The right tools and techniques to maintain healthy, attractive feet and nails can be found at home.

Have you ever found yourself at a doctor’s office after giving yourself a pedicure? Fungus, warts, cuts, itchy or irritated skin and bacterial infections are often the unfortunate results of using unsafe practices.

With a little attention, you can properly maintain the health and beauty of your feet and nails (for men, creating a foot grooming routine could be a welcome change for your partner) and the procedures are pretty easy. Prepare with the right tools and techniques for healthy, happy feet.

Pedicure basics

Before you get started on a pedicure and/or an ongoing foot-care routine at home, make sure you have the following tools and skin-care products on hand:

  • High-quality, stainless steel tools such as nail clippers and files
  • Antibacterial (povidone-iodine) solution to sterilize the tools
  • Pumice for calluses no razors or cutting tools
  • Cuticle remover gels/creams and orange (wood) or stainless steel sticks never use a cuticle cutter
  • Moisturizing / exfoliating foot cream containing lactic or alpha hydroxy acid
  • Facial microdermabrasion kit containing salicylic acid and brush for deep exfoliation

The perfect (safe) pedicure

Before you begin, sterilize your instruments in an antibacterial solution and set them up by the tub or shower. Then follow these important steps:

  1. Moisturize: Soak your feet for 20 minutes in a tub, or moisturize in the shower
  2. Use a pumice very gently to remove calluses: Move the pumice in one direction only (two directions will cause roughness and breaks in the skin)
  3. Moisturize and exfoliate skin with a cream containing lactic or alpha hydroxy acid: Use on thick calluses on the bottom of your feet
  4. Cut nails straight across with nail clippers: Do not cut into the corners, which can cause ingrown nails
  5. Do not cut nails too short: Leave a small bit of white tip
  6. File only the edges of the nails, not the tops: Use a buffer to gently buff the tops of the nails in one direction only
  7. Do not cut cuticles: Use a cuticle remover gel or cream, then gently push back cuticles with an orange stick or metal stick (only clip hangnails)
  8. Apply a base coat, two coats of polish and a top coat
  9. Clean all instruments after each pedicure: Replace porous tools (orange sticks and non-metal nail files) every three months

Nail and skin maintenance

To help keep your skin smooth and soft between pedicures, use a pumice on the bottoms of your feet and edges of your heels every other day. Periodically exfoliate rough calluses on your feet with the use of a standard facial microdermabrasion kit that contains salicylic acid.

See your doctor if

You have any itchy or red areas on your feet, which could be caused by a bacterial infection or a skin disease such as psoriasis or eczema.

By following these safe and simple steps at home, you can have beautiful, healthy feet and nails year-round!

Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, is a member and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association and is one of New York City’s premier podiatric surgeons. Board Qualified in Foot Surgery, she is an Associate of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and a member of the New York State Podiatric Medical Society.