How to Do a Pedicure at Home That Rivals a Salon Treatment
Like emojis and Paris, pedicures are always a good idea. Zoning out while someone massages your feet and paints your nails with precision is extremely gratifying.
But like all beauty treatments, they take time and $$$, so sometimes a DIY pedicure is the move. Luckily, if you know how to replicate the experience, you can unwind and keep your feet in their best shape without leaving your home. Below, each step you should take to mimic the salon pedicure at home, based on advice from the pros. (Related: Products That'll Prep Your Feet Before They See the Light of Day)
How to Do a Pedicure at Home
If you're trying to give yourself the full experience, the key is to set the scene. Find a comfy spot, turn on some music, maybe light a few candles, and gather all your tools so that you won't have to get up (and potentially ruin your polish) mid-session. Once you've prepped a workstation, proceed to step one to give yourself a salon-like pedicure at home. (Related: The Foot-Care Products and Creams Podiatrists Use On Themselves)
What You'll Need:
- Large bowl
- Foot soak (or whole milk)
- Foot file
- Cuticle softener and pusher
- Glass nail file
- Uncurved nail clippers
- Foot scrub (or DIY)
- Nail polish
- Cuticle oil
Step 1: Soak Your Feet
Celebrity nail artist Pattie Yankee starts every pedicure by filing then soaking the person's feet. First, buff any dry, rough spots with a foot file like Tweezerman Step-Two-It Foot File (Buy It, $13, amazon.com) and clean your nails with cotton soaked in nail polish remover.
Then Yankee suggests soaking your feet in a bowl filled with warm water and a foot soak, such as Naturally London Exhale Detoxifying Foot Soak (Buy It, $20, verishop.com). If you don't have one, use whole milk, since it has lactic acid which helps soften calluses. "This softens the skin and nails, making it easier to exfoliate and trim," says Marcela Correa, a medical pedicurist in New York. Soak your feet for 10 minutes or so, remove them, and dry them with a towel. "Wipe between each toe — it feels great to have fully dried toes, and it helps prevent fungus from growing there," says Correa.
Step 2: Shape Your Cuticles and Nails
Up next for your pedicure at home: cuticle care. Use a cuticle softener such as CND Cuticle Eraser (Buy It, $12, cvs.com), then gently push back the thick layer of skin surrounding your toenails with a wood cuticle pusher.
At this point, you can go in with cuticle trimmers if needed, but proceed with caution. "Sometimes after you push back your cuticle, there's a really thin fold of skin that surrounds the nail," says Yankee. "That part you can cut off, but you don't want to cut into anything that's living."
Once you've perfected your cuticles, it's time to trim your nails. "Cut toenails straight across the top — that's the key to avoiding an ingrown nail — then follow with a teeny clip on each corner to soften the edges so they don't dig into the sides of your toes as you run," says Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist in New York. "I like an uncurved clipper [Buy It, $11, sephora.com] because it offers the most control, especially on little nails. Make sure it's new and sharp; otherwise, it can crack or split the nail." Then, smooth the free edge with a glass nail file (Buy It, $12, ulta.com), which has a grit that's gentle enough for all.
Step 3: Exfoliate and Moisturize
At this point in your at-home pedicure, you can continue to promote softer skin by exfoliating with a scrub. OPI North America education and capability manager Darlene Sritapan likes the brand's ProSpa Exfoliating Sugar Scrub (Buy It, $26, amazon.com). If you prefer a DIY scrub, she suggests combining one part almond, olive, or coconut oil with two parts sugar. Buff the scrub onto your feet and lower legs, rinse, then towel dry.
You can also use a foot file instead of a scrub. Correa and Kandalec prefer to tackle rough areas once a week with a stainless steel foot file that has disposable abrasive sheets (like ASP Stainless Steel Foot File, $17, sallybeauty.com) because it's sanitary and more effective than a pumice stone, says Kandalec. If your heels are cracked, file in the same direction as the crack, not against it. "Otherwise, you could make it bigger," says Correa. Afterward, apply a hydrating cream and give yourself a foot rub. Top pick: Weleda Skin Food Ultra-Rich Cream (Buy It, $19, ulta.com).
Just be sure to tread carefully: "Too much aggressive scrubbing or foot filing can stimulate calluses, making them bigger, not smaller," says Correa. (Related: Exactly How to Get a Salon-Quality Manicure at Home)
Step 4: Solve for Special Concerns
Summer peak season for blisters, athlete's foot, and nail fungus. "All occur when there's too much moisture," says Correa. When your foot is sweaty, it begins to slide in your shoe, and the friction causes a blister to form. Applying a balm, such as Body Glide Foot Glide Anti Blister Balm (Buy It, $8, amazon.com), is a good preventive step.
Meanwhile, sweaty shoes are an ideal home for bacteria, which can cause athlete's foot and nail fungus. If you're dealing with either, "I recommend sterilizing shoes after every wear," Correa says. She sells a Fungi-Fix UV Shoe Sterilizer (Buy It, $150, medipedinyc.com), which slides inside your shoes and kills fungus, bacteria, and odor in 15 minutes. You can also treat shoes and feet with Arm & Hammer Invisible Foot Powder Spray (Buy It, $7, target.com); the clear baking soda formula helps absorb moisture and neutralize odor. "In general, keep your feet as dry as possible, switching socks midday if needed. Wear a toe-cap protector on any infected nails in the shower, then dry feet completely before you put on shoes," says Correa.
Lastly, to treat cracked heels, apply a foot cream with urea, like Eucerin Roughness Relief Cream (Buy It, $12, amazon.com), before bed, and slip on a silicone heel protector (Buy It, $10, amazon.com) to lock in moisture. You can also wear these during the day for extra support and cushioning — just skip the lotion.
Step 5: Polish Your Toes
Time for the main event of your pedicure at home. "I'm a fan of a simple solid-colored pedicure," says Kandalec. "I love the crisp outline of a classic red, magenta, white, or mint that draws just the right amount of focus." Swipe nail polish remover over your nails again to remove any product that might've made its way onto your nails. To prevent yellowing, apply a base coat, like Orly Bonder (Buy It, $9, amazon.com). Then add two coats of lacquer and a high-shine, quick-dry top coat. "Make sure you let each coat fully dry to prevent bubbles or wrinkles in your application," advises Sritapan.
If you don't have a steady hand, you can erase any mistakes with an angled makeup brush (Buy It, $4, target.com) dipped in nail polish remover. (Do it while the polish is still wet rather than waiting until the end.)