Manicures and pedicures are more than a spa-like indulgence. Sure, it feels nice to be pampered and to walk out with photo-ready mitts and peds, but both of these treatments have health benefits, too.
So, if you’ve been skeptical on this facet of grooming and self-care, then read on. You’ll learn what to expect from both a manicure and a pedicure, as well as how to best emulate the experience on your own at home.
A professional manicure involves trimming and filing the nails to a comfortable and functional length, as well as cleaning up any nail beds/cuticles and trimming any hangnails. Typically, they end with a massage and/or exfoliating scrub, as well as a lotion application. Sometimes, this involves wearing a lotion-filled plastic glove for a few minutes for a deeply hydrating treatment. And, if you like, the nail technician will apply a pop of nail polish or protective clear enamel.
While some people may prioritize their nail aesthetics more than others, a manicure ensures that you don’t over trim your nails or risk removing your cuticles unsafely (which risks hangnails and exposes your nail beds to bacterial infection). The massage component will boost circulation while the exfoliation and lotion components will remove excess dead cells and leave your hands feeling tingly smooth.
How often should you get a manicure?
Manicure frequency depends on what kind of nails you prefer to showcase, but if you aren’t coloring the nails and simply want a trimming and routine maintenance, then every 2-3 weeks tends to be the best interval.
How to give yourself a manicure
While nobody can replicate the precision of a well-trained technician’s handiwork, you can at least come close to the experience at home. Make sure you use the appropriate clipper for each nail. The fingers and thumb require a curved clipper mouth, as opposed to the straight-across ones of the toe clippers. When clipping, try to leave 1.5-2mm of white at the top of your nails.
It helps to soak your hands in warm water before clipping at the cuticles (and to wash the hands, too). This will soften the skin and minimize any resistance to the clipper. It’s also wise to get a proper cuticle pusher and snipper, too, to avoid hangnails and exposed nail bends while tidying up.
Follow the trimmings and clippings with a gritty exfoliation scrub, and then lastly, use a deeply nourishing lotion. (You can even buy hand masks online if you want an exfoliating and/or nourishing treatment). It helps to put a touch of healing ointment over top the cuticles, too, just for safekeeping at those nail beds and to mitigate potential hangnails.
As for a hand massage, well, you might need to call in your friend or partner, or phone the pros for your next manicure. It’s a great way to relax and let the pros do what they do best.
Like a manicure, a pedicure tidies up the nails—and prevents gnarly and painful ingrown toenails in the process. But it’s the other steps that truly elevate this grooming treatment: A pedicure helps soften and smooth the feet to deliver more comfort to you (and more sandal-friendly feet, no less), while also preventing fungal outbreaks. It is commonly believed that pedicures can also relieve back pain by more evenly distributing your weight across the entire foot, instead of leaving that distribution up to rough, callused, uneven feet.
How often should you get a pedicure?
Pedicures can typically be spread out more than manicures—every 4-6 weeks is sufficient for most. You can get manicures about twice as often as pedicures, if you’re considering pairing the two treatments together.
How to give yourself a pedicure
Start with a warm foot soak—perhaps with epsom salts—to soften the skin. Give your feet a thorough wash afterwards, and rinse them clean with warm water.
Be sure to use the straight-mouth toenail clippers on your feet, as opposed to the rounded clippers used on fingernails. Clip straight across on your toes, avoiding any curvature towards the outer ends of the nails, since this is what causes ingrowns. You want to leave about 2 mm of white at the tops of the nails when clipping.
For exfoliation, you can use a traditional scrub, up past the ankles in order to list excess grime. If your feel are lightly rough or callused, you can use an electric callus grinder to buff away the excess dead skin. Or, if they need a total reset, then consider doing a more intensive foot peel. These at-home options are typically soaked for an hour, and then proceed to peel over the next week or more. It can require wearing socks at all times (including to bed) to avoid losing swaths of dead skin around the house. But at the end, you will have baby-smooth feet, no matter how roughed up they were before.
If you are just opting for the light scrub for now, then chase it with a nourishing and ultra hydrating + softening foot cream—and perhaps mix in an antifungal ointment or a couple drops of tingling and antimicrobial peppermint oil. (That last one will give your freshly scrubbed feet some seriously delightful tingles).
Photo via Nick Otto/The Washington Post