Okay, hear me out, but I’m lowkey obsessed with giving myself at-home pedicures. And, no, I’m not just talking about painting and filing my toenails—I mean going all out with a foot soak, sloughing off my calluses with a pumice stone, and slathering on my favorite creams and cuticle oils like a g’damn pro. And as a resident expert, I can confidently say that even if you’re a total newb when it comes to DIY treatments, it’s shockingly easy—and, uh, fun?—to get a legit pedicure in the comfort of your own home.
So if you’re ready to get on my level, keep reading for the ultimate guide to salon-worthy pedicures, including all my tips and tricks for getting baby-soft feet and a shit ton of product recs (think: cult-favorite polishes, gentle nail polish removers, and so much more).
Before you set off on your at-home pedicure journey, make sure you have all the proper tools. (And because I know you’re thinking it: Don’t worry, we’ve got some really excellent product recs throughout this guide if you need some ideas.) You can decide how basic or fancy you want to get with your supplies, but in general, you’ll want to at least have the following:
Time to finally get rid of the remnants from your last pedi (seriously, how long have you had that chipped-as-hell red?) and do a proper polish removal. To remove every last bit of color, soak a cotton pad in nail polish remover (I’m a fan of gentle, acetone-free formulas) and hold it on each nail for a few seconds to allow the paint to break down before you start swiping. If you want that perfectly smooth, lacquered finish at the end, don’t half-ass this step.
Pro tip: If you’re left with any weird stains or a yellow tinge (you’ll usually see this after removing darker colors, like red or black), rub cuticle oil over the surface of your nails to lighten any residue.
Before you start soaking, your first job—and this is important—is to go around your house and gather every candle you can find. Oh, and get yourself a glass of wine while you’re at it. The trick to making an at-home pedicure feel like a spa experience instead of, you know, rubbing your own feet in your too-small-for-comfort apartment, is setting the ~mood~ at your makeshift pedicure station.
Once the ambiance is right, you’re ready to soak your feet—which softens tough skin and cuticles (and is downright relaxing). I suggest using a basin (aka a really big bowl) if you have one, but your bathtub is also a sound option. Fill ’er up with warm water and add a liberal scoop of skin-soothing bath salts (or just use a cup of kosher salt). Let your feet soak for a few minutes before moving to the next step.
Okay, so, this is lowkey my favorite part. I know, I’m weird, but it’s way satisfying to see how smooth your feet get after rubbing everything off. After patting your feet dry, grab a foot file or a pumice stone and go ham on your calluses, removing any and all dead skin. Be sure to really focus in on your heels and any other calloused, hard areas. Scrape until your feet feel smooth, but don’t scrub your feet raw—you could end up causing irritation, which is never fun.
Once your feet are smooth AF, it’s time to whip your toenails into shape. Reach for classic nail clippers to trim and cut your nails. Don’t worry about about getting the edges perfect—you’ll take care of that in the next step.
Now that your toenails are at a perfect length, it’s time to smooth them out. Pick up a nail file and shape the corners and edges. There’s no need to rush during this step—take your time filing until all of your nails are even.
Don’t forget to pay special attention to your cuticles on each toe. While you can use an orange stick to push back your cuticles, save the trimming or cutting for the pros. Cuticles protect your nails from bacteria, and you shouldn’t trust yourself (or anyone, really) to mess with them—especially with that glass of wine in hand.
Instead, show them some love by working in a few drops of cuticle oil. It’ll make a major difference in their shine, health, and the overall strength of your nails.
With a foot cream or body lotion, begin massaging your toes, feet, and calves until, well, you wanna stop. Not only will this massage feel amazing, but it’ll also help hydrate your feet after all that scrubbing and soaking. Finish off by grabbing a cotton pad soaked with rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of each nail, removing any oily residue that could prevent your polish from sticking.
If you’re thinking that you can skip this step, pls reconsider. Since the base coat acts as a barrier between the natural oils that come from your nails and your actual polish, it’s super important to swipe it on if you want your pedicure to last. And who doesn’t want that?
If you have toe separators, grab ’em. Otherwise, tear off a piece of paper towel, rolling or twisting it into a rope, and weaving it through your toes to prevent the polish from smudging. Apply two thin coats of your color of choice, letting the paint dry for a few minutes between each coat. If you kinda suck at painting inside the lines, use an orange stick to clean any mess-ups.
Step 10: Finish with a top coat
Unless you want your pedicure to chip the next day, you don’t want to skip this step, either. Layer on a top coat to seal in the nail polish. You’ll be left with a super shiny and long-lasting finish.
And there you have it: a salon-quality pedicure in the comfort of your own damn home. What are we spending our extra money on?!