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5 Tricks for a DIY Pedi (Plus, an Ingrown Toenail Fix)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re being forced into quarantine to keep us all safe—and we’re also being forced into handling our beauty needs all on our own. In our How To series, we’re chatting with beauty industry experts for their advice on all your grooming woes. Here, Leanne Fagan, a Muskoka-based esthetician, shares her tips for giving yourself a pedicure at home.

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DIY pedicure

Give yourself a DIY pedicure at home

Trimmed your hair, shaped your brows, and touched up your roots already while in quarantine? Let’s be real, with salons and spas closed during COVID-19 your feet are probably in need of some pampering, too.

“Nobody can say that they don’t have time to give themself a pedicure right now,” says Leanne Fagan, an esthetician and owner of Esthetics by Leanne in Muskoka, Ontario. “It’s a good time to give your toenails a break from polish and focus more time on the skin and foot care side of things.” Just think, if you’re taking extra care of your feet now, they’re going to be beautiful by the time summer arrives. 

Here, Fagan shares her tips for an at-home pedicure, along with an effective ingrown toenail fix.

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DIY pedicure

1. Soak feet

“Always soak your feet first to clean out the dead skin and bacteria from under your toenails,” says Fagan. The concoction? Fill up a foot bath (or bathtub) with lukewarm water up to your ankles and add in a 1/4 cup of Epsom salts; soak for 30 to 40 minutes. “Especially with Epsom salts, you don’t want the water to be too hot because it takes away all of its disinfecting properties,” she says. Not only do Epsom salts benefit your nails, but it also helps to improve circulation, draw out toxins, and gets magnesium into the body without going through the digestive system.

If you don’t have Epsom salts on hand, Fagan recommends a different mixture: add 1/2 cup of Listerine Mouthwash to ankle-deep lukewarm water for 30 to 40 minutes. “I know it sounds weird, but the alcohol content in it kills any bacteria that’s under your toenails and stops it from growing,” she says.

For those who have mobility issues and can’t necessarily get down to their toes to do a pedicure, Fagan still advises they soak their feet once a day. (Also, learn what the colour of your nails says about your health.)

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2. Gently push back cuticles

After soaking your feet, “grab a towel and clean in between toes and around the nails to get rid of any dead skin that’s built up,” says Fagan. Don’t cut your cuticles, just gently push back the cuticle area with a towel over your finger—you don’t need a special tool for this.

She also recommends hydrating the skin with a thick moisturizer. “If you don’t have any professional grade foot cream in your cabinet, essential oils like eucalyptus and menthol are a great option to add to whatever cream you’re currently using.” she says. It’s helps to refresh the foot and improve circulation.

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3. Cut or file nails straight across

Why? “If you cut into the corners, you’re more likely to get ingrown toenails—especially if you’re already prone to them,” says Fagan. “Just cut or file your nails straight across, and try to leave them a bit longer right now until you can get to your foot care provider so that you don’t run into any problems.” She also cautions that if your nails are thicker, it’s a good idea not to cut them because they can break down the sides and cause potential issues, like ingrown toenails, when they start to grow out.  

To help prevent an ingrown toenail, here’s Fagan’s at-home fix:

  • Soak your feet in lukewarm water and Epsom salts for roughly 30 minutes.
  • Keep the nail corners as soft as possible. If you don’t have access to a cuticle oil, you can use any kind of oil—olive oil, baby oil, or coconut oil—on the nail bed. 
  • Don’t cut the nail; instead, file your nail straight across.
  • Get a piece of cotton from a cotton pad or Q-tip, roll it into a ball, and try to lift it under the side of the nail with a toothpick as opposed to cutting down the side of the nail to relieve the discomfort. This will prevent the nail from growing back into the skin.
  • Change the cotton once a week.

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4. Always start with a base coat

Want to have brighter feet? Finish up your pedicure with some polish. “To make sure that the polish is going to stick to your nails, you’ll want to thoroughly go over them with a non-acetone polish remover to get rid of any oils or residue,” says Fagan. If you don’t have a non-acetone polish at home, try rubbing alcohol.

Remember: Always apply a base coat so the polish colour doesn’t absorb into the nail bed. Follow with two coats of polish and a top coat to protect the polish from wearing off quickly. “When you’re finishing up your top coat, make sure to run a horizontal swipe over the bottom edge of your nail to prevent chipping,” she says. Then, let them dry for at least an hour.

In a time crunch? Dip your toes in a freezing cold foot bath for three minutes—it will harden the polish and speed up drying time. (Find out the best nude polish for your skin tone.)

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5. Let nails “breathe” between pedicures

To let toenails “breathe” between pedicures, Fagan suggests to take your polish off a couple of days before a pedicure. “The toenails don’t breathe, but they are porous and the skin underneath them needs to breathe,” she says. “If you never take the polish off, you’ll end up with dehydration marks on the nail because they’re not getting enough moisture.”

While your nail polish is off, massage an oil into the nail bed. The oil will sink in through the nail and help to hydrate the skin underneath.

Next, check out the best activities for self-isolation that can boost your wellbeing.