three days and leave a 12 hour gap before reapplying.

Toenails should always be cut straight to avoid them growing inwards – don’t listen to any therapist who offers to cut them the latest “shape”.

A dusting of talcum powder in the shoe is essential in humid climates, acting as “invisible socks” to protect fee.

The Oriental Spa, the Landmark Oriental Hong Kong Remede Spa, St Regis, Singapore

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