DIY Pedicure
April 26, 2010 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me everything I need to do/buy to give myself a pedicure.

Summer is almost here and I do like to have nice-looking toenails for sandals and such. This year due to a combination of low funds, lack of time to sit around a salon, and the fact that I've twice gotten nail infections from pedicures, I'd like to do pedicures at home. The trouble is that I don't really know how. I clip my nails and they look all raggedy and uneven, I have bad callouses everywhere, and I have bad polishing technique. So, I need tips on the best equipment and products as well as advice on technique.
posted by otherwordlyglow to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Assuming you go to a nice place that isn't breaking the law with regard to hygiene, you'll spend less time and much less money for results that'll last all summer by letting the pros do it. That said - for toenails you want to buy a big straight-across clipper (and not use those little curved fingernail ones) to get non-raggedy nails, and as for polish, you don't need any technique. Go nuts and don't worry about getting polish all over your toes because a hot shower or a day in socks will get the excess off your skin and it'll look like you painted your nails just right.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

A foot soak, a pumice stone, a buffer, a file, the nail clipper as mentioned above. Soak feet and scrub with pumice--you may have to do this a couple days in a row to start getting decent results. Clip and file/buff toenails the same way you would fingernails, but you don't need to go all the way to the shiniest buff. Get a decent base coat, fast-dry top coat and polish from someplace like Sally. I just asked the clerk there for recommendations the first time.

Then base coat, two coats polish, top coat, make sure to let dry for a good long while before it gets disturbed.

It won't last forever, but it's pretty easy and means you can change colors way more often than one done at a salon. Mine last about 5 days, usually, before they're chipping; my last salon pedicure lasted about 10. The difference in cost was worth doing it twice as often.

Get the real acetone to take it off. With the base and top coats, it takes too much work with the regular cheap remover.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:08 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jezebel just posted a whole bunch of DIY nail polish tips collected from readers.
posted by amethysts at 11:23 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate having anyone touch my feet, so I always do my own. To add to the above, get some cuticle cream and a cuticle stick (sometimes called an orange stick) to push back your cuticle, never cut them. Oh, and some of the little toe-separator things. I usually buy my supplies at my local Sally's.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:05 PM on April 26, 2010

The trick to nail polish is to get a really good glob of polish on the brush - then apply and let the surface tension of the polish even out the coating on the nail. You do not even out the coating using the brush; you use the brush to spread the polish a little, and then let the surface tension do the real levelling. So you don't want to dip the brush and then wipe off both sides on the edge of the bottle - you'll end up with too little polish for the surface tension to do its thing.

You want to dip the brush, wipe off the bottom side on the edge, so that you have a little round pearl of polish on the top side. Then put that pearl at the base of your toenail (i.e., just above the cuticle) and gently brush it up toward the top of the nail with a single smooth stroke (following the "grain" of the nail - never side to side, always bottom to top). Allow the fanning-out of the brush to spread polish laterally as you move the brush slowly from bottom to top, i.e. you're pressing down very gently on the brush but you aren't really squashing it.

Then go get another glob and repeat. You may need to use two or even three globs in a single column of nail, and you may need to do several columns on your big toe to get coverage.

(Now, the risk here is that you might o overboard and use too much, resulting in a thick coating that is easily marked with indents or fingerprints. If you do that, just wipe it off and try again, ratcheting down the amount of polish you're using.)

Allow each coat to dry *completely* before putting on another coat. In other words, wait til you think it's dry then wait another 15 minutes.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:36 PM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are a couple of ways to fake perfect polishing technique. The easiest way is just to slop it all on and then clean up with a Q-Tip dipped in polish remover. To get more precise, Sephora and Avon and pretty much any other bigger store have felt-tipped polish remover pens, which are usually pretty cheap and work like a marker.

The thing I've picked up from salon pedicures, however, is to carefully use an orange stick along the cuticle right after you polish it. That will stop the polish from resting on top of the little bit of cuticle that's still there after you've pushed/cut it, which in my opinion is one of the marks of a DIY polish job. If you want, you can dip the stick in polish remover first (and tap it off). I could never figure out how they did it so neatly!

Queen Helene makes this really good foot bath stuff that works wonders for getting calloused skin soft and easy to buff. It comes with a "special buffing pad" or some other fancy name for fine-grit wet-dry sandpaper :P Literally, it's the same stuff I used in shop class.

Sephora is totally your friend. They have a lot of great tools, like the Pedro buffer with diamond grit on a long handle. You may have to figure out what kind of buffer, etc. works best for you -- if you're careful, the PedEgg and its clones work very well, but they start to stink very easily.

