Any advice for an at-home, do-it-yourself pedicure?

DEAR DOCTOR K:

Last time I got a pedicure, I ended up with toenail fungus. I’m not taking another chance. Any advice for an at-home, do-it-yourself pedicure?

DEAR READER:

A pedicure is a great way to pamper your feet. But salons don’t always maintain the best safety standards, and that can lead to infection.

If you’re determined to try a do-it-yourself (DIY) pedicure, pick up a basic pedicure kit at your local pharmacy. Then follow these directions:

  1. Fill a pan or basin with warm water.
  2. Soak your feet for a few minutes, until the skin and nails soften.
  3. Dry your feet with a towel.
  4. Gently rub a pumice stone against your skin to remove any dead skin cells. Don’t rub too hard.
  5. Take care of the cuticles. Rub lotion or oil onto your toenails to soften the thin layer of skin at the bottom and sides of your toenail. Gently push the cuticles back to the base of the nails, using an orange stick or a moist washcloth. Don’t cut the cuticles; that could lead to infection.
  6. Clean underneath your nails with an orange stick wrapped in cotton or soaked in water to soften the edge.
  7. Cut your toenails straight across with toenail clippers, or make a series of small snips with nail scissors. Smooth the edges with an emery board.
  8. Gently apply foot lotion to your feet. If you are going to apply nail polish, wipe off excess lotion with a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol.
  9. Apply nail polish. Use foam separators or cotton balls to separate your toes. Then apply the polish. Allow each coat to dry for several minutes.
  10. Scrub metal tools, such as toenail clippers, with soap and water. Then disinfect them with rubbing alcohol, Lysol or peroxide. Clean the basin the same way.

The problem with DIY pedicures is that, particularly as we get older and stiffer, it can be hard to do meticulous work on your own feet. So before you commit to the DIY route, I’d suggest you consider giving nail salons another try — while holding them to certain standards. Make sure that:

  • The pedicurist sterilizes reusable instruments for at least 10 minutes in a disinfectant solution.
  • The instruments have been stored in a clean, dry container.
  • Devices like whirlpool foot baths that are shared by clients are routinely disinfected after each use.
  • The pedicurist does not file corns or calluses or use any sharp instrument on your feet.

If the pedicurist uses disposable instruments (many do), then obviously some of the above is irrelevant. Another alternative is for you to bring your own instruments to the pedicurist, after having sterilized them with alcohol.

If this advice seems a little “pushy,” just explain that you’ve had some bad experiences with pedicures and you’re simply being careful. The pedicurist should understand, or at least not get defensive and angry. Unless, of course, he or she was the pedicurist with whom you had the bad experience!