How To Give Yourself An Epic Summer Pedicure

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
With summer winding down, we can't help but shudder at all of the distress we've put our feet through this season. From gallivanting across sandy beaches to trekking through the city in open-toed sandals, our feet have been put through the wringer.

Even though fall is rapidly approaching, and we'll soon swap out our flip-flops for boots, we still think it's important to give those toes some lovin'. To help us do so, we asked celebrity nail artist Tracylee to create the ultimate DIY-pedicure experience.

Her first rule? Ambience. "I put my soaking bowl on a cushy floor rug, use fluffy towels, and even light an aromatherapy candle to set the mood," Tracylee says. You heard the woman: Kick up your feet, and get ready for some good ol' at-home pampering. Click ahead to read her tips.

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Step 1: Soak
"Soaking feet in warm water helps to cleanse feet and toenails, and soften skin to prepare for your pedicure," says Tracylee. She recommends Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Soaking Solution, which helps soothe tired and achy feet. The lavender aromatherapy and the $5 price tag don't hurt, either.
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Step 2: Trim & File
"The longer the nails, the more stress it puts on the feet in shoes," says Tracylee. Since we're rapidly approaching closed-toed-shoe season, this is important to keep in mind. She recommends always using clippers made specifically for toenails, since they're larger and can easily trim thicker nails.

"Don't trim too [closely] — it's better to trim a little less, and then file down to the desired length," says Tracylee. Trim straight across and never trim the sides, which can create ingrown toenails, she says. Afterward, gently smooth the corners of the nails with a file.
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Step 3: Groom Cuticles
"Keeping your cuticles maintained is important for the overall health of your nails and surrounding skin," says Tracylee. Start by pushing back dead skin, which will flake off when wiped with a towel or cotton pad. Tracylee likes using Sally Hansen's Double-Ended Nail Groomer, which has an end for cleaning under the nails. This is particularly important for toenails, she says, because removing dirt and sweat prevents moisture from being trapped under them and forming fungal infections. Trim any leftover skin with a cuticle nipper (she recommends Sally Hansen Travel Cuticle Nipper).

An important note: "Never cut the top layer of skin, the 'eponychium,' which is the band of skin you see around the base of the nail, [and is] often mistaken [for] the cuticle," says Tracylee. "This is live skin and, when [it's] cut, your body goes into repair mode, resulting in [it] growing back thicker and uneven."
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Step 4: Buff
Buffing removes any dead skin that might have been overlooked and smooths the top layer of the nails. It also "stimulates blood vessels in the nail bed, which helps to promote faster, healthy nail growth," says Tracylee. "Unless you have extremely thick nails, never use anything coarser than a 3-way shiner on your toes — nail files and block buffers are too coarse and remove layers of nail keratin."
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Step 5: Smooth Calluses
Calluses are no fun for anyone — and, unfortunately, they tend to pop up more in the summertime, when our feet are exposed to the elements and we increase our activity. It's best to smooth out your callused heels after your feet have soaked a bit. If your calluses are on the thicker side, Tracylee recommends buffing them dry first and then rebuffing after soaking.

Our editors love the Amopé Pedi Perfect Electronic Foot File. The Flowery Swedish Clover Foot File is a great, non-electronic option, says Tracylee.
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Step 6: Exfoliate
We're all about exfoliating our faces, but it's important to remove dead skin cells from your feet as well. Just like for your visage, it increases cell turnover and leaves skin silky-smooth.

Tracylee advises never to use salt scrubs on your hands and feet, as they're too abrasive for the skin — they're better for soaking. Sugar-based products are gentler and dissolve quicker, she says. Essie's So Sole Good Exfoliating Foot Scrub is her go-to.
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Step 7: Moisturize
"Hydrating your skin is the final step to overall foot health," says Tracylee. "Massage [a rich cream] into the feet and legs to promote circulation and hydrate." This foot butter from Fig+Yarrow includes holy-grail moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil, plus essential oils like lavender and tea-tree.
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Step 8: Prep Nails
Before applying your basecoat, clean the surface of the nails by soaking a cotton pad in rubbing alcohol and wiping them down completely. "Don't use nail-polish remover for this step," Tracylee notes. "Non-acetone removers typically have hydrating ingredients in them [that] will be left on the nail." (Which can mess up your manicure.) "And acetone is very drying."

Follow with a great basecoat, which creates a smoother surface for polish and protects nails from staining.
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Step 9: Polish
Now comes the fun part! While there's a slew of colors to choose from, we've been gravitating toward blue all summer. This periwinkle shade from China Glaze is pretty in the subtlest of ways.

Tracylee also loves Dior for its highly pigmented hues. Her drugstore favorite is Sally Hansen Miracle Gel and, as far as mid-luxury brands, she's all about Ciaté for its forward-thinking finishes. Once you've selected a color, prop up your foot on a ledge or coffee table (or sit on the floor with knees bent), and work slowly, applying two coats and then a topcoat for shine.

Now that you're equipped with all the at-home pedi knowledge you need, go forth and let your toes prosper.
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