Nail salons have been back up and running for a while, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch your at-home pedicure station just yet. Yes, having someone else paint, buff, and file your toenails is undoubtedly the most effortless route to pedicured toes, but it can also get expensive. So, why not use the nail-enhancing skills you learned during lockdown to save a pricey trip?
That’s where we come in: We’re dedicated to equipping you all with the knowledge you need to nail these normally in-salon services on your own in the comfort of your home. And luckily, the pros have been more than happy to help too. We asked some of our favorite nail experts to share some of their go-to pedicure tools and products to have on hand while doing your toes yourself. You know, things like a foot bath, a pumice stone, cuticle oil, and heel cream — basically all of the essentials that can make the pedicure experience much more seamless, especially for a beginner.
But before we get to the goods, first you need to know how to use them to get the best results. Here are a few quick tips you should keep in mind for your next at-home pedi.
Start with the skin on your feet.
Drop the clippers, because you need to address the skin on your feet before you even get started on the actual nail, according to board-certified New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. When you think about it, the skin on the bottom of your feet is usually the area with the most trauma, which leads to calluses and rough skin. Zeichner notes that these dry, sandpaper-grainy patches are our body’s way of protecting our feet from all of the daily wear-and-tear, and they actually shouldn’t be completely removed.
“It is OK to soften or remove dead skin, but remember, they are there to serve a purpose,” he says. “Removing too much dead skin will leave your feet unprotected in your everyday activities and may actually lead to discomfort.”
In order to remove any unsightly patches of skin without damaging your feet in the process, Zeichner suggests applying a moisturizer first to soften and smooth.
If your feet are feeling especially rough, Zeichner also recommends using an exfoliating product — chemical or physical is your choice — to slough away unwanted dry patches, flakes, and rough spots. This is all about preference: If you want a more intensive treatment, then he suggests using a product that contains glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acids. “These exfoliating acids help dissolve connections between dead cells on the surface of the skin so they more easily can be shed,” says Zeichner.
If you don’t want to deal with your foot shedding like a snake, then our next option is using a physically exfoliating device. Zeichner says that you can use any manual foot file, pumice stone, or scrub to scrape away dead skin from your heels, soles, and toes. “When it comes to at-home foot exfoliation, less is more,” he says. “You may want to get rid of thick plaques, but the skin on your feet will never be as smooth as the skin on the rest of your body.”
Now, to the toenails.
Once your skin is all prepped and taken care of, you can move on to your actual toenails. As a first step, Marcela Correa, licensed professional medical pedicurist and founder of Medi Pedi NYC, suggests soaking your feet in a warm Epsom salt bath for at least 15 minutes. “This helps soften the nails, making them easier to manage, and is especially important for those dealing with nail fungus, which can harden your nails,” she says. With that being said, if you are dealing with a fungal infection of any kind on your feet, both experts agree that you should consult with a medical professional for treatment before trying to heal it by yourself.
Now, you’re all set to start trimming and filing your nails. For this step, Correa’s number one tip is to make sure you cut and file them straight across to keep ingrown nails and breakage at bay. Once you’re finished cutting and filing, use an oil that’s infused with ingredients like jojoba to moisturize your nails and cuticles. If you don’t have any cuticle oil on hand, Correa says you can use a pantry staple: olive oil. “It moisturizes and strengthens the nails,” she says.
Once your toes and nails are moisturized, filed, and cut, Correa says to give your nails a quick buff for an even, ridge-free canvas for your base coat and polishes. Et voilà: a professional-level pedicure without breaking the bank.
Now that you know how to give yourself an at-home pedi, you need the tools to get it done. Here, 17 at-home pedicure necessities.