It’s easy to forget about your feet once you walk out of the nail salon, but having a regular foot care routine at home will save you from calluses, cracked feet and even pesky conditions like nail fungus and athlete’s foot in between visits. Plus, adding an at-home pedicure to your self-care routine will help prolong your professional pedicure when you do visit the spa.
Here, we speak to three nail and foot care experts — medical nail technician and owner of Medi Pedi NYC Marcela Correa, director of service operations at MiniLuxe Donna Charloff and nail lead at Chillhouse Molly Romah — about how to give yourself a great pedicure at home.
The first lesson? When it comes to pedicures, nail polish is just the cherry on top. The real focus is on the treatments and foot care that leave your nails and feet healthy, smooth and hydrated.
What is a pedicure?
A pedicure is a treatment inclusive of cleaning the feet, trimming and shaping the toenails, exfoliating and moisturizing. If you go to a nail salon or spa, you can also expect a foot massage and nail polish application.
There are also medical pedicures, which are focused on treatment and prevention of nail and foot conditions (such as ingrown nails, nail fungus and more), according to Correa. Medical pedicures are done by certified medical nail technicians, follow medical-grade sterilization procedures and prioritize the health of your nails and feet, rather than aesthetics. Foot massages and nail polish are excluded from medical pedicures. “The detailed at-home plan on how to treat any conditions found, as well as tailored education on how to prevent any new developing ailments, is a huge benefit currently not found in your normal nail salons,” Correa says of medical pedicures.
Whether you opt for a spa or medical treatment, the experts recommend getting a professional pedicure once a month. Then, you can incorporate at-home pedicure steps like “regular use of a gentle foot file on all callused areas, plus daily application of foot cream and cuticle oil,” according to Charloff.
She also notes that you may want to get a pedicure more frequently in the summer months, “as exposure to the elements, wearing sandals and going to the beach can lead to dryness.”
How to prepare your feet for an at-home pedicure
To get started with your at-home pedicure, first clean your nails of any existing polish.
“Remove your polish with non-acetone polish remover,” Charloff suggests. Once you have the polish off, she says to “clean feet in the shower or bath with soap or shower gel and a gentle nail brush. I love the French soap and nail brush from Andrée Jardin!”
If you have the time to indulge and relax, a foot soak, like this detoxifying one from Naturally London or classic epsom salts, makes a great addition. “Start by soaking your feet for at least 15 minutes in warm to hot water,” Correa says. “This softens the nails making them easier to manage, and is especially important for those dealing with nail fungus, which can harden your nails.”
Once your nails and skin are softened, you can get to work. You’ll want nail clippers, a nail file and a buffer to shape and shine the nails. “When cutting your nails make sure to cut and file them straight across,” Correa says. She doesn’t recommend cutting the cuticles at home, because it “can open your skin and lead to a serious infection.”
After you’ve groomed your toenails, it’s onto the rest of the feet. Exfoliation and hydration are the main treatments to focus on, and each of the experts had their own favorite products and techniques to share below.
Pedicure tools and products
$8.99 $4.99 at Amazon
After showering or doing a foot soak to soften the skin, slough away calluses and dead skin with a foot file. “It’s important to file away the skin in an up and down motion as opposed to straight across and back and forth,” Correa says. “When filing up and down you are following the natural cracks of the skin as opposed to potentially making a crack worse.” Correa suggests weekly exfoliation, but Charloff says gentle daily exfoliation is beneficial too, depending on the condition of your feet.
$4.99 at CVS
Romah prefers using a pumice stone for daily foot exfoliation and recommends this one with a grip, so it’s easy on the hands. She says to “soak your feet in water or scrub your heel after the shower using a pumice stone.”
$25.24 $19.87 at Amazon
For those concerned about hygiene, Correa likes this stainless steel foot file. “I recommend this exfoliating tool because it’s more hygienic than traditional pumice stones, using disposable exfoliating stickers successfully prevents cross contamination,” she says.
Using a body scrub to exfoliate your feet is another easy way to incorporate a pedicure into your routine. Recommended by Romah, this scrub blends pink Himalayan salt, epsom salt and essential oils. It’s great for the whole body, so you can apply it in the shower and give some extra attention to tough or dry heels and feet.
