Ten Steps For The Definitive DIY Pedicure
News flash: Winter boot season is over. This weekend, we put our lace-up oxfords in storage and now there’s no looking back. To spruce things up for the days of T-straps and peep-toes ahead (click here for 24 pairs of our favorite summer sandals), we consulted legendary manicurist Jin Soon Choi, of Jin Soon Hand and Foot Spa in New York City, and April Foreman, an L.A.-based manicurist whose well-lacquered clients include Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Lopez, for some at-home advice. Here, a rundown of the essentials you’ll need for professional pedis, no trip to the salon needed.
Step 1: Set the Mood
We don’t like to get too froufrou about pedicuring at home (no palm tree toe dividers, please), and neither do the experts. When setting up her personal space for nail painting, Choi just prefers to fill the air with Brazilian or African tunes—Bebel Gilberto and Oliver Mtukudzi are on her playlist—and light a NARS Acapulco candle. “I love cocoa and vanilla scents; this one is magical.”
Step 2: Perfume the Waters
Nothing preps your feet for a pedicure better than a good ten-minute soak, says Choi. She likes to add essential oils, like Napa Valley Bath Co. Organic Lavender Essential Oil, into the lukewarm water. In a pinch, a bit of Epsom salts or even hand-softening liquid dish soap also helps remove dirt and soften calluses, Foreman adds.
Step 3: Use Salves and Stones
Buff thickened skin with a pumice stone (Choi’s tool of choice is Tweezerman Pedro Callus Stone since “it has a long handle and is easy to use”) and apply a healing foot balm, like the ultra-nourishing Napa Valley Bath Co. Lavender Hoof Cream. Foreman also likes Kerasal Exfoliating Moisturizing Foot Ointment, which combines salicylic acid with glycerin to slough and hydrate your feet at the same time.
Step 4: Get in Shape
File rough nails into uniform shape, push back the cuticles, and rub in a few drops of olive oil—yes, olive oil; it’s rich in antioxidants to protect delicate skin from sun exposure.
Step 5: Do Some Detail Work
Prime the nails with a swipe of non-acetone nail polish remover like Scotch Naturals Plant-Based Polish Remover to get rid of any residue before you start painting. “This is the key to a long-lasting pedicure,” Choi says. Next, apply a strengthening base coat, such as Nailtiques Nail Protein, to fill in cracks and create an even, smooth canvas for your polish. Let that dry for five minutes (cue up some more Bebel Gilberto tracks while you wait).
Step 6: Go for Bold or Custom-Blended Polishes
Choi is all about bright seventies colors this season. Her current favorites include NARS Dovima ["the best orange red"], Revlon’s Plum Seduction, and Joe Fresh’s Coral). Foreman is partial to NARS Pokerface (“a gray-toned lilac with a hint of shimmer”) or statement sheer formulas, like Clear Pink by Rescue Beauty Lounge. “I also mix my own sheers by adding a rich color to a bottle of clear polish,” she says.
Step 7: Perfect Your Brushstrokes
“The old method taught in beauty schools was to apply nail polish to the middle of the nail first, then down the left side, followed by the right side,” says Choi. “I find that this isn’t a good method because starting in the center often results in streaking.” Instead, she paints from left to right to achieve a ripple-free surface. To fix a slip-up, Foreman recommends dipping the pointy tip of a makeup brush into polish remover and dabbing any splotches.
Step 8: Tidy Up Your Edges
To prevent chips, apply two layers of lacquer and paint the “free edge” (i.e., the front edge of your nail), since that’s where most cracks occur first, says Choi. If you’re prone to chips or are rough on your nails, consider polishes with a metallic finish since they deliver a hard finish that resists scuffs, she advises.
Step 9: Don’t Forget the SPF
Finish with a UV-absorbing topcoat like Orly Sunscreen for Nails. “It’s a good idea to use this because colors can oxidize and fade in the sun,” warns Choi. Reapply every two or three days to keep your handiwork fresh and shiny.
Step 10: Soften in Your Sleep
For those serious about maintaining pristine toes, Foreman steers clients to Silipos Gel Therapy Socks, made with a polymer gel that conforms to the soles and gradually releases medical-grade mineral oil to smooth and repair cracked heels. If that’s not your thing, it’s better to sleep with bare feet than in cotton socks, notes Forman, since “cotton can wick away too much moisture and dry out your feet.”