In a perfect world, we'd all be treating ourselves to weekly pedicures. Unfortunately, there's one major obstacle standing in the way of that dream: a lack of extra funds. With adulting comes great responsibility, and sometimes rent and bills are due in the same week, and a pedi might be the last thing you budgeted for.
No big deal though, because a pedicure is one of few beauty treatments you can tackle on your own. And the best part? Doing it yourself is actually pretty affordable. We turned to nail expert Sarah Gibson Tuttle, CEO and founder of Olive & June, to give us the rundown on everything we need to know about giving ourselves a pedicure, and as it turns out, it's pretty easy, too.
Ahead, 10 simple steps for giving yourself a spa-worthy pedicure.
Gather Your Supplies
Before you begin, clear a space and gather all of your supplies to make the process easier. "We recommend creating a workspace so that you have a clutter-free area with a stable surface where you can steady your foot," Tuttle says. Running around looking for things with wet nails wouldn't be relaxing at all, so you'll also want to have everything within reach once you get started. Here's what you'll need:
- Nail polish remover
- Cotton pads
- Straight edge clippers
- Dual grit file
- Nail buffer
- Foot file
- Foot soak or liquid soap
- Cuticle serum
- Base coat
- Nail polish
- Quick-drying top coat
Remove Old Nail Polish
The first step to a great pedicure is to remove any old paint. Instead of cotton balls, which will leave fuzzies, use lint-free cotton pads like the Ulta Premium Cotton Pads ($5). If you're not attached to a cheap drugstore nail polish remover, upgrade to an acetone-, paraben-, and phthalate-free one like Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover ($9); it'll be healthier for your nails in the long run and worth the investment. However, Sally Hansen Extra Strength Nail Polish Remover ($6) might be the better, more effective choice if you frequently use very dark or stubborn nail polish.
Once you have your supplies ready, saturate the cotton pad with remover. Then, press the saturated cotton on the nail and let it soak in for a few seconds before wiping it off. If you have stains on your nails, Tuttle recommends using lemon juice to remove them. "It may require a few tries, but it's the most gentle remedy that actually works," she says.
Soak Your Feet
Next, you'll want to give your feet a soothing bath with a foot soak (Try Solimo Epsom Salt Peppermint Foot Soak, $14) to soften the skin and relax your senses. If you don't have a foot soak, Tuttle suggests a few alternatives: a bit of your normal bath soak or your favorite liquid soap. After 10 minutes or so (the softer your feet, the better, Tuttle says), pat your feet dry with a clean towel.
File the Heels of Your Feet
Once the soles of your feet have softened, you can gently tend to the dead skin with a light scrub from a pumice stone like Cuccio's Earth Lava Pumice Stone ($5) or a file like the Earth Therapeutics Big Ceramic Foot File ($9). Pay special attention to the balls of your feet, the bottoms and sides of your heels, and around your toes. Be sure to only smooth your heels and rough parts and not remove too much skin (your calluses are there for good reason).
Tend to Your Cuticles
While Tuttle says it's fine to buff your cuticles and trim anything that's hanging or loose, save the cuticle cutting for the pros. "Cuticle cutting should always be done by your licensed manicurist," she says. She also adds that ingrown toenail maintenance should always be done at your doctor's office, so don't attempt that yourself, either.
Scrub Your Feet and Legs
One optional step that Tuttle recommends for a spa-like experience is to give yourself a light scrub on the pads of your feet, your heels, and your lower legs with an exfoliator to even out the last few rough spots. You can follow a DIY recipe for this, or try the Skinfood Mint Sparkling Foot Scrub ($12) instead.
Trim, File, and Buff Your Nails
To trim your toenails, it's best to use high-quality clippers made specifically for that purpose, such as Tweezerman Deluxe Toenail Clippers ($12).
If you need to trim them, cut your toenails straight across to just above the skin. Smooth out the raw edge with a nail file, working in one direction until they're even and have been formed to the shape you like. Tuttle recommends using a dual grit file; the fine-grade surface is for smoothing the nail edge, while the coarser surface is for shortening and shaping nails.
And, of course, make sure to factor in your lifestyle when choosing the length and shape of your toenails. "If you are active, short, round toenails are best because longer nails tend to get bumped in your sneakers and lead to bruising, which can lead to losing your toenail," Tuttle says.
Finish your foot treatment with a good moisturizer, such as The Body Shop's Hemp Foot Protector ($20), and work the product from your toes all the way up your calves. Not only will the massage feel nice, but this also helps nourish and hydrate your skin after the scrubbing and soaking.
Apply Nail Polish
Before you start painting, swipe your nail beds dry to remove any excess product or oil. Then, start by applying a thin base coat, such as OPI Natural Nail Base Coat ($11), using three strokes: one up the middle and one on each side. Once the base has set, you're ready to move onto the color.
Before painting, Tuttle says to roll the polish bottle in your hand to ensure the best consistency. Then, apply a thin coat of polish to start. If you have shaky hands, you're not alone. Tuttle's tip: use Olive & June's The Poppy ($16) gripping tool to make the difficult task of painting within the lines slightly easier. "Its shape gives you a better grip and more control so you can paint with even, smooth strokes," she says. Then, wait another minute before adding a second coat.
Finish With a Top Coat and Cuticle Serum
To seal in the color, finish with a quick-drying top coat like Essie Good to Go Top Coat ($9). Then, carefully clean up any rogue polish marks or errors with a cotton swab dipped in polish remover. Once finished and dry, you're free to admire your "hard work."
To get the most out of your pedicure, Tuttle recommends using a cuticle serum daily (try Olive & June's Cuticle Serum, $16) and reapplying your top coat every few days to avoid chipping.
Once you've given this 10-step tutorial a shot and realize just how easy the process really is, you might not ever make it back into the salon—which is good news for both you and your wallet.