Do your feet feel like this? Mine do. My pedicure is long overdue but it’s not easy to pop over to the nail salon these days. Most of us are not expert manicurists nor are we as limber as we used to be. But fear not, a DIY pedicure is not as daunting a task as you might think. I did it myself and I’m going to take you step-by-step through an at-home pedicure with plenty of tips for a stress-free experience.
The two-day pedicure
Plan to extend you DIY pedicure over two days. There’s a good reason for this.
Once you have soaked your feet, filed your toenails, trimmed hang nails, and pushed cuticles back, your feet need a good moisturizing treatment, preferably overnight.
The next day you will be ready to apply polish and finish your pedicure. Of course, you can skip the overnight step, moisturize your feet, and simply complete the process in one day. But if you’ve got the time—and we seem to have a lot more of that these days—your feet will love the results of an overnight pampering.
Let’s get started. What you will need.
- Acetone-based nail polish remover. Yes, we know that acetone is not good for you. But seriously, it is the only thing that will remove old nail polish. I spent an hour trying to remove nail polish with acetone-free remover. I was so frustrated at the end of it that I missed the relaxing, spa-like aspect of the experience. Switching to an acetone remover made all the difference: the polish came off instantly. There’s no need to frustrate yourself needlessly. The remover is only on your toes for a few minutes.
- A big metal or plastic tub that fits both feet or a separate bowl for each foot. One of the most pleasurable aspects of a pedicure is soaking your feet in warm water. If you would like to give your feet regular soaks a foot basin can be a useful and inexpensive purchase.
- Cotton rounds. Make sure you have lots. You can expect to use much more than you expect. Simply Soft Cotton Rounds are 100% textured cotton, absorbent, and lint free.
- Epsom salts. Epsom salts are great for soaking your feet. They draw out toxins and relax muscles. Select salts with a lavender scent for a relaxing experience.
- Towels. Small white gym towels are ideal. I use about five of them—one to dry each foot and the others to put my feet on and mop up spilled water. Microfiber towels are soft, fast drying, and lint free. Just pat to dry.
- Foot file. I find the best foot file is made of wood, has a long handle and an emery board face. The metal ones can be too harsh if you are not experienced and can actually cut your feet. We like this file from The Body Shop, also available on Amazon.
- Nail file. You probably already have a metal file or an emery board. If you haven’t tried the glass or crystal nail files, they are wonderful—they do the job perfectly with no snagging or catching and they are extremely durable. Amazon has this one that is very well reviewed (and made with Czech glass). Yes, crystal nail files are more expensive than emery boards but you will see the difference immediately and you will have them for a long time.
- Nail trimmers or scissors. You’ll decide what works better for you, depending upon the thickness of your toe nails. As we age, our toenails thicken. The SZQHT 15mm Wide Jaw Opening Nail Clipper is ideal for thick nails and is ergonomically designed. Find it on Amazon.
- Cuticle pusher. Did you know there is actually a cuticle pusher just for your feet? It is heavier duty than most and the pusher end is longer and it easier to wield from a distance. This one from Sally Hansen also has a file on the other end of the pusher, making it a double-duty tool. Find it on Amazon.
- Cuticle nippers. It is never a good idea to cut off your entire cuticle. Cuticles are designed to protect your nail bed. When you cut it, not only do you open your nail up to bacteria but you also make the cuticle look ragged when it is growing back. Simply push your cuticles back and nip any hang nail ends. The Ejiubas Cuticle Remover Cuticle Nipper is made of 100% high quality stainless steel and has an ergonimic handle design. Get it on Amazon.
- Glycerin rich hand/foot cream. Make sure the cream you use on your feet is loaded with glycerin. Glycerin should be among the first ingredients listed on the container. Camille Beckman Glycerin Hand Therapy is hands (and feet) down the best cream I have ever used. You will experience a softness that is unlike anything else. It’s available on Amazon.
- Cotton booties or clean white sports socks. You can use cotton booties or clean sports socks for your overnight moisturizing. I found that my booties actually fit better than socks and didn’t fall off in the night. The idea is to keep the cream on your feet and not on your bed sheets. Find these booties on Amazon.
- Toe separators. Your toes are easier to paint if they are separated. They also prevent toes from smudging together while your polish is drying. You can use paper towels or tissues stuffed between your toes but separators are very inexpensive and easy to use. We like these colorful toe separators from Amazon.
- Orange stick. Orange sticks have been around forever. There is something very 1940s about orange sticks for pedicures and yet there is nothing better for the job at hand. Unless you have the manual dexterity of someone who applies polish for a living, you are going to smudge polish over the side of the nail and over your cuticles. You can immediately (before your polish has set) sharpen the line and remove the extra polish with an orange stick. Perfect Stix are available on Amazon.
