Work, carpool, dinner, repeat—it can be tough to squeeze the nail salon into your daily routine. But when things are getting desperate between the chipped polish and sandpaper heels, rest assured there is an soltuion: an at-home pedicure that can be done in eight easy steps. Below you’ll find a breakdown of everything you need, from products to keep on hand to a quick nail polish drying technique that’ll save you minutes (and smudges).
Step 1: Remove old polish
Use polish remover and cotton balls to get rid of any Big Apple Red that’s still hanging on for dear life. Be sure to reach for non-acetone removers—yes, acetone may work wonders on eliminating polish, but it can be harsh and strip away your skin and nails' natural oils.
If you find any stains on your nails or notice they have a yellow tint (due to wearing darker shades), rub cuticle oil over the surface of your nails to lighten discoloration.
Step 2: Soak your feet
Once your nails are completely clean, it’s time for a nice foot soak. Start by filling up the tub with warm water and add in a few drops of body wash. Toss some epsom salts into the mix (which helps reduce any swelling, neutralize odor, kill bacteria and get rid of dead skin) and essential oils like lemon, tea tree or chamomile to upgrade your soak time (and make the bathroom smell amazing). Submerge your feet for 15 minutes to soften tough skin, then dry them off with a towel.
Step 3: Get rid of any dead skin
Use a pumice stone to buff any dry areas on the sides and heels of your feet. Don’t overdo this step, you don’t want to rub them raw. Just use the stone until rough patches feel smooth. (Psst, stay away from callous removers as they can knick your skin, letting in bacteria and infection.) You can also try a foot peel or scrub to get the job done instead.
Step 4: File and shape your nails
Now that your feet are nice and smooth, it’s time to give your nails some attention. Grab a nail clipper or manicure scissors and trim your nails straight across to avoid painful ingrowns. According to Healthline, toenails should have their own clippers (separate from the ones you use for your fingers) to avoid transferring fungus or bacteria.
Once you’re happy with the length, grab a nail file and slightly round the corners of the nail so they’re not sharp.
Finally, use a buffer to give the nails an even smoother surface, which will prep them nicely for polish.
Step 5: Prep your feet
You can start applying cuticle oil to the base of your nail. Cuticles help protect your nails from bacteria (and prevent any nail polish from chipping), so you’ll want to keep them moisturized. A cuticle pusher is a great way to ensure all cuticles are gently pushed back.
Moisturize your feet using your favorite lotion or a foot cream. Spend a couple minutes massaging it into the skin, paying close attention to the cuticles and any dry areas.
Finish the prep with some toe separators (or good ‘ol paper towel by twisting it into a rope and weaving it through your toes) to make painting easier and prevent any wet toenails from accidentally touching.
Step 6: Put on base coat
Find a spot to perch your foot on to keep it still, and then start painting your nails with a base coat to strengthen nails and help the polish last longer.
Start at the middle of the base of the nail above (but not touching) the cuticle and swipe the brush up to the tip. (Use the cuticle stick to clean up any mess-ups.) Do the same on the left and right side of the nail, so that it’s completely covered. Let the polish dry for about two minutes before putting on your color of choice.
Step 7: Apply your nail polish
Once you choose a color (a feat in itself, we know), apply a thin coat to each nail. Wait about two minutes or until it’s mostly dry, then apple a second coat. Use the same technique you used for the base coat (middle, left, right). Wait another two minutes before finishing it off with a top coat to maintain the shine and luster of your nails.
Step 8: Dry your nails
It can take a long time for nails to dry (and the last thing you want is a chipped nail after working so hard on them), so to speed up the process, stick your toes into cold water for a few minutes to harden the polish faster.
Other ways to dry them more quickly are using a quick-dry topcoat, a hairdryer (on the cool setting) or baby oil. And if you’re going the gel route, buy your very own UV Nail Lamp to cut the drying time in half.
So, no need to book that emergency nail appointment. Carve out 20 minutes, turn on a podcast and transform your bathroom into an at home pedicure salon.