The Do’s and Don’ts of an At-Home Pedicure, According to a Podiatrist

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The weather is finally warming up and our boots are being put aside for flip flops and strappy sandals, which means it’s officially time for a fresh pedicure. Only now (and for the foreseeable future), we’ll be taking matters into our own hands.

Beyond deciding which color polish to choose, there are some best practices to keep in mind when you give yourself a pedicure. Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a podiatrist in New York City and a Vionic Innovation Lab member, shares her top do’s and don’ts for an at-home pedicure ahead.

Do: Cut Your Toenails Straight Across, Leaving Just A Small Amount Of White At The Tips.

“If you leave them too long, too short or cut into the corners, it can encourage ingrown toenails to form as they grow in,” says Sutera.

Don’t: Over-file Your Callouses.

“After taking a bath or shower, use a pumice stone or foot file while the skin is still softened from soaking. Always file callouses in one direction—not back-and-forth in a scrubbing motion, which will ultimately cause a rough regrowth a few days after your pedicure because the skin gets ripped up unevenly in the layers microscopically. And remember, there is a fine line between removing just enough and removing too much of your callouses. Less is more. The deeper you go the more prone you are to infection and the callous growing back even thicker and harder,” warns Sutera.

Do: Use Moisturizing Creams On A Regular Basis.

“This can prevent cracks and fissures from forming and thicker skin from growing in. Use a moisturizer that’s made specifically for feet or it may not be strong enough to penetrate the thicker layers of skin,” says Sutera. “Look for ingredients like urea, lactic acid or salicylic acid, which help exfoliate and moisturize. I often recommend AmLactin Foot Cream Therapy, which is clinically proven to soften the skin on the feet and has the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Approval.”

Don’t: Use Rusted, Dull, Or Unclean Tools.

“This is a great time to invest in your own pedicure tools—preferably ones that are made of surgical steel. They last longer, won't rust as easily and can be sharpened if necessary. Be sure to clean them regularly with an antiseptic like Betadine after each use. If you use a pumice stone or foot file keep it out of the shower or bath to avoid build-up and germs. And please, don’t share your tools with anyone—even family members you live with,” says Sutera.

Don’t: Cut Your Cuticles.

“Your cuticles cover and protect the nail matrix, which houses the cells that grow nails. Pushing them back gently is a healthier option. Also, using an oil or moisturizer on your nail beds will keep both your nails and cuticles hydrated,” shares Sutera.

"At first, there were three main toxins that everyone talked about: toluene, dibutyl phyhalate, formaldehyde. Then, the list grew to five with formaldehyde resin and camphor. Next, it was eight, including triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), ethyl tosylamid, and xylene. Now, there are brands that are 10- free, meaning they don't have any of the aforementioned eight ingredients and they're vegan and cruelty-free. I always recommend opting for healthier versions and with the least amount of chemicals wherever possible," says Sutera.

Don't: Skip Base Coat.

Not only does it create a smoother surface for your nail polish to adhere to, but it also creates a barrier between your nail beds and the polish itself so they don't stain over time. 

Do: Paint In Thin Layers.

You are always better off painting in thin layers than overloading your brush with polish and glomming it on (which can cause air bubbles). Starting at the middle of the nail swipe the brush up from the base of your cuticle to the tip. Repeat on the left and right side of the nail, so that it’s completely covered. Let the polish dry for two minutes before applying the second coat. Apply a top coat to finish. 

Don't: Leave Your Polish On For Over Two Weeks.

“Leaving it on longer dehydrates the nails and can contribute to flaking, discoloration and dryness. Fungus, yeast and mold can start to form if the polish is kept on too long,” warns Sutera.

Here’s How to Do an At-Home Pedicure That’s Totally Salon-Worthy

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...