How To Give Yourself A Salon-Worthy Pedicure At Home: A Foolproof Guide

Everything you need to know about how to do a perfect DIY pedicure.

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at-home pedicure-women's feet with pink nail polish soaking in small white enamel tub

Photo, iStock.

It’s always nice to give your toes a once over before breaking them out of hibernation (and breaking out the sandals). But, if you don’t have the time—or the cash—for a professional, in-salon pedicure, don’t panic. We talked to Julia Bautista, founder of Naked Beauty Bar in Toronto, to get her tips and tricks for how to master the ultimate at-home pedicure.

These are the tools you need for a pedicure at home

First, prep your at-home station, Bautista says. These are the must-haves she recommends having on hand. (See our gallery below for shoppable picks.)

  • Towel
  • Basin (or bathtub)
  • 1 tbsp (if using a basin) or 1 cup (if using a bathtub) Epsom salt or bath salt (dead sea salt)
  • 2-3 drops of essential oils of your choice. You can try tea tree oil for its antiseptic properties, chamomile as an anti-inflammatory, or eucalyptus to relieve aches and pains
  • Foot file or pumice stone
  • Body scrub
  • Foot cream or body butter/cream
  • Cuticle oil
  • Nail kit which includes nail clippers, cuticle nipper, cuticle pusher, nail file
  • Toe separators
  • Acetone or polish remover
  • Cotton pads
  • Polish: base coat, top coat, colour of choice

Pedicure 101

The best nail polish remover

“Acetone, not polish remover, is your best friend. You can purchase 100 percent acetone now at the drugstore.” She likes the Quo brand acetone remover, available at Shoppers Drug Mart. “It gets rid of all the most stubborn colours, quick!” (Acetone cuts out the scrubbing—it takes away colour in a single swipe.) “For tough-to-remove polish, like sparkles or glitter, you can soak a cotton ball with acetone, and place it on top of the entire nail plate. Wrap it up with a piece of foil for about a minute or two. The acetone will break down the polish, allowing you to simply wipe it off.”

How to prepare your feet for a pedicure

“Fill your basin or tub with warm water and add the Epsom or bath salt, and essential oils of your choice.” Epsom salt helps freshen up odorous feet (a must in sweaty temps). Bautista recommends trying tea tree oil for its antiseptic properties, chamomile if you want an anti-inflammatory or eucalyptus to relieve aches and pains. “Soak for 3-5 minutes to allow for your calluses to soften.”

How to get rid of rough skin on your heels

“Pumice stones are great because they’re natural, or a wooden foot file,” says Bautista. And although you will be the only one only using it, she stresses the importance of cleaning your buffer of choice after every use to keep it sanitary. “Exfoliating is a perfect way to remove dead skin, provide moisture, and smoothen out the bottoms of your feet,” says Bautista. “Focus on the heels and balls of your feet and [any other] trouble areas. Also don’t forget in-between your toes!” After, apply your favourite foot cream or body butter.

Consider a foot mask

A foot mask can do wonders for flaky, tired feet. “To combat dry heels, look for one with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, or olive oil.” If you’re going to incorporate the foot mask in your pedi, Bautista recommends using it after you remove your calluses and before putting on polish.

How to cut and shape your toenails

“Cut down your nails and shape them to your liking,” says Bautista. “Consider cutting toe nails straight across, and soften out the edges using your nail file to avoid developing in-growns.” After you’ve trimmed, apply a little bit of cuticle oil on your nails pre-polish.

Prep your toenails for nail polish

After your nails are all cleaned and buffed,  Bautista recommends soaking a cotton pad with acetone or polish remover and wiping your nail plate to remove the cuticle oil and get them ready for polish. Next, put on your toe separators. Bautista has a pro hack if you don’t have toe separators handy: you can use a sheet of tissue paper, roll it up and weave it in between your toes.

Don’t forget a base coat

“For a longer-lasting and professional-looking pedicure, make sure you use a base coat to ensure the longevity of your polish—and a top coat for gloss and shine.”

The best way to apply toenail polish

For applying your colour, Bautista says that thin layers are best. Wait one minute in between coats. “Thin layers are important because 1) it’s how you achieve an even, non-streaky finish and 2) it speeds up the drying time. Depending on the polish coverage, 2-3 thin coats should typically do the trick.” Finish off with a clear top coat and another application of cuticle oil.

How to fix mistakes

Mistakes happen. Thankfully Bautista has an easy fix for if you colour outside the lines. “Use a small paint brush to clean up around the edges or when you get polish on your skin. It’s super helpful in getting precise with your polish.”

How to tend to your cuticles

To make your pedi go the distance, keep your cuticles moisturized with oil or hand cream. “It will help with the health of your nails as well as extend the life of your paint job.”

Originally published May 2018; Updated June 2019.