These Essentials Make It Easy to DIY the Perfect Pedicure
Slipping into your favorite sandals should feel freeing, not frightening. The secret: Pretty (and healthy!) toenails. Getting your feet to look and feel their best doesn't always require a trip to the nail salon, however. You can achieve the same benefits of a professional pedicure in the comfort of your home.
To prove it, our panel of nail care experts—New York City-based podiatrist Miguel Cunha; Los Angeles-based manicurists Karen Gutierrez and Carla Kay; Amy Ling Lin, the founder of Sundays Nail Studio in New York City; and Dana Stern, a New York-based dermatologist and nail specialist—shared their must-have tricks for a top-notch polishing up at home.
It all starts with how you apply the base coat. Gutierrez says you should roll the polish bottle softly between your palms, as shaking it can cause bubbles in the mixture itself. You'll also need to wipe brush bristles against the rim of the bottle to remove excess polish, which is a sure way to avoiding accidentally painting over cuticles and other skin areas. Only apply three strokes: fanning the bristle out at the base, go down the middle of your nail and then up on each side. Repeat the process, and before you start the next nail, finish it up with a swipe along your nail's tip to prevent chipping. Last, a top coat to prolong the life of your pedicure.
Read on for more of our expert tips for healthy, gorgeous nails—and the tools you'll need to have to get the job done.
Smooth Rough Spots
The speediest way to soften calluses is to remove them mechanically with a file and scrub, says Stern. Start with clean, damp skin and lightly file in a back-and-forth motion (wash the tool afterward with soap and water), says Lin. Follow with a scrub containing oil, so it exfoliates and moisturizes at the same time.
Jo Malone London "Geranium & Walnut" Body Scrub, $55, jomalone.com
; The Body Shop Wooden Foot File, $8,
Clean Up Cuticles
Trimming them can expose your nail beds to germs, which can lead to white spots and surface irregularities, says Stern. Instead, gently nudge skin back with a cuticle pusher or wet washcloth. Then keep them hydrated: Lin recommends fast-absorbing creams in the morning and thicker formulas, like balms, overnight.
Aveda Foot Relief Moisturizing Creme, $24 for 4.2 oz., aveda.com
; Captain Blankenship Avocado & Peppermint Hand, Cuticle & Foot Balm, $24,
Get Rid of Ridges
"Polish removers are very dehydrating, which leads to splitting and peeling," says Stern. Avoid ingredients like acetone, ethyl acetate, and butyl acetate, and instead use one with a safer solvent, like propylene carbonate. Our choice rehydrates with oils and aloe.
Tenoverten Rose Polish Remover, $12 for 4 oz., target.com
Soothe Aches and Pains
Swollen feet are a hot-day hazard, and hoofing it around in flip-flops doesn’t help. For instant relief, "roll a frozen water bottle under your arches," says Cunha. On the go, a spritz with tea-tree oil to calm inflammation and help neutralize sweat will do the trick, says Kay.
Earth Therapeutics Tea Tree Oil Foot Spray, $8, earththerapeutics.net
Heal Cracked Heels
First, use a nongreasy deep moisturizer—preferably one with aloe and vitamin E to treat any spots (our pick goes on with a brush). At night, apply a cream with 40 percent urea, says Cunha, or do a natural soak a few times a week: Steep your feet in a mix of four parts water, one part apple cider vinegar, and three tablespoons Epsom salts for 20 minutes. "The vinegar has acids that gently break down dead skin, plus antimicrobial properties to ward off athlete’s foot, funguses, and other bacteria," he explains.
FarmHouse Fresh Honey Heel Glaze, $26, farmhousefreshgoods.com
If you love a bright enamel, a base coat is your best friend. The clear layer keeps nails from absorbing highly saturated pigments and yellowing, says Gutierrez. If your nails already look a little jaundiced, gently buff them, or take a polish holiday, Stern says, and use an oil with vitamin E to nourish them daily.
Deborah Lippmann Hard Rock Base and Top Coat, $20, deborahlippmann.com