9 Steps of Luxurious, At-Home Pampering

I just shared my picks for summer pedicure colors — and then realized that my DIY pedicure post was grossly outdated. Oops! So, here’s the fix: An all-new at-home pedicure tutorial that’s sure to make your friends wonder when you are sneaking off to the salon.

This tutorial comes with a warning, though. With those soon-to-be gorgeous feet and toes, you may feel a very strong urge to shop for sandals and slides. (I got you, though. Come back in a few days and I’ll share some budget sandals picks for summer!)

The best DIY pedicure

Woman doing a DIY pedicure in her home.

First, a few words for those who’ve found at-home pedicures to be unfulfilling. Doing it yourself isn’t quite the same as having someone else scrub your feet and trim your cuticles. But if you approach your pedicure as an experience, rather than a mission to get color on your toenails, you can get close to that spa-day feeling.

I’ve found that the easiest way to fail on my home pedicure is not allowing enough time to relax and enjoy the process. If I’m feeling rushed by the time I get the polish on, I inevitably stick my feet in a pair of shoes and ruin the finish of my polish. So, as a first step, give yourself an hour and a half to get the job done. If you finish early, great. Use the free time to read a book, meditate, drink some tea…or to shop for sandals.

Now, let’s get into the step-by-step.

1. Gather your pedicure supplies

Below are the supplies you’ll need.

  • Cotton bath towel and washcloth, plus a couple of extra towels to catch water spray
  • Two large, deep roasting pans or similar basins that are big enough for your feet. You can also get away with just one, but you’ll have to dump out the water and refill it.
  • Salt
  • Aromatic candle or essential oils and diffuser (I have this set)
  • Nail clippers and file
  • Toothpicks
  • Cotton balls
  • Nail polish remover
  • Pumice stone, foot scrubber, or DIY body scrub
  • Scented body lotion (peppermint foot lotion is a lovely choice if you have it on hand) and olive oil (optional)
  • Basecoat, color coat, topcoat (I use Revlon Gel Envy but I have more nail polish recommendations here.)
  • Optional: accent color or nail stickers

2. Set the mood

Let your preferences guide you here. I like to organize the supplies near my comfiest chair, light a candle or diffuse a relaxing essential oil. Lavender, chamomile, and orange are good choices. Turn on your favorite playlist or try Pandora’s Relaxing Music radio. You might like to dim the lights, too, but I prefer a bright white light so I can see what I’m doing.

Before you settle in and get to work, fill up your roasting pans with warm water. Add in a cup of kosher salt or Epsom salt if you have it to one of the pans. You could also add a few drops of peppermint or lavender essential oil. I tend to be messy, so I like to situate the water bath on a towel to minimize water spray and spillage.

3. Soak your feet

Woman dunking her feet in a basin of water for her at-home pedicure.

Use your cotton balls and polish remover to take off any color you have on your toes currently. Once your last manicure is gone, dunk your feet in your warm salt water. This next part might be tough for some of you, but here it is: Do nothing for a few minutes. Just relax as your feet soak.

4. Exfoliate

Pull one foot out of the bath at a time and use your cotton towel to absorb excess moisture. Hopefully you are sitting in a comfortable chair, because exfoliating your own feet is tougher than it seems if you haven’t done it before. I like to bend my knee and rest the outside of my ankle on top of my other knee.

Grab your chosen exfoliate method and get to work. A foot file or pumice stone works. You could also mix up your own foot scrub using coffee grounds, honey, and baking soda or brown sugar and olive oil.

Once your feet feel soft, dunk them back in the water for a quick rinse. If you used a scrub, you may need a washcloth to remove the exfoliant.

If you’re using just one basin, dump out the water and refill it. If you have two basins, you can set aside the dirty, salted one.

5. Clean and trim

Soaking should leave your feet clean, but you may have some remnant dirt stuck under the toenails. Scrape it out gently with a toothpick.

Then use your clippers to trim your toenails. Don’t take this exercise lightly. An improper trim can increase the chances of ingrown toenails. Watch the video below for pointers!

6. Shape your toenails

After you have your toenails at the right length, use a file to shape the corners and edges, and to smooth any jagged areas across the tops. Once your nails are even and smooth, rinse your feet in your clean, unsalted water. Use a washcloth to wipe away nail grindings. Don’t skip this step, as it can leave your toes with a bumpy finish when you apply the color.

7. Moisturize toes and feet

Dry your clean feet and apply your moisturizer. Take your time here. Massage the moisturizer into your feet and calves until it’s fully absorbed. If you have olive oil, you can apply a tiny bit directly to your toes as a DIY cuticle oil.

8. Polish

Now, taking your time, apply base coat to all 10 toes. Follow with at least two coats of color to all 10 toes. Fix any minor mistakes with a toothpick dipped in polish remover.

Finish with your topcoat. Sit pretty for 30 minutes.

Close up of woman's feet just after giving herself a pedicure.

9. Decorate

Once your topcoat is 100% dry, you can spice up your DIY pedicure with an accent color or nail stickers. I am not good at nail art or waiting for polish to dry, so I use Olive and June nail stickers.

If you’re steady-handed and patient, try the nail art tutorial in the video below.

At this point, you should have smooth, soft feet and a salon-quality color coat. Hopefully, you’re also super relaxed and ready to tackle anything in style.


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