Our toes can't help but peek out with the arrival of sunny weather. But when you break out your cute summer sandals, you'll probably realize it's been a while since the last time you treated your feet (or even applied foot cream). When it's hard (or impossible!) to make it into the salon for a pro pedicure, we've got you covered with simple steps to give yourself the perfect pedicure — right at home.
From top tools to aftercare, here are the must-do's and at-home pedicure hacks to pamper your feet and toes properly. Embrace y0ur inner nail tech and give your feet a little TLC.
1. Gather the essential at-home pedicure tools.
Make sure you're ready to go with a straight (not curved) nail clipper, nail file, foot file, cuticle pusher, cuticle nipper, foot mask, and cuticle oil. You can always leave your toes au natural, but if you prefer a fresh coat of paint, have your favorite nail polish on hand, too, plus a base and top coat.
2. Trim your toenails short.
Use a straight nail clipper to create a neat line and avoid ingrown toenails, says Rita Remark, global lead educator for Essie. Another plus: "Keeping your toenails short prevents polish chips," she says. After clipping, file your toenails smooth in one direction.
3. Be gentle on cuticles.
When treating your cuticles, think less is more, says Sigourney Nuñez, education manager for OPI. Be gentle with your cuticle pusher — simply push back any waxy build-up on your natural toenail plate and near the cuticle area. The point of the pusher is to detach that cuticle buildup from the natural nail, but (bonus!) it will also help your polish adhere to the nails. Then take your cuticle trimmer and trim only any pieces of dead skin or obvious hang nails.
4. Exfoliate rough heels with a foot file.
Start by soaking your feet to soften and help remove dead skin, Nuñez says. Using a foot file, buff away at any rough areas that may have been caused by standing too long in heels, exercising, or have just accumulated over time. "Focus on cracks on the edges of your heel, as well as the ball of your foot, which is where calluses tend to occur," Remark advises.
5. Treat feet to a mask.
Putting on a foot mask can help extend the life of your baby-soft skin even days after your pedicure. If you find that your feet often feel dry, try a moisturizing mask that will nourish the skin on your soles and leave them silky-smooth.
If you're looking for a more intensive callus treatment, use a chemical foot peel like Baby Foot that will dissolve rough skin without harsh, physical exfoliation. When rinsing off the mask, soak feet for an extra 10 minutes of added relaxation.
6. Always use a base coat.
Don't make the mistake of skipping out on base coat. It only takes a few extra minutes to apply, and it prevents chips and yellow nail stains that can come from dark nail polishes. Because "toenails tend to dry out due to exposure in the summer heat," Remark explains, "it's best to use a moisturizing base coat formula," like pro favorite Seche Vite.
7. Paint on polish.
The toes are a great place to play with a bolder polish shade, as they can be hidden if needed (or balanced out with a more muted nail color). We've seen nail polish trends from bright pinks to periwinkle blues to fun nail art this season. And a pop of color looks good on all skin tones. If you prefer to keep things classic, a sheer nude is always a contender for compliments as well. Be careful not to layer polish on too thick: Instead, layer on several thin coats, allowing adequate time to dry between each coat for best results.
8. Seal your color with a no-chip top coat.
"For a top coat, seek a strengthening formula," Remark says. Since toes are always exposed in sandals, it's a good idea to find a long-wear version that will help nail color stay chip-free. "Reapply your top coat every four days to keep your polish as long-lasting and shiny as possible," she suggests.
9. Be patient!
Don't let all your hard work to go to waste. Make sure to wait for your freshly-polished toenails to completely dry before slipping on socks or closed-toe shoes. Even though nails may feel dry, rushing the drying process can result in unwanted smudges. Remark recommends waiting at least two hours to put shoes on for the perfect pedicure.
10. Don't forget cuticle oil.
Cuticle oil is key for healthy, strong nails, whether on hands or toes. "It refreshes your pedicure and prevents toes from looking dry," Remark says, so don't forget to swipe some over your toes. But remember to always apply cuticle oil after nail polish so that it won't interfere with the color adhering to nails.
11. Keep up the good work.
By now you realize how easy it is to give yourself a salon-worthy pedicure at home, so stick to it! Remark suggests treating yourself to pedicures every two or three weeks for those with very active lifestyles to maintain proper foot health. "Otherwise every three to four weeks is sufficient, depending on how quickly your nails grow," she says.
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