These Surprising Tips Will Keep Your Pedicure Going All Summer Long
Here we are, folks: It's sandal season. For most of us, that means our toes might need a little, ahem, polishing. After being tucked away in closed-toe shoes and boots for months, they're likely not in their best shape. Or if you regularly workout, your toes might be taking a beating in your sneakers regardless. And whether you stop into a spa or DIY a pedicure, there are ways to keep your toes in top shape for longer—or at least more consistently.
And here's the thing I like to remind people (or myself, really): We put our feet through a lot, be it through our jobs, parenting, moving our bodies, or just day-to-day. It may feel like you are being vain or selfish by spending a little more time on the area, but it's not: It's one small act of self-care that has real benefits (more on that).
It's also really easy. So follow along with our tips below.
Give yourself regular massages.
You know how lovely the foot massages that you get in the salon are? There's no reason you can't do that yourself. "You'll instantly feel better. When I do this to women, you can tell they relax right away," says Jin Soon Choi, manicurist and founder of JinSoon and JinSoon Natural Hand and Foot Massage. Studies have shown1 that if done regularly (nightly even), they can reduce anxiety2 and even help you sleep better3.
Here's Choi's massage routine that you can try at home: Using an oil or moisturizer (we like Weleda Foot Balm), get a feel for your feet. With your thumbs at the inside of your heel, move upward toward the ball with generous pressure until you reach the pad—and repeat this as desired. Grip the arch with your fingertips and thumb and rub in circular motions, before moving to the skin between the toes, pulling and massaging gently. For the heel, ball, and ankle, carefully use the palm of one hand and twist, almost like juicing an orange. You can end the massage when the balm or oils are sufficiently rubbed in.
Don't get wet for 24 hours post pedi.
You might be tempted to get a pedicure and head straight to the pool. Opt for the day before: It will make your pedicure last longer. "It affects the wear of it; it's really important that polish set and dry thoroughly," says clean salon tenoverten co-founder Nadine Abramcyk. She notes that if you need to hop in a shower, or maybe you are heading to the beach, at least give it a few hours before wetting.
Why is this? According to Lauren Dunne, co-founder of Varnish Lane, a waterless and clean nail salon, "When your toenails are soaked in water, they expand, causing your polish to chip prematurely."
Use body oil as cuticle oil.
"It is much easier to remember to do cuticle oil on your hands; even I'm not that diligent about doing it for my toes," says Abramcyk. (However, tenoverten's The Rose Oil is such a good cuticle oil, you might never forget this step.) Instead, use a body oil as a cuticle oil post-shower, when you're likely using a body oil anyway. "All you have to do is take an extra moment and use some of the excess body oil and rub it into your cuticle. This way, you don't have to make an extra step of it since you're already applying a body oil anyway."
Clean, healthy cuticles are so important, as clean nail salon and brand Olive & June founder Sarah Gibson Tuttle notes, because it will keep that just-done look longer. "Hydrating your cuticles—and the dry skin around your nails, too—will make that mani look like you just walked out of the salon and promote healthy cuticle growth too," she says.
Regularly buff and gently exfoliate.
One of the things most nail experts tell me is that many of the at-home exfoliating tools (think stones and things that look like graters) are too harsh. "Your skin goes into defense mode and will think it needs to regrow in that area, usually thicker," says Abramcyk. Instead, just use a foot scrub post-shower, when your skin is soft, to remove any thick skin on the foot. (We like Reverence de Bastien Black Diamond Mineral Foot Exfoliant for a scrub, but any body scrub will do.)
Also, if you decide to skip polish—which is good for your nail health every so often—you should buff the nail regularly so it looks shiny. One of the best tips I've ever heard was from podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez, who tends to the toes of royalty and celebrities: Clean your nails with a toothbrush post-shower. Obviously, you'll need to get another toe-only toothbrush, but just keep it in your shower, and buff the nail with small gentle circular motions.
Protect your nail from UV damage.
We've talked about how your nails can get UV damage, just like the rest of your body. As Choi notes, you'll see the damage as yellowing and ridges. If you're getting a bold, opaque polish, you're already protecting your nails. But if you are going bare, make sure to paint on a UV protectant base coat, like JinSoon Power Base Coat.
Paint it on & seal it in.
"Always make sure that the free edge of the nail is painted with a polish and top coat," says Abramcyk. Essentially this is just adding a light swipe right on the tip of your nail, so the rounded ends get color and coating too. Then, when you are home, seal the color with a top coat every three days—edge included. "This will prevent the edge from chipping, which is usually what happens first and annoys people."
If at-home painting is not your strong suit, try Olive & June's The Poppy top, which acts as an extra-wide cap to any polish (just pop it on over the handle) so you can hold it easier. This will help you get all the weird angles you might need to hit on your toes—or your opposite hand if you are doing an at-home mani.
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Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.