Pedicures 101

Pedicure Basics, from Footbath to Top Coat

Whether you're giving yourself a pedicure or having someone else do it for you, it's good to remember a few key things about proper nail care.

When it comes to trimming or filing your nails, it really is a matter of personal preference, though most nail technicians will do both. Sometimes, when it has been a long time since your last pedicure, a trim is in order. If you're regularly tending to your nails, a good filing with an emery board might be all that's needed.

Remember when trimming always to cut the nail straight across in a square shape. Don't cut in a curved pattern or go too short, as this may lead to ingrown toenails. A good toenail length leaves a few millimeters peeking over the toe but not much more than that.

When soaking your feet, no more than 10 minutes is really necessary. It's important to include the soaking process in your pedicure because it softens the dead skin on your feet, making it easier and painless to slough off with either an emery board or pumice stone. At salons and at home, metal foot scrubbers and razors have increasingly fallen out of favor because of the potential of shaving too deep and cutting into live skin.

Old nail polish should be taken off with a Q-tip or cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover before you paint your toenails. Apply a base coat to your nails to protect them from the chemicals in your nail polish. First, paint up the center of the nail, then paint the two sides of the nail. Toe separators or cotton balls can be used for this part, but if you're using cotton balls, be wary of getting any of the cotton fibers stuck in the polish. Then, paint on your chosen nail color and apply a clear top coat to prevent nail chipping as a final touch. Remember to wait until each coat has completely dried before applying the next one.

Read on to the next section to get advice on what safety things to look for when visiting a salon for a pedicure.