Best polishes: OPI, essie, etc. Sephora has their own line of OPI.
posted by Madamina at 12:45 PM on April 26, 2010

Then base coat, two coats polish, top coat, make sure to let dry for a good long while before it gets disturbed.

I think the best base coat is a ridge filler, like this one. I think it makes the polish look smoother and shinier, and it helps it stay on longer. I second (or nth) OPI polish in general too.
posted by gladly at 1:16 PM on April 26, 2010

Polish isn't the highlight of a pedicure for me. I would recommend a razor blade, cuticle scissors and the nail clippers with the hooky bit to pick under your nails and dig out any ingrowns, more than anything else.
posted by goo at 4:05 PM on April 26, 2010

Okay I reread your question - for the calluses, soak your feet for 20 mins or so and then shave, shave, shave with the razor blade. Be gentle, but you'll definitely feel it if you go too far.
posted by goo at 4:09 PM on April 26, 2010

You can skip the toe separators and use a piece of paper towel folded and rolled up threaded through your toes. But do get a pedi-razor, AKA a callus shaver and some extra blades. Be careful. I've had to learn the right amout of force to use to get the crud off without making the bathroom look like a crime scene (really!) and then having very sore feet.

OPI polish is good. I have always found that Estee Lauder wears the best. Clinique's does not last at all. Interesting, since they are owned by the same company.
posted by jgirl at 4:09 PM on April 26, 2010

I clip my nails and they look all raggedy and uneven

Do make sure your clippers are sharp; they lose their edge after a while and especially on tough, thick toenails, a dull edge can wreak havoc.

Also, you can totally use a nail file on your toenails. I do it, because somehow I have Razor Toenails that slice through tights and socks, and I'm tired of having to buy new ones constantly. So I sit on a hard surface and prop my ankle up on my opposite knee and file away. Be gentle on the small toes; I find that the skin under a freshly-clipped nail is delicate and easy to slice with an errant nail file. Ouch.

OPI makes this stuff called Bond Aid that is kind of amazing; it's a liquid with the consistency of alcohol that soaks into your nail to alter the pH and make your polish adhere better (thus chipping less). I only use it when I'm at my mom's, and I notice a significant difference in how long the polish stays good-looking.

Depending on how you feel about sparkles, chunky glitter polishes can be pretty forgiving to the amateur toenail painter. I think they actually mention this in the Jezebel article above. They are more difficult to remove, though.

I hate the feel of lotion on my feet; it's so greasy, and my feet are so calloused that it just kind of sits there all slimy. What has worked is to slather my feet with lotion and then put socks on. Then it's not so gross-feeling, and the lotion plus the warm moistness of the socks makes my feet very soft. You can do it before bed or if you're sitting around watching TV.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 4:15 PM on April 26, 2010

OPI is pretty good for staying power, but I think Essie is better. For drugstore brands I think that L'Oreal and Sally Hansen are pretty impressive.

I am not terribly into tools and tons of extra base/top coats. I give myself a mani-pedi every Sunday night, so I never need to trim my nails since I file them weekly. A foot rasp/razor is awfully nice if you aren't afraid to use it. Other than that, I have some birchwood sticks that I use for pushing back cuticles and touchup. I like to do my nails on Sunday night so that I don't have to be a perfectionist with the polish; I shower in the mornings, so any errant polish gets scrubbed off before I leave for work the next day. Two layers of polish on Sunday, and an extra top coat on Wednesday leaves me virtually chip-free for the week.

Along with Fui Non Sum, I am a huge fan of lathering up my feet with lotion and putting on socks, but I go a step further and have a set of gloves, too. Uncomfortable for sleeping, but fine for an hour while watching TV or reading.
posted by gatorae at 6:18 PM on April 26, 2010

If your calluses are really bad you can try putting vaseline on your feet and cover them with socks while you're sleeping. This and the shaver works well to soften your feet. Be careful with the shaver/razor though!
posted by Bunglegirl at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: So I've been soaking my feet in epsom salts and a little soap and then using a Pedro file, which is a great tool. An occasional exfoliation treatment seems to be a good thing as well as slathering on a heavy layer of Eucerin and then going to bed with cotton socks on. I do use a callus shaver every once in a while if it gets out of hand, but already I think my feet look better. I haven't tried doing my own polish yet but will attempt that soon.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:19 AM on May 18, 2010

« Older Why yes I am from Jersey.   |   Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and Lions and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.