By Fiona McKim
A home pedicure is never a bad idea. Even at the best of times, feet are hardly the most glamorous of body parts and 'the best of times' definitely doesn't include a sharp exit from a long period of hibernation straight into the bright and exposing glare of sandal season.
Perhaps you've already discovered the best foundation for warmer days, picked a perfect summer nail colour to flatter your skin tone and found your new signature scent amongst the best flower fragrance of the season, so why not dedicate an hour to a spot of home pedicure action too? Hard cracked skin, raggedy cuticles and overgrown nails with the remnants of last year's pedicure are all dead giveaways that your feet are more than a little attention starved. But with some TLC and a selection of great tools you can get salon-calibre nails at home with one eye on Netflix.
Sorting out neglected toes isn't just a cosmetic endeavour, it's also a chance to check if your feet are in good health and can be a soul-soothing, therapeutic ritual too. In modern wellness-speak this would be dubbed self care, but feel free to think of it as good old-fashioned pampering. Some would argue one is just a millennial media rebrand of the other so we all have something new to write about (ahem)
Semantics aside, this is a chance to turn a thorny mind-body relationship around. Your feet may never be your favourite part of your body, but with this home pedicure you can show them some much-deserved love and get a jolt of joy back whenever you slip on your best sandals and hit those sunny streets.
Your salon-style home pedicure guide
Prep: Home pedicure soak and peel
All home pedicures should start with mastering how to remove dead skin from feet. And when you consider that the heels and balls of your feet spend all day rubbing back and forth against shoes—or slippers as the case may be—while supporting your entire bodyweight, it's no surprise that hard areas build up pretty fast. If your home pedicure needs aren't urgent, get a head start one week in advance with some amazing (and icky in equal measure) acid exfoliating socks.
Begin by soaking your feet for a five minutes in warm water. then pop on the socks for an hour while you watch TV, remove and rinse. Within the next week or so the very hardest skin on your foot will disjoin itself and peel away in satisfyingly large pieces. Obviously this isn't ideal if you are planning on going out with your toes on show. But if you the time to let things take their course for a week, it's fascinating to observe.
Home pedicure steps
Step 1: File your feet
There's any number of fancy gadgets out there promising to burr away hard skin with minimal effort, but nothing's more effective than giving it some welly with a good old foot file."Always use on a dry foot, never on a wet foot," advises podiatrist; Dr Bharti Rajput. "When the skin is wet, it tends to become more rubbery. So on a dry foot, you can actually buff the skin down. Put a piece of kitchen towel or newspaper on the floor and you'll get great pleasure in seeing white powdery hard skin getting rubbed off your feet."
Step 2: Clean and clip
Now's the time to remove any old polish and create a nice, neat nail shape before any water gets involved. "The best approach is to cut your toenails straight across and try not to get all the white edge off." advises Dr Rajput. "Leave a bit of the white edge as it is there to protect the area of your nail which is the protective seal of the skin and the nail. Also, if you cut them down too short you can start to get ingrown toenails. In terms of tools, definitely use toenail clippers, these are generally the best and then use an emery board to get rid of any sharp edge."
Step 3: Soak and soothe
Now the really relaxing bit can begin, if you're well-prepared enough to own one of those bubbly foot spas, plug it in and go. If not, fill a basin with almost too hot to handle water, chuck in a handful of aromatic bath salts, or a few drops of oil if that's what you've got, and soak away for at least 15 minutes.
Step 4: Massage
Once you’ve finished soaking, dry off with a towel, ideally a fluffy one that’s been pre-heated on a nearby radiator for extra loveliness, then use a rich cream and these simple massage tips from Spaseekers:
- Place a small amount of your moisturiser in the palm of your hand, Rub your hands together to distribute the moisturiser.
- Wrap your hands around your foot, ensuring your thumbs meet in the arch.
- Apply gentle pressure whilst moving your thumbs outwards in a T motion towards your toes, circling back around and repeating.
- Move towards your toes, gently squeezing each toe pad, one by one.
- Turn your foot back over, and use the same T motion as before to work the tops of your foot, starting at the ankle moving towards your toes.
Step 5: Cuticle care
Trim and tidy cuticles are often the difference between a slick salon quality pedicure, and an obviously DIY job, but it's important to do this bit very gently and not get carried away. "Pat your feet dry and apply a cuticle softener to the cuticle area," advises Nail Tech Sara Sordillo for Elegant Touch."Then gently push back the cuticle with a cuticle pusher and cleaner. You can then use nippers to gently cut off the dead skin that has been pushed up."
Step 6: Treat discolouration
Toenails take the brunt of everything from exercise to impractical footwear (or both if you haven't read up on the best running shoes for women) so we can't really expect them to look super fresh without any assistance. There is something particularly unlovely about a yellowing toenail, but luckily it's easily fixed with a DIY treatment. Simply soak a cotton pad in lemon juice and give that toenail a good old rub to brighten and fade discolouration.
Step 6: Paint on colour
The grand finale of your home pedicure, and for many people the fiddliest bit. Use toe separators or a wedge of tissue between the toes in a pinch,. Take your time with each nail and don't overload with polish, one dip in the bottle and three licks of the brush is plenty for the big toe, less for others. Don't worry about smudges, they're inevitable on smaller nails and you can easily clean up with a cotton bud dipped in remover. Two coats should be ample, then finish with a clear top coat and let everything dry for at least 30 minutes before moving or putting flip flops on.
Try and wait a couple of hours before wearing socks or shoes if you can, it takes longer than you think for polish to completely dry.
Home pedicure kit—our favourite products
As woman&home's Senior Beauty Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant beauty find on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair dye experiments and cute shih-tzus)
Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013, working under legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know about the industry (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism).
In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a magazine features writer, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz gossip pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine if it’s all the rage in Japan, loves fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.
When not slathering herself in self tan or squinting at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park.
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