- Nail polish. Polish is a very personal choice. You will need a base coat, nail polish and a top coat. Just a word of advice: make sure that your polish is fresh. Old polish tends to turn gummy and tacky and that will thwart the smooth finish of your polish. If your polish is more than a few years old—and since you are doing this by yourself—it might be wise to order fresh polish along with your base and top coat, before you get started. Make a statement with Dior Rouge 999, ($28) a classic red, or go subtle with Chanel’s 735 – Daydream ($28), a nude with pink undertones. You’ll love looking at your toes in sandals.
So now that we have all our tools, let’s go.
Choose your spot
Before you get all your tools in one spot, choose your location carefully. Is the chair comfortable? Is the light good? It is helpful to steady your foot on a plastic stool that brings your foot closer to you. If you are not particularly limber, brace your foot on an object such as a heavy table that won’t move.
Practice bending into your foot a few times to make sure it won’t be painful or uncomfortable when you are doing it for a few minutes at a time. Make sure you have everything you need. You don’t want to be settled in with your feet in water only to realize that something you need is in another room.
Spread out a few towels to create your pedicure area. Fill your basin with warm water and add the epsom salts.
File away rough skin with a dry rub
Use your foot file on a dry foot to scrub heels and callouses. You will be amazed at how much rough, dry skin particles will fly through the air. Your feet will be filed again after you soak your feet and dry them, but this is the step that will remove most of your rough spots.
Soak your feet
Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salts and really take in the experience. Read a chapter of a book, listen to music, or simply relax. When was the last time you were able to truly relax? Consider this a time to pamper yourself and enjoy the sensation. Don’t empty your basin–you’ll be using it again. Just move it out of the way and continue to the next step.
Remove old polish
Dry your feet and place them on one or two towels. Use cotton rounds soaked in acetone-based nail polish remover to take off your old polish. Here is a trick my aesthetician uses: snug a cotton round soaked in remover over each of your toes so that while you are working on one toe, the others are soaking. You will find polish much easier to remove using this technique than starting “fresh” with each toe. Once you have removed polish from one foot, put it back in the warm water and continue with the other foot.
Cut and file your nails
Dry your feet, then cut and file your nails. Toe nails are better left more or less straight across to prevent ingrown nails rather than oval shaped like fingernails. You will find the crystal nail file does a fantastic job of filing toes smoothly across. This will help to make your pedicure look professional.
Now file any thick skin or rough spots again on warm, dried feet. Feel all over your feet to identify any callouses or rough spots that benefit from a final filing.
Moisturize your feet
The absolute best way to get silky soft feet is to slather them with glycerin-rich cream, put on cotton booties, and leave them on overnight. That way, for a full eight hours plus, your tired, worn feet will drink up the wonderful moisture. You won’t believe how good your feet feel the next morning. Nothing can take the place of this step.
I get my booties ready to slide on and then I rub my feet with the glycerin cream. Work it into your heels and callouses and around your nails and between your toes. Put on your booties or sport socks. Wear them for as long as you can (overnight is ideal) so that your feet get the benefit of deep moisture.
When you take off your booties the next day, your toes will be ready for base, polish, and top coat. Examine your toes to make sure they don’t need additional filing or nipping at certain spots.
If there is any cream left on your nails, use a cotton round with polish remover to clean the nail before applying polish.
Apply a base coat first to all toes. Smith & Cult Basis of Everything doubles as a ridge filler and lays a foundation for building magnificant-looking nails.
Wait briefly, then apply a thin coat of color using the same technique.
Apply the second coat of color.
Wait until that coat is dry, then apply a top coat. Seche Vive Instant Gel Effect Top Coat is considered the finest and most highly acclaimed top coat for nail polish in the world, used by professionals for over 20 years.
Tips for a smooth polish job
- Keep your hand steady by anchoring the fingers that are not holding the brush. For example, if you are holding the polish brush with your thumb and first two fingers, rest your remaining fingers against your foot or something that will steady them.
- Dip your brush in the product (base, polish or top coat) and wipe it gently on the side of the bottle.
- Put the first stroke down the center of the nail from cuticle to nail top. Repeat with slightly less polish on the brush for the two sides of your nail.
- If you go over the nail onto skin, run the orange stick over the skin to remove polish.
- Apply polish in one direction only.
If everything is fresh it should flow on smoothly. If you mess it up, you can always take the polish off and start again. Don’t rush the process. A pedicure will last for weeks so enjoy the experience and take your time.
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