Getting my nails done has never been a novelty. With my first barista paycheck in 2005, I got a set of acrylics and a pedicure, and the rest is history. My family has blamed my occasional financial irresponsibility on my nail obsession, nicknaming me "the best nails on the bus" when I couldn't afford a car but would never miss a manicure appointment. I've gotten my nails done in Tokyo and Beverly Hills, New Orleans and Bushwick; I am partial to hole-in-the-wall, cheap (but quality) places where I can build a relationship with a nail tech I like and become blindly loyal. But my years of preference went out the window when I heard about the Canna-Cure service at Bellacures salons recently — and yes, that's "Canna" as in cannabis.
On the first day of winter in Los Angeles (read: 55 degrees), I headed to the Larchmont location of Bellacures nail spa in three sweaters to attempt to have the most relaxing mani-pedi of all time, the Canna-Cure. The $50 manicure and $55 pedicure both feature a soak, scrub and lotion including CBD, the non-psychoactive element in marijuana. The products, available to the public but often sold out, are all by the female-owned cannabis business Kush Queen.
Bellacures, a fancy chain with locations in California and Texas, is ahead of the curve as the only salon offering the totally legal, marijuana-infused service. The salon, filled with wealthy looking older women and elementary school girls getting $20 manicures with their mothers, seemed like an unlikely fit to partner with a marijuana company. It's more progressive than I gave them credit for — or maybe I'm just still realizing how truly legal this all really is. "I think with the [recreational] legalization of cannabis in California, the stigma is slowly being lifted," explains Gerard Quiroga, owner of Bellacures. "We are making sure all of our messaging is clear that CBD is not psychoactive and will not get you high. Over the last few years, people are talking more about the benefits of CBD, which is making people more knowledgeable, so we were more excited than skeptical."
It's either way easier or a lot harder to sell weed manicures when it doesn't explicitly get you high, depending on who you're targeting. So what does it do? CBD is one of the cannabinoids (like THC, what does get you "high") in marijuana that is known for giving those who ingest it a relaxed, calm feeling both physically and mentally. The ingredient is currently used in topical products to treat everything from arthritis pain to menstrual cramping which are legal for purchase everywhere. Plus, CBD oil is having a serious moment in the skin care space, with lotions, lip balms, candles, serums and more calling upon it for its soothing, moisturizing effects.
The Canna-Cure service lasted approximately 45 minutes, with both my fingers and toes being taken care of at once. Often, CBD topicals take over an hour to absorb into your body and produce results, so it's likely any relaxation will occur towards the end of the service and throughout your day — something that I'm personally into. Olivia Alexander, founder of Kush Queen, says "psychoactive Canna-Cures will eventually be a reality, and Kush Queen will be ready." As recreational legalization rolls out in California this month (like it has in more than eight states nationwide), the gates open for cannabis beauty treatments and products that do get you high.
Kush Queen's aesthetic ranges from block letter "KUSH QUEEN" tank tops to a variety of bath bombs, lotions and creams, all with maximalist packaging that is less Lush than I anticipated. Kush Queen originally began as a web store and brand called The Crystal Cult, which was known for bedazzled vaporizers — the best-selling option was called (you guessed it!) The Kush Queen. The brand then spun off into cannabis products including flower and oils before launching into beauty products. "Until recently, most cannabis topicals have had to be oil-based," Alexander explains. "Cannabis is fat soluble, not water soluble, so most of the formulations for lotions were extremely oily and not ideal for a manicure or pedicure."
In addition, it is also scientifically impossible to fully absorb these products through the skin. "We launched MELT, a water-based topical we developed with Amplifi nanotechnology, and access to this innovative delivery system allows us to create a product that can actually fully absorb into the skin," Alexander adds, and the innovation came at the perfect time as Bellacures approached the brand for a collaboration. The brand, with it's 4.9 rating on Weedmaps and years of industry experience, takes itself pretty seriously, and rightfully so: the market for CBD and marijuana beauty products is exploding. "It's about being more than a gimmick, it's about helping someone achieve that next level in relaxation," she emphasizes.
Because I'm a fake nail addict, I got a regular acrylic fill at Bellacures before beginning the Canna-Cure, which was then done on my acrylic nails as if they were natural (a fill will cost you an additional $28, not much more than at a strip mall shop). To begin, my nail techs Cindy (on toes) and Ken (on fingers), took off my old polish and soaked my hands and feet in perfectly warmed water filled with a Kush Queen CBD relief bath bomb. The green bath bombs retail for $10 each (though they're currently not available on the website), and are formulated for pain relief and included coriander, clove and rosemary essential oils. While my hands and feet weren't particularly in pain, the pedicure soak was soothing and long enough to feel effective. However, dipping my fingertips for less than a total of five minutes in the solution didn't seem like enough.
"I am a lover of high heels, so I am always in pain and really developed the 'relieve' blend for my Louboutin recovery. The pain pathway of our spine is actually packed with receptors which respond to CBD making them extremely effective," Kush Queen claims.
The soak was followed by nail filing, cuticle cutting, more soaking, a five minute or longer CBD infused scrub all the way up my calves and forearms, and a massage, leaving my pores soaking in not one but three sessions of CBD product. When it came time to polish, I chose for Forever Yummy, a blue-toned red by Essie. While the bath bomb water and scrub were wiped off, the massage lotion was left to sit on, getting the most bang for my buck — I hoped.
As I looked around, no one else was enthusiastically Instagram Storying their weed pedicure. The service is so new it wasn't even on the official printed menu at the salon, but was advertised on a small piece of paper by the register. "People who aren't familiar with CBD are intrigued and interested in trying it, and the people who are familiar are excited to be able to incorporate it into one of their favorite pampering activities," says Quiroga.
It was cold, so the combination of chilly air, menthol in the product, and possibly, the CBD had me feeling tingly, chill and fresh as I slumped over in my seat and stopped attempting to read New Yorker articles. My feet felt actively tingly for at least an hour, while overall I felt calm, at least half of which had to have been from the CBD (I'm pretty neurotic usually). As for the price tag, it may be hard to convince a frequent patron of the mani-pedi like myself to work this into my routine. It was definitely novel, a treat-yo-self moment more than a truly healing experience. That being said, if you like beauty innovations or a silly and extremely 2018 luxury, this is it. In the future, I could see treating myself to the pedicure along with a regular, non-weed manicure since the foot soak and massage seemed to give me the best result from the CBD products, and I find pedicures significantly more relaxing.
While Cindy wore gloves while doing my pedicure, Ken opted out. I hope he felt as nice as I did. I see you, my guy.