8 Steps for Giving Yourself a Great Pedicure

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Step 1: Remove Polish

At home pedicure

Giving yourself a professional pedicure is an 8-step process. The first step is to remove the old polish from your nails.

Instead of cotton balls, which will leave fuzzies, I suggest using a lint-free cotton pad, such as Miss Webril, or a beauty editor favorite, Lippmann Collection The Stripper To Go, which are nail polish remover pads you can carry around with you.

Saturate the cotton pad with a polish remover (I recommend Sally Hansen's) and rub off the old polish. If the color doesn't come off easily, press the saturated cotton on the nail and let it soak in a few seconds. If you have stains on your nails, fix them fast using the tips in How to Get Rid of Nail Stains.

When choosing the perfect polish remover, consider that alcohol- and acetone-free removers are less drying, but don't work as well, especially on dark shades. Use these these on lighter nail polish shades.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: Miss Webril cotton padsLippmann Collection The Stripper To GoSally Hansen's nail polish remover

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Step 2: Cut and File Nails

At home pedicure

It's best to use high-quality clippers made for clipping toenails. I recommend Tweezerman Deluxe Toenail Clippers. To avoid ingrown nails, cut nails straight across to just above the skin. Make sure your nail doesn't extend over the tip of your toe.

To get a soft square shape, file nails in one direction until they are even and slightly rounded at the corners. (Hint: Don't use metal files, they'll rip your nails). Basic emery boards work great, but if you want to go pro, try the Mehaz ingrown toenail file, which allows you to easily lift nail corners for shaping. Don't clip the sides of nails, which can cause them to become ingrown.

Emory board tip: The fine-grade surface is for smoothing the nail edge, while the coarser surface is for shortening and shaping nails.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: Tweezerman Deluxe Toenail ClippersMehaz ingrown toenail file

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Step 3: Soak Your Feet

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Fill a large bowl with warm water. Throw in bath salts, your favorite aromatherapy oils or Epsom salt and soak feet for 10 minutes. The more cracked and calloused your feet, the longer they need to stay in.

Here's a trick only the pros know: Add a quarter cup of milk to your bath along with the essential oils and salts. The lactic acid in the milk loosens dead skin.

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Step 4: Take Care of Cuticles


Apply cuticle remover to the base of each nail and rub in. I recommend Sally Hansen, a basic remover that works great.

Leave the cuticle remover on for a minute, then use an orangewood stick (Tweezerman works great) to gently push with a circular motion in the spots where skin meets the nail (including the sides). Be careful to remove skin only on top of the nail, don't touch the toe flesh.

If you are confident you won't cut yourself, you can use cuticle nippers (Mehaz nippers work best) to trim any loose skin, but I recommend leaving your cuticles be.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: Sally Hansen cuticle removerMehaz cuticle nippers.

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Step 5: Scrub Your Feet


Apply an exfoliating scrub to a foot file or wet pumice stone to slough away the dead skin on the balls and heels of your feet. You can buy pumice stones at your local drugstore, but I recommend the Cuccio Earth Lava Pumice Stone.

You'll want to scrub the balls, bottoms and sides of your heels and around the toes. To get the most leverage, sit on the side of a bathtub, facing inward. Remember the pedicure motto we read about once, "smooth, don't remove." You'll want to stop if your foot turns bright red, which means that you've scrubbed too hard. Remember that tough skin is there for a reason.

Any basic foot file or pumice stone from your drugstore will do the trick, but if you want the Cadillac of foot files, try a ceramic foot file.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: exfoliating peppermint foot scrubCuccio Earth Lava Pumice Stone, ceramic foot file

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Step 6: Moisturize


Dry feet thoroughly, including between the toes, and rub in a thick moisturizer or foot cream, such as the beauty editor favorite Barielle Total Foot Care Cream. Massage the moisturizer into the feet and the calves. You can go all out and rehydrate cuticles by rubbing in a dab of cuticle oil.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: Barielle Total Foot Care Cream

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Step 7: Polish Toes

Getty/Digital Vision

Use acetone remover to get rid of any excess oils on the nails.

Apply a thin base coat (I like OPI's) using three strokes, one down the middle, then one on each side. Don't paint the cuticle.

Wait a minute before adding two coats of your favorite polish, then finish with a thin top coat (try quick-drying Seche Vite). Clean up any errors with an orangewood stick wrapped in cotton and dipped in polish remover.

Let nails dry for at least 40 minutes.

Tip: It's good to paint any polish remaining on the brush over the front nail edge. This prevents chipping.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: OPI base coatquick-drying Seche Vite

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Step 8: Finish Your Pedicure

Painted toes and flip flops
Getty/With Love Photography/Moment

After nails have dried, you can really go all out and spritz with a moisturizing oil like SolarSpeed spray. This sets your polish and moisturizes your cuticles.

For manicure tips, see How to Give Yourself a Manicure.

Find pedicure products in Amazon: SolarSpeed spray