How to DIY the Perfect French Pedicure in 5 Steps

Lizzo with a French pedicure, wearing white Gucci sandals


To say the French manicure is having a comeback moment is an understatement—and we are absolutely here for it. This beauty staple can go from classic to wholly your own with a simple swipe of polish.

We've all seen the skilled hands of our nail techs create this look on our fingers and toes, but sometimes, you just want to give it a go yourself. For all the deets on giving yourself the ultimate French pedi, we chatted with LeChat Nails educator Syreeta Aaron and Amy Ling Lin, CEO and founder of nail care brand Sundays. They gave us the 411 on all the tools you'll need to execute the look, along with a step-by-step guide on how to buff, scrub, and polish like the pros.

Meet the Expert

What You'll Need

First things first: tools. Though this is a chic, minimalist classic, you'll need a few to achieve the look.

"Traditionally, you can create the look by simply using a French manicure brush and white polish," says Aaron. However, there are a couple more ways to go French. "You can create [a French pedicure] using French tape to mark off where you want the smile line, and the most recent way I’ve seen is using a stamper."

Aaron says you'll need several items to create a traditional, freehand French pedi—a base coat, a top coat, a white polish (or the color of your choice), a French manicure brush, paper towels, polish remover, and a dapping dish. You won't need the manicure brush if you opt for the tape method or the stamper. (You will, however, need French tape and a nail stamper, respectively.)

How to Give Yourself a French Pedicure

If you replay your last pedicure, some of the steps might already be in your nail care wheelhouse. But just in case you're usually busy letting yourself relax through your nail services (which we encourage), we'll guide you through each step of the process.

Before you get started, make sure you have all of your tools handy, so you don't accidentally smudge your nails along the way.

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Shape the Toeails

Round, square, or squoval, no matter your nail shape preference Lin says you always start by shaping your nails. "When we cut and shape nails, it creates nail dust, [so] it is better to do it beforehand," she says, adding that wet nails are difficult to shape.

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Give Your Feet a Little TLC

Now that your nails are shaped, it's time to treat those feet to some much-needed exfoliation. As with the skin on the rest of your body, you want to select a scrub that's nourishing while it buffs dead skin away. Not a fan of physical exfoliators? Opt for an AHA-infused formula. Oh, and don't forget to moisturize your feet and nails with a hydrating cream after exfoliating.

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Layer on Your Paints

Now for the last part of the process: painting your nails. Lin recommends starting with one layer of base coat and allowing it to dry down for 1-2 minutes. "Then apply two layers of sheet color and let each layer dry for 2-3 mins," she tells us. What is a sheet color? Think of it as a sheer neutral shade that compliments your natural nail bed. Lin recommends No.48 by Sundays ($18).

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Apply Your French Tip

After letting the sheet color dry, it's time to apply the French tips. Lin says your first step is deciding how thick you want your French line to be. Then, if you're going the traditional freehand route, "you can use a nail polish brush to dab on the edge of your toenails from one side to the other and then remove the residuals on the skin," she says.

Next, Lin says to "draw a thin line and fill in the blank, brushing from the line down to the nail edge." Let this dry for a full five minutes. One more piece of advice: "Don’t make the tip too thick," says Lin. "Otherwise, it can easily get smashed."

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Add Top Coat

Once your tips are in place, finish with a top coat and let it dry for 8-10 mins. With this pedicure there's quite a bit of dry time, so be sure you don't have to slide on a pair of shoes and rush out the door. To help expedite the process, try Butter London's P.D. Quick Dry Conditioning Drops ($18), an oil serum that speeds up dry time and helps to prevent lacquer nicks and smudges.

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