10 Hacks That Will Make At-Home Pedicures So Much Easier

No salon trip required.

Low Section Of Woman With Feet Up At Beach Against Sky
Photo: Artinun Prekmoung/Getty Images

We have yet to meet someone who doesn't love a salon pedicure. The soaking, the rubbing, the relaxing—what's not to like? That being said, sometimes a full-on pro pedi just isn't in the cards.

Taking matters into your own hands and doing your own pedicure at home can save time and money—and, with the right tips and tricks, can be just as successful and relaxing as a trip to the salon. So we tapped nail pros to share their best, DIY pedi advice. Keep reading for 10 of the best pedicure hacks.

01 of 10

Make sure your nails are completely dry.

Soaking your feet is a good way to soften dry skin and cuticles, but be sure to allow enough time between that step and the polishing portion of the pedi. When water seeps into the nail bed, it expands, explains Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of GLOSSLAB. If you paint the nail while it's still too wet, then once it contracts (as the water evaporates), the polish is more apt to chip and ultimately won't last as long, she says. If you are going to get your feet wet, give it at least 30 minutes for everything to dry before moving onto polishing.

02 of 10

Prep with a foot peel.

Per the previous point, if you don't want to or don't have time to soak and slough your heels, a foot peel makes for a great substitute, minimal elbow grease required. Latina nail expert and celebrity manicurist Mar y Sol Inzerillo recommends using one that takes a few days to yield results. She likes Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure Intensive Foot Peel Treatment ($20; ulta.com). (How it works: You wear the sock–like mask for about an hour to allow a combination of acids to break down dead skin, which then gradually sloughs off over the course of the next few days.) Once they're smooth enough, all you have to do is the painting portion, she says.

03 of 10

Remove any oils or moisturizers from your nails.

A quick swab of nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or even just a dry paper towel can help remove any excess cuticle oil that might make it hard for your polish to cling to your nail.

04 of 10

Always start with the big toe.

"Since it has more surface area, it needs more time to dry before you apply a second coat," explains Inzerillo. Starting with the big toe allows for enough time for it to dry while you paint the other toes, minimizing the risk of it smudging or smearing when you go to apply the next coat of polish or top coat, she points out.

05 of 10

Do one foot at a time.

On the flip side, you also don't want the polish to get too dry in between coats, as that can lead to a streaky, clumpy finish. Rather than alternating between your feet, do one foot at a time, applying a base coat, two coats of color, and a top coat, before moving onto the next one. This allows each layer to dry just enough, but not get too dry as it can if you're doing both feet simultaneously, explains Inzerillo.

06 of 10

The thinner the layers of polish, the better.

According to Glass, using very thin coats of polish is the secret to avoiding clumps. "A few thin coats are better than one thick one," she says. Your polish brush should be coated, but not drenched; wipe it off the inside of the bottle to remove any excess, she says.

07 of 10

Don't forget a top coat.

A clear top coat will help reduce the chances that your DIY pedicure starts chipping. You can reapply the top coat every few days to help your pedicure look beach-ready for much longer.

08 of 10

Make it a nighttime project.

Putting on socks and shoes or even just walking around too soon after you polish your nails can be a recipe for immediate smudges and smears. That's why Glass recommends doing at-home pedicures in the early evening. Do it while you're winding down and watching TV before bed, when you're already going to be staying put and won't be tempted to walk around, she says.

09 of 10

When in doubt, reach for cuticle oil.

If you do need to put on socks and shoes before your toes are completely dry, slather them up with cuticle oil and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. The cuticle oil offers a layer of protection between the polish and the plastic, helping to ward off smears. Even if they are fully dry, this is still a good finishing step that will help keep the skin around the nail nice and moisturized, notes Inzerillo. It's also the perfect thing to reach for if you don't have time to polish your toenails. Swipe it on to hydrate dry skin and cuticles and give nails a pretty, healthy-looking sheen in seconds. We like: Nailtopia Renewing Kiwi Oil ($10; ulta.com).

10 of 10

Try this trick to remove excess nail polish.

If you always get a little nail polish on your cuticles, wait until your polish is completely dry, slather your feet in lotion, and wear a pair of heavy socks. The excess polish will simply slough off, thanks to the socks.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What tools do I need for a pedicure at home?

    If you want just the essentials, here's what you need:

    • foot file or pumice

    • clean towels

    • nail file

    • nail clippers

    • orange stick

    • moisturizing lotion

    • cuticle oil

    • nail polish

    • top coat

    • nail polish remover

    If you want to really have a deluxe experience, splurge on a foot mask or epsom salts, a dedicated foot bath, toe separators, and of course, anything you need to make it spa-like (like a fancy spa water spiked with cucumber and mint, or a favorite scented candle).

  • What are some of the best pedicure nail colors?

    There's a wide array of hues to choose from if you're seeking the best pedicure nail colors—from barely-there soft pinks and whites to pretty pastels like mint green and baby blue, to bright bubblegum Barbie pink or bold reds.

  • What is the best thing to soak your feet in for a pedicure?

    Epsom salts have been a dermatologist favorite for foot (and whole body!) soaks, as the magnesium can help reduce inflammation and soothe soreness. Add a few tablespoons to warm water, soak and enjoy.

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