$48 at Oui the People
For a clinical-strength exfoliation, this body scrub we tried combines physical and chemical exfoliants to slough away dry, dull and dead skin. Although it sounds intense, the bamboo powder and lactic acid actually feel less abrasive than a salt scrub but are equally as effective at leaving the body and feet smooth and soft.
If you need an ultra-powerful exfoliation to eradicate calluses and cracked feet, Baby Foot’s cult-favorite treatment will definitely do the trick — but be warned, the process is a bit disgusting. Several days after soaking your feet in the glycolic and lactic acid gel, you can expect the skin on your feet to begin peeling away like a reptile shedding its skin. Ultimately, this results in fresh feet that are smooth and soft.
$24.99 at Amazon
For a targeted treatment, this callus remover spray and foot file set will help you get rid of rough patches and cracked heels. It’s a quicker treatment than the Baby Foot — it only takes the spray three minutes to sink in and soften the skin — so you can buff away calluses almost immediately. We liked the subtle mint scent, too.
$13.99 at Rite Aid
After exfoliating and shaping the nails, Romah likes to use this moisturizing cream for extra-dry skin to keep feet hydrated. It is made with a soothing oat complex, ceramides and emollients to nourish the skin.
$35 at Amazon and Medi Pedi NYC
Correa’s favorite is this milk- and honey-infused foot cream that contains urea. “Urea is known for breaking down the protein keratin in the surface layer of your skin,” Correa says. “This reduces dead skin buildup, cutting down your filing time.” The expert also says to pay extra attention to your heels during your foot care routine, as they tend to dry out faster. “I suggest using a silicone heel protector with a cream at night to make sure some extra moisture seeps into the skin and not your sheets,” she explains.
$85 at Prismatic Plants
For stressed feet, this arnica and CBD-infused body oil serum eases aches and pains while adding hydration with hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and a blend of rosehip, jojoba and sweet almond oils. Give yourself a foot massage and feel the serum work its magic down to your toes.
$32 at MiniLuxe
“Dry cracked feet can be treated daily with a combination of foot creme and cuticle oil blended together,” MiniLuxe’s Charloff says. She loves their foot balm because it contains refreshing menthol and eucalyptus, as well as “shea butter, which has anti-inflammatory properties that helps to reduce redness of dry, cracked feet.”
From $8.50 at Amazon
My own nail tech introduced me to this top-rated cuticle oil a few years ago, and I love how quickly it sinks in. It’s lightweight yet super nourishing with jojoba oil and vitamin E.
$5.99 at Amazon
Romah recommends doing a hydrating foot mask, daily or as often as you need it. These ones come in a convenient slipper that delivers a moisturizing essence to your feet. They work best on moist skin, so we recommend popping them on after a shower or following a foot soak. There’s enough product within the slippers that you can even massage the extra essence into your calves and legs.
$150 at Medi Pedi NYC
In order to keep your feet healthy, Correa says a shoe sanitizer is an essential part of a foot care routine. “As well as keeping our feet clean, it’s important to clean the inside of your shoes, too!” she says. “Use a UV shoe sterilizer daily on all of your shoes to prevent any fungus-causing bacteria from ruining your healthy feet. Also, switch out your socks every time you exercise and don’t walk barefoot!”
Home pedicure kits
$12.99 at Target
This foot care kit includes all the essential tools for an at-home pedicure. You get a nail clipper, cuticle nipper, nail file, four-way buffer, foot brush and pumice, cuticle pusher and cleaner, foot file, toe separators, wood manicure sticks and a travel pouch, all for under $15.
$7 at Amazon
Available in scents like lavender and cucumber, or for specific treatments like charcoal detox and vitamin recharge, each version of this four-step kit includes a salt soak, sugar scrub, mud mask and massage butter to cover all the bases for an at-home pedicure.
$24 at Ulta
This pedicure kit includes a dual-sided pumice and foot brush, lavender-scented foot bombs and a tub of foot butter for a round of exfoliation and hydration whenever you need it.
$52 at MiniLuxe
If you feel like your pedicure isn’t complete without a coat of nail polish, Charloff recommends this set from her company. It works for the hands or feet and includes a nail file, nail clippers, buffer, cuticle pusher, top coat, base coat, drying drops and cuticle oil.