How to Give Yourself an At-Home Pedicure That's Actually Good

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There comes a time in everyone's life when you're in desperate need of a pedicure and, for whatever reason, you can't get to the nail salon. It could be that your regular go-to spot can't fit you into their schedule, an event sneaks up on you with little to no time to prepare, or you've just been plain old slacking when it comes to keeping up with booking regular appointments. (We get it, that sh*t can get expensive.) Whatever the case, those times call for whipping out your trusty kit of nail tools and giving yourself a pedicure at home.

Just one problem: DIY pedicures have a tendency to end up looking like you did it blindfolded (just us?). Either way, it's hard to replicate the relaxing spa treatment you receive at a salon. But what if it doesn't have to be? We tapped an expert to get tips on how you can up your pedicure game in just a few easy steps, and trust us — they'll make a huge difference. If your nail skills are a little lacking and you're in desperate need of a pedicure, keep reading to learn how to give yourself the perfect pedicure at home, no appointment necessary.


Experts Featured in This Article

Danielle Candido is the lead artist for Morgan Taylor Lacquer.


Gather Your Nail Tools

You can't start a DIY pedicure without the right supplies. "For an at-home pedicure, you should have a double-sided foot file, one-sided coarse file, a 240 grit nail file, and 180 grit buffer," says Danielle Candido, lead artist for Morgan Taylor Lacquer. "You will also need toenail clippers, cuticle nippers, and an ingrown toenail file."

Set the Mood to Help You Relax

The reason even a good at-home pedicure doesn't feel half as relaxing as the one you get at the salon is that the environment is all wrong — spas have nice music, comfortable chairs, and lit candles. "Set the mood by playing calming spa music or your favorite chill playlist, says Candido. "Using headphones for this can boost the zen factor by blocking out other noisy distractions." But don't just stop there. Make the room smell nice by lighting your favorite candle or using essential oils. "I also love to add essential oils, like ylang-ylang or lavender, in my pedicure soak. The added aromatherapy really adds the relaxation factor."

Step #1: Soak Your Feet

When you get to the nail salon, the first thing you do is let your feet soak in the warm water. Follow that same process at home. "For an at-home pedicure, it's a great idea to get pre-packaged soaks, masks, scrubs, and massage lotion packets, so you get the perfect amount with no waste," Candido says. "Plus, they are totally sanitary."

Try the Baby Foot Original Exfoliant Foot Peel ($25) and Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure Intensive Foot Peel Treatment ($20).

After about five minutes of soaking, your feet should be ready to move on to the next step.

Step #2: Remove Nail Polish

Next, you're ready to get rid of any old nail polish from your toenails. The soak should help loosen any stubborn polish and make it easier to remove.

Step #3: Groom Your Cuticles and Nails

Now, you're ready to address your cuticles and nails. "Apply cuticle softener to cuticles, then clip your toenails, making sure to cut the toenail as straight across as possible," says Candido. "Wipe the cuticle softener off and push the cuticles back. File the free edge of nails." We like the Butter London Melt Away Cuticle Exfoliator ($18).

Step #4: Mask Your Legs and the Tops of Your Feet

Another thing that makes nail salon pedicures superior is the masking element — but you can replicate that at home. "Apply your mask to the top of the foot and the ankle area," says Candido. Detoxifying or hydrating formulas work best for this, depending on your unique needs. We like the Nair Leg Mask Exfoliate & Smooth ($9) to simultaneously remove hair while smoothing and exfoliating the skin.

Step #5: Exfoliate Your Feet

Apply callus remover to feet, but only if needed. "Use the coarse side of a foot file to reduce any calluses, but do not use a lot of pressure," Candido says. You don't want to remove the entire callus all the way down to pink flesh, so go easy with it.

"Next use the fine or medium side of the foot file to lightly smooth the entire bottom of your foot. Using a sugar or salt scrub, rub in a circular motion over the ankle and entire foot from top to bottom." Once done, rinse off the mask and scrub, and pat your legs and feet dry.

Step #6: Apply a Lotion

Moisturize your feet and lower legs with a rich lotion. "Then, cleanse nails with a nail cleanser (to remove any lotion residue), and apply pedi slippers or toe separators." This step will help prevent you from smudging your handiwork before it dries completely. She recommends the Morgan Taylor Pure Cleanse ($20).

One of the biggest mistakes people make when giving themselves a pedicure is skipping this step. "Not properly dehydrating the nail surface before applying the base coat can cause chipping of the polish," says Candido.

Step #7: Paint Your Toenails

Now, the moment you've all been waiting for. "Apply a base coat, your polish, then a top coat," says Candido. "Apply quick dry drops and cuticle oil afterward, and you're done."

We recommend the Orly Bonder Basecoat ($13) or the Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish Gel Couture Top Coat ($13).

— Additional reporting by Renee Rodriguez


Jessica Harrington is the senior beauty editor at PS, where she writes about hair, makeup, skin care, piercings, tattoos, and more. As a New York City-based writer and editor with a degree in journalism and over eight years of industry experience, she loves to interview industry experts, keep up with the latest trends, and test new products.

Renee Rodriguez is a staff writer and social producer for PS. She writes across all verticals, but her main areas of expertise focus on fashion and beauty content with an emphasis on reviews and editor experiments. She also produces social content for the PS TikTok and Instagram accounts.