Expert-Approved Tips for Giving Yourself a Manicure and Pedicure at Home
Learn how to take care of your hands and feet and treat yourself to at home manicures and pedicures with our easy tips.
Everyone deserves a little bit of pampering every now and then, but finding the time to visit the salon for a manicure and pedicure can be hard. Giving yourself a manicure at home is a great way to dabble in some self-care without spending your precious time or money. To that end, we're sharing expert-approved tips for mastering the art of the DIY manicure and pedicure so that your nails—and hands and feet—look and feel their best.
If you spend long hours elbow deep in soil tending to your garden, often forget to don gloves while doing the dishes, or wash your hands frequently, then you likely already know the importance of regular grooming—these tasks, among so many others, all take a toll on our hands. The same goes for our toes: While we all value a good pedicure during the warm-weather season, it's important all year long. But if you're like most people, you probably find that at-home manicures and pedicures come with their own set of challenges—like painting the nails of your dominant hand. The good news is there are quite a few tips and tricks to ensure your hands and feet feel soft, supple, and fully pampered.
First up, be sure to hydrate your skin with nurturing oils and moisturizers. "Use a moisturizer immediately after hand washing to ensure that the skin does not become dry. Layer on Vaseline Jelly ($2.29, target.com) to lock in moisture, avoid harsh soaps, and see your dermatologist if you develop a rash or if cracked hands do not improve," says Dr. Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD, and founder of Tone Dermatology. The same goes for your feet. "[A] good foot care routine has a balance of hydration and exfoliation," says Dr. Robinson.
If you're ready to enjoy a little DIY self-care—and make the process enjoyable, not stressful—read on for expert-approved tips that'll help you master the art of the at-home manicure and pedicure.
Mabelyn Martin, creative director of Paint Box, says the secret to a great manicure comes down to moisturizing. "I love adding a couple of drops of oil to a dab of Weleda Skin Food ($18.99, ulta.com) to massage into my hands," she says. "Keeping hydrating products near your hand soap helps to add it into your routine."
Strengthen Brittle Nails
More fragile and brittle nails are common as we age, according to Dr. Robinson, "because the cells that produce our nails age in the same way the rest of our body does." And while supplements can help, there's a better way to get strong, healthy nails. "There is some evidence that vitamin supplements containing biotin may help to strength the nail but the first step is always ensuring that your diet is rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetable," she says. As far as how to help brittle nails while doing an at-home manicure, the pro recommends applying ISDIN Si-Nails nail strengthener ($29.95, amazon.com), because, "[It] contains a blend of hyaluronic acid and castor oil for hydration as well as pistacia lentiscus gum which promotes keratin production for strong, nourished nails."
Determine the Best Nail Shape for You
The rule of thumb, according to Martin, is to follow your free edge line. "The free edge is the part of your nail that grows after your nail bed ends," she says. "If it's straight across, a soft square is good for you. If the free edge is more curved, try a round or oval shape."
File the Right Way
Another top piece of advice from Martin? Always file in one direction. "Glass or metal files work best for natural nails," she says. "Try filing from the sides to the center to prevent creating rips or tears."
Push Back Cuticles
"Pushing back your cuticles and keeping them moisturized with oil is the best care for your cuticles," says Martin. Dr. Robinson agrees, adding, "Cuticles are actually a layer designed to protect the surrounding skin and deeper nail structures. It is a myth that they should be trimmed regularly. Avoid cutting, removing, or aggressively pushing back your cuticles because each of these steps can actually compromise the protective cuticle layer and increase your risk for infection."
If you do want to care for and improve the appearance of the cuticle, Dr. Robinson says to moisturize regularly without trimming. "If you do wish to push back your cuticles, opting for [an] orange nail stick as opposed to a metal nail pusher and being as gentle as possible is also an option," she explains.
Choose a Nail Polish
There are many nail polishes on the market that use better-for-you ingredients. Specifically, be sure to pick a polish that avoids toxic additives. "[Paint Box] polishes are all 10-free and toxic-free while still maintaining its lasting power," says Martin. "Applied onto a well prepped nail and with daily use of cuticle oil this polish lasts a solid week."
Soften Your Feet
A good foot care routine has a balance of hydration and exfoliation, according to Dr. Robinson. "Using a glycolic acid ammonium lactate or urea-based moisturizer on your feet, elbows, and knees can be very helpful in keeping these areas of thicker skin soft and nourished," she says. "One of my favorites is the Glytone Heel and Elbow Cream ($54, dermstore.com) which contains 29.5 free acid value of glycolic acid in a rich cream to both hydrate and gently exfoliate thicker areas of skin."
Tend to Ingrown Nails with Care
While Martin says to always seek a professional's help in the case of ingrown nails, Dr. Robinson says it's perfectly fine to try to remedy the situation if you're in pain and want to act fast—just be sure to follow up with a doctor if needed. "Ingrown nails and hangnails should be addressed, particularly if they are uncomfortable, because they are higher-risk areas for infection—including bacterial infections and common warts," she says. One way to avoid these issues is by trimming nails regularly, she says.
But hygiene is also key. "Hygiene is important, so always wash your hands or feet thoroughly before clipping the nail. Soaking the nail in salt water (one teaspoon of salt per pint) can also help to soften it and make it easier to clip," she says. Be sure to clip the nail using a clean nail clipper and apply an antibiotic ointment after removing the ingrown nail or hangnail, says Dr. Robinson. "If this is unsuccessful it is a good idea to seek assistance from your manicurist, pediatrist, or dermatologist," she says.
If you have a wart, one of the most important things to do to prevent the spread to other areas of your skin or to other people is to treat it, explains Dr. Robinson. "Over the counter wart treatments that contain salicylic acid, for example, can be helpful in treating early warts. Additional treatment options are available at your dermatologist's office. Avoid picking, scraping, or scratching the wart and keep the wart covered when in public areas," she says. Gyms and nail salons are important places that the wart virus can spread if it comes in contact with surfaces or tools that are used on or by multiple people, she says, so be sure to keep it covered.