Pedicures are about more than just pretty toes. Your feet receive a significant amount of abuse; the average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. A pedicure can improve the circulation in your feet and legs, keep your feet soft and smooth and prevent ingrown toenails. Giving yourself a pedicure on a regular basis–even in the dead of winter–will keep your feet looking and feeling their best.
Soaking your feet will soften your skin and nails in preparation for the rest of your pedicure. The hot water relaxes your feet and increases circulation. Fill a bucket or basin, or your bathtub, with enough hot water to cover your feet. Gently stir 1 tbsp. of Epsom salts and 1 tbsp. of baking soda into the water. Add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender or peppermint to soothe or invigorate. Remove any polish on your toes, and then soak your feet for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Exfoliation removes dead skin and calluses and stimulates the skin. Dip a foot file or pumice stone in the water and gently scrub your feet, concentrating on the heels, balls, and edges. Follow up with a commercial foot scrub, or make your own from 1 cup of sugar mixed with 2 tbsp. of olive or almond oil. Quickly scrub your toes with a nail brush to remove dirt underneath the nails. Rinse your feet and legs thoroughly and dry with a clean towel.
Proper care of your toenails is important to prevent nail fungus and ingrown toenails. Add a small drop of olive or almond oil to each toe, at the cuticle. Trim your toenails, cutting them straight across. Wrap a piece of a cotton ball around the tip of an orange stick and carefully and gently push back your cuticles. Buff your toenails with a buffing block, using light pressure, to smooth out bumps and ridges.
Keeping your feet well-moisturized will slow down or prevent the development of calluses and dry, thick skin. Give yourself a mini-massage as you rub a moisturizing lotion into your feet and legs, paying particular attention to your arches and the balls of your feet. Let the lotion soak in for a few minutes, and then use a hot washcloth to remove any excess lotion or cuticle oil from your toes. Retained moisture between your toes can encourage athlete’s foot and nail fungus, warns Dr. Leslie Campbell, a Texas podiatrist.
Toenail polish is the finishing touch of a pedicure. Try a more daring color on your toenails than you typically use on your fingers. Bright pinks, oranges, greens or blues add a touch of whimsy peeping out from sandals. If you have discolored toenails or a nail fungus, avoid polishing your toes. Podiatrist Leslie Campbell notes that polish can prevent air from reaching the nail, which may aggravate your symptoms. Place foam toe separators or cotton balls between your toes to prevent polish smudges. Apply a base coat to each toe. Use three short strokes to apply polish, one down the center and then one on each side. Apply two coats of nail polish in your favorite color, waiting two minutes between coats. Follow with a clear top coat to protect your color. Reapply a top coat every three days to maintain your polish between pedicures.