5 Pedicure Mistakes You’re Probably Making & How To Avoid Them

Straight from the experts.

Originally Published: 
common pedicure mistakes

Of the many beauty rituals that fill your calendar, you probably never skip your pedicure appointment. Beyond a relaxing soak and good scrub, the treatment can be crucial for maintaining the health of your nails and skin — especially given the wear and tear feet endure on a daily basis. Between nail growth, pressure caused by closed-toe shoes, and the accumulation of dead skin, your feet deserve more than a moment of reprieve. Yet, in the midst of enjoying the soothing bath of warm water and essential oils, it can be easy to fall victim to a few common pedicure mistakes — regardless of whether you go to the salon or go the do-it-yourself route.

From soaking your feet too early to incorrectly using a foot file, you could be sabotaging the lifespan of your pedicure. “Educating yourself on proper nail care and techniques will take you a long way in avoiding mishaps,” says Marcela Correa, a licensed medical pedicurist and owner of medical-grade pedicure business, Medi Pedi in New York City. For this reason, TZR turned to the professionals for their expert advice. Ahead, a celebrity nail technician and a medical pedicure specialist weigh in on the most frequent pedicure blunders to look out for and how to avoid them in the future.

Soaking Your Feet Before Your Gel Manicure

All pedicure styles are not created equal, and need to be handled as such. For example, a basic pedicure using regular nail polish often begins with immersing your feet in a basin filled with water for a softening foot soak. A gel pedicure, on the other hand, should always begin dry, according to celebrity manicurist and founder of Julie K Nail Academy, Julie Kandalec. “When getting any type of enhancement product on your nails, it’s important to be sure the nail plate and the surrounding skin are 100% dry before applying the gel as it can hinder its adhesion,” she says.

Gel pedicures rely on the nail being completely dehydrated so the gel can be secured with UV light. In fact, some methods even use a special liquid that helps dry the nail out. With this in mind, it’s not hard to fathom why the reverse polish-then-soak process is crucial to making your pedicure last.

Using Unclean Tools

Your nail beds are highly susceptible to infection — since the layer of tissue that sits beneath the nail can be a habitat for bacteria. Add in the fact that many pedicure tools are sharp objects and the risk of cutting into the skin greatly increases. That said, ensuring that each of the items is properly sanitized and cleaned before use is beyond crucial. Ahead of your appointment, it’s always best to confirm that your salon and/or manicurist is licensed by your state. This can provide some insight into the cleanliness of the location and the tools they’re using.

In between your appointments, Correa notes that the same level of attention should be given to your home pedicure tools. Luckily disinfecting them is pretty simple and involves some warm water, a bit of antibacterial soap, and the occasional use of hydrogen peroxide.

Exfoliating In The Wrong Order

As a common part of most pedicures, tools and scrubs are used to exfoliate skin for softer feet. While it’s beneficial to prevent build-up, Kandale assures that using the correct order of products will yield the best results. “Exfoliating the feet often involves two different methods with varying degrees of coarseness,” she says. These can include tools and products such as foot files which are best for rough patches and foot scrubs that can be used to gently banish dead skin cells on and just above the foot.

“Working with the roughest portion [of the skin] first and then moving to a method with a finer surface will ensure that you’re most effectively removing skin that has hardened and formed into calluses,” says Kandalec. Once you’ve finished working, she notes that then you should begin applying creams and other hydration products. Utilizing this correct order may sound like a no-brainer, but as she tells TZR, it can be overlooked in a busy salon. “It’s important to speak up and talk to your manicurist throughout the process. If something doesn’t feel right don’t be afraid to kindly let them know,” she says. This way you can easily fix the blunder and avoid it happening at your next appointment.

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Using A Foot File On Wet Skin

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes you can make when it comes to exfoliating is using a foot file when your skin is wet. The primary purpose of this tool is to remove dry skin, and while it may be tempting to wet your feet first, it’s not ideal. Typically, these files feature a metal surface that resembles that of a cheese grater and works to gently shave off rough skin in the same fashion. Though they are useful for upkeep between appointments, using them incorrectly can quickly result in over-exfoliation and ultimately damage your skin.

This is a frequent error that many people make at home, thinking that it will be more manageable once their feet have absorbed water from soaking or being in the shower. However, as Correa tells TZR, doing so can weaken the tissues and make skin more prone to cuts, damage, and infection. “Wet skin masks the problem areas, making it easy to over file.” To avoid this, she has a few easy-to-remember tips. First and foremost, use your file ahead of your bath or shower, and secondly, ensure that you are being gentle. “It’s best to work in circular motions and abstain from using too much pressure,” she says. Slow and steady will prevent you from harming the skin.

Properly Grooming Your Toenails

Much like your fingernails, your toenails need to be properly groomed to avoid both infection and potential pain. “One area that I’ve noticed people commonly approaching incorrectly is the cutting of their toenails,” says Correa. She explains that while cutting the nails on an angle may be easier, they should be cut straight across with a clipper that’s suited for the size and thickness of your nails. “Not only does this ensure that no damage is done to the nail bed, but it also keeps the nail from becoming ingrown as it begins to grow post-cutting.”

The cuticles that border your toenails also need some TLC during your pedicure, though they are often neglected when it comes to at-home grooming. For this step, Correa recommends putting down the clippers and picking up an orange stick. “Instead of cutting, gently push them back using a cuticle pusher,” she says. As the barrier between your nail bed, your cuticles are the first line of defense and need to remain intact to maintain the health of your nails.

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