Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Home Pedicure: Debunking some Myths

Twice a year, mostly around the time for New Year's Resolutions and before the start of what the magazines call "sandal season" everywhere you go you find these articles about how easy, fun, and wonderfully frugal it is to skip the salon and give yourself mani-pedis at home. There's plenty of advice, usually with quotes from some celebrity nail technician, and a list of must-have products (often sponsored). So you go shopping, gather all your supplies, ready to transform your bathroom into a luxurious spa or whatever, and your hands and feet into soft and papered princess paws.

Then reality strikes and you discover that the process is the opposite of relaxing, since you're the one doing all the work. You're sitting uncomfortably, working for so long on your feet is kind of back-breaking, and often you've run out of time before painting your fingernails, so you're lucky if you even got to shape them. There goes another resolution.

It doesn't have to be that annoying, and as a matter of fact you can do a lot for your hands and feet at home. What I have here today is a list of quick tips to demystify the issue. It's a matter of adjusting expectations as well as some regular and simple maintenance. I've already shared my favorite foot products, so today we're talking about the process. Here's my approach:

1. Don't do your hands and feet at the same time, or even on the same day. Give yourself a pedicure the day before you do your nails. This way both are manageable tasks, and you're not at risk of ruining your mani.

2. Soaking your feet is an important part of  the process (and the only time you get to relax). You're usually told to add some Epsom salt to the water, which makes sense because it is great for stress relief. What they don't tell you is that if you have very dry feet this soak is going to make things much worse. If you insist on using salts, cut the suggested amount drastically, but base your soak on a milk bath product or a bath oil. They will actually soften the skin and add nourishment.

3. Clip your nails while soft and damp (seriously, why would anyone do it dry is beyond me), and deal with the other icky stuff: buffing, scraping, cuticle pushing. I dearly suggest using a metal tool for the latter (Tweezerman has a good one). Keep a couple of small towels or washcloths on hand for wiping and polishing.

4. I'm a huge fan of using body oils on my feet, but rich creams are also great (I'm loving Gehwol, both the Soft Feet cream and their Lipidro. Available at Nordstron and Dermstore).

5. It's a good idea to have two kinds of nail files on hand, to deal with thicker and thinner nails, and the precision level needed.

6. Make sure your feet and nails are completely dry before even thinking about painting them. Toe separators are also necessary. If you're prone to messing things up like me, it's not a bad idea to start painting when you're already wearing your flip-flops. This way you eliminate all chances of accidentally smudging a toe when slipping them on.

76. The thing that  cuts the time you have to devote to buffing and callous fighting (significantly!) is regular maintenance. I'm not talking about doing a mini pedi every other day, but keeping a heavy duty foot file in your shower and using it for just 15 seconds per foot every day will make a world of difference. Slathering a softening cream before bed and rubbing it into the cuticles will also make the less fun part of the home pedicure easier and quicker. It also helps make your pedicure last longer.

Do you give yourself regular pedicures? Please share your tips and little truths you've learned over time.


  1. Foot file in the shower is essential - use it after your feet have had plenty of time to soften (I do it just before rinsing out my conditioner). It's nice to have one with two sides so you can use the really rough side first and then go over your feet quickly with the more fine-grained side which results in smoother feet. After I get out of the shower, I moisturize all over (including feet) and then put a nice oil-heavy balm on my feet (Suti makes a great one) and pull on a pair of socks while I sort out my hair. By the time I'm done with that, the oils are all soaked in and my feet feel great and soft.
    I send the foot file through the dishwasher now and then to keep it more clean, too. Some people might think that's gross, but I think it's more gross not to ;)

    Also I swear by using yoga toes and a foot massage ball (mine is called foot rubz) to keep my feet flexible and healthy and feeling good. (And they're both nice passive things you can do while watching tv.)

  2. If you don't have time to soak, do nail work (cut, buff, file, etc.) and push cuticles right after shower. Better yet, scrub while in the shower. Then do the rest of your body & dress before putting on polish. By this time, your nail would have been dried & ready for polish.

  3. Never mastered painting toes precisely enough, so I go to the salon for polish only, and it's about half the cost of a regular pedicure. Agree about keeping the file in the shower. A great product for foot maintenance is AmLactin--they have a foot cream, but I use the Ultra Hydrating body cream--contains the same ingredients, and it comes in a larger size. Enjoy your blog--read often, 1st comment. Discovered Hakuhodo thanks to you!~Caroline

  4. Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme is a lifesaver for rough, dry feet. nozknoz

  5. I don't do it myself...I've been going to the same nail technician for about 9 years. She does a much better job than I could. I do maintain at home in between - using a file and putting a heavier cream on my feet than on the rest of my body. I agree with you - regular maintenance is key!

  6. These were some great tips! I have always suffered from terrible calluses on my feet made worse by my love of super high heels. I find that regular maintenance is essential to prevent a horror show. I don't know why I never thought to keep a buffer or pummice in the shower, it just makes so much sense! This is something that will be rectified today! I usually use one of those callus shavers at night several times a week, after a shower when everything has had a chance to soften up. I follow this with a honey based glaze (Farmhouse Fresh has a good one) that I brush on generously, and then put on a nice pair of non-skid socks to help keep everything in place while I sleep. I wake up and everything is smoother and softened, honey is so healing and also has some antibacterial properties. Will be curious to see everyone else's tips...

  7. I've never had a professional pedi but I've always taken good care of my feet for health as well as vanity reasons. I'm an active person and spend a lot of time on my feet. I also live in SoCal and so I'm barefoot or in sandals most of the year. I use AmLactin on my feet daily and that daily maintenance makes a world of difference. It is so much easier to protect than to correct! I simply don't get cracks or callouses because of that consistent use. In the evening, I do what Proximity does--I slather on a rich cream after bathing and put on some warm fluffy socks and let it soak in while I go about my other business. I also take care of my cuticles and trim my nails after bathing but I wait until the next morning to apply polish because I don't want to forego the little luxury of massaging a rich cream into my feet and then putting on those warm, fluffy socks. I find it very sooooooooooothing :-). I apply polish in between doing other things (I'm a multi-tasker by nature) and my polish is always dry long before I have to leave the house. One of the joys of being retired!

  8. a decent pedicure is about $8 in my part of the world, around $12 with nail polish. so yeah, i don't give myself pedicures anymore. i do, however, exfoliate regularly 1-2 a week. i use a foot scrub lotion, and just scrub one foot against the other. i do it while watching tv or catch up on beauty blogs (just put a small rug under your feet). once done, i rinse off and put lotion and maybe put on socks.
    doing it in the shower is just prone to accidents, and i don't have the patience to just stand there and scrub....


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