Don't Even Think About Getting A Pedi Before Reading This

unnamed-2Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
UPDATE: This post was originally published on May 20.
It's been an unusually cold, unnaturally long winter — but on the flip side, we've been saving a fortune on pedicures. As swell as that's been, it's finally time to renew our relationship with the pumice stone. Strappy sandals, sporty slides, and barefoot beach days all mean one thing: Our toes will be on full display, and we don't want to be turning heads in the wrong direction, do we?
When it comes to salon pedicures, there’s so much that could go wrong, it can make for an experience that's more stressful than soothing. Questionable sanitary practices, improper nail shaping, and other risk factors have us ill-at-ease when it comes to professional pedis.
If saving money and escaping bacterial and fungal infections are high on your to-do list, look no further than this easy DIY pedi you can do in the relative safety of your own home. Soak your toes as you catch up on your favorite shows or whiz through a chapter of your current read without being subjected to whatever daytime TV or elevator music they’d have on at your local salon.
Start by removing your polish and soaking your feet, either in the tub or in a wide, shallow bucket. Fill it with hot water and some bath salts, regular salt, or a few drops of essential oils. I like lavender because it smells so relaxing, or eucalyptus and peppermint oils for their springy, zingy scent. After a 10-minute soak, exfoliate your feet from heel to toe with a combination of salt and olive oil — about one teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of oil for each foot. This will leave your skin incredibly polished and luxuriously smooth. Slather on some rich moisturizer if you feel you need it (the olive oil should make them feel pretty soft on its own), and put on a pair of thick socks for a 10-minute intensive treatment.
Prefer the luxury of a salon experience? Okay, we hear ya. But, before you head to your local pedi place, click through for six safety tips to keep in mind before you dunk your toes in that beckoning, bubbling bath.
unnamed-4Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Forgo The Bubble Bath
According to Dr. Jackie Sutera, a New York City-based podiatrist, "The jets in the whirlpool bath can harbor bacteria and fungus." While that feeling of having your feet gently massaged by the pressure can be pleasant, viral and fungal infections like athlete’s foot and warts most certainly are not. If your salon doesn’t properly sanitize the whirlpools of its footbaths, the build up will disperse the next time the jets are activated— need we say more? To counter the risk of cross-contamination, opt for salons that use pipeless footbaths or bath liners, and take note of whether or not the salon you’ve chosen runs a 10-minute sanitization cycle between clients. If not, it’s on to the next one.
Blue Is The Safest Color
Before you commit to a salon, note whether or not you see the nail clippers and cuticle trimmers soaking in blue liquid disinfectant (and worry not — despite its dubious color, this microbe-killer is EPA-approved) or sitting in machines that resemble toaster ovens. These contraptions use UV lights to sanitize tools. Of course, the full sterilization process requires that tools sit under the rays for a full six hours, so if you’re of the “better safe than sorry” mindset, stick with establishments that favor the liquid method.
unnamed-1Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
BYO Pumice Stone
All non-metal tools cannot be sterilized — ergo, they should not be shared. This includes nail files, buffers, and foot pumices. The best salons give customers individual file kits that you can bring with you and reuse every time you need to freshen your feet. If you’d rather not drop major dough on a swanky salon, buy your own tools from the local drugstore and bring ‘em along. Consider them investment pieces.
Don’t Cut Corners
Rounded nails are having a moment, but don’t jump off that bridge just because the fashion crew is doing it. Toenails should be cut straight across, following the contour of the nail. Cutting the corners of the nail encourages them to grow in unnatural directions (read: ingrown toenails). As far as cuticles go, keep them moisturized and gently pushed back using an orange wood stick, but to avoid infection, snip not.
unnamed-3Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Put Down The Razor
Your legs are most vulnerable to infection directly after shaving. While you may not want to gross out your beautician with your stubbly limbs, the alternative is even less appealing. Razors create microtears in the skin through which bacteria can enter and cause serious infections such as cellulitis. Rather than end up in the hospital, either shave post appointment or give yourself a 48-hour healing period before heading to the salon.
Don’t Be Pennywise And Pound Foolish
We know, we know. Pedicures these days cost a ballpark of $30, making those during-the-week deals all the more appetizing. While it’s tempting to drop by your local salon after work for a quick primp and polish at half the usual price, beware. “Special” is often synonymous for “unsanitary.” On days when everyone’s clamoring for a mani-pedi deal, salons’ first priority is getting all those paying customers in and out, which means sanitization of footbaths and tools usually falls to the wayside. The solution? Have your little piggies serviced during off-hours. Weekday mornings are usually a good bet.

More from Wellness


R29 Original Series