The Ultimate Pedicure Guide: What You Need to Know

What is a pedicure and who should get them?

If you’re wondering how this treatment goes down in the salon, and what steps are involved this post is for you.

Right now we’re going to dip our (soon-to-be perfectly pampered) toes into the world of pedicures.

We’ll answer all of your burning questions, like what to expect, what to wear, and what to do before your first appointment.

Ready to become a pedicure pro?

Let’s do this.

What is a pedicure?

A pedicure is a relaxing cosmetic treatment for your feet. 

The aim is to remove dead skin, moisturize the feet and approve the appearance of your toenails. 

Pedicures make the skin on your feet feel smooth and soft and keep your toenails nicely trimmed and shaped.

remove file hard kin from feet

Both men and women can get pedicures, though the treatments differ slightly.

The main difference is that women’s pedicures usually include toenail polish and men’s don’t. 

What do they do during a pedicure?

During a pedicure, they sit you in a special chair where they soak your feet and exfoliate the skin.

pedicure chair

If needed, dead skin and calluses are removed using a small rough tool called a pumice stone.

If you don’t have a lot of hard skin, then the pedicurist will use a foot scrub.

Once your feet are scrubbed and soaked, your toenails are clipped (if needed).

Then cuticles are removed or pushed back using a cuticle pusher.

Next, toenails are filed into shape using a handheld nail file.

pedicure file toe nails

Toenails are then buffed (to remove any ridges) until smooth and shiny.

If you don’t want polish, then your treatment will end here.

If you do want polish, basecoat, 2 coats of color and a topcoat will be applied.

Once the polish is dry, you’re done!

Why do we need a pedicure?

There are 3 main reasons that people need or want pedicures:

  1. To maintain good foot hygiene
  2. Managing a medical condition
  3. Cosmetic reasons

Some people get pedicures simply because it’s hygienic.

Keeping your feet clean is important for preventing infections.

Other people get pedicures because they have a medical condition that requires attention to their feet.

Medical pedicures (done by podiatrists) focus less on aesthetics and more on overall foot health.

They can be useful for athletes, runners, or those with a condition like diabetes or arthritis.

For example, diabetics often need regular pedicures to prevent foot ulcers from forming. 

The most common reason people get pedicures, however, is for cosmetic reasons.

What does a pedicure do for your feet?

A pedicure can do wonders for tired feet!

Massage and exfoliation can help to improve circulation and relieve any aches and pains.

massage feet and legs for good circulation

Good foot hygiene can also help prevent foot problems from developing.

For example, regular pedicures can help to prevent ingrowing toenails and fungal infections.

Your feet will also feel softer and smoother after the dead skin is removed.

Your nails will look neater and more attractive after they’ve been trimmed, shaped, and buffed.

And if you choose to get polish, your feet will look fabulous!

Pedicure steps

Ok, now that you know what a pedicure is and what the benefits are, let’s take a look at what actually happens during the treatment.

The exact steps might vary depending on what’s included in your treatment.

But as a general rule when getting a pedicure these are the steps:

1. Soaking the feet

soak feet for pedicure

The pedicurist will start by soaking your feet in a warm footbath.

This helps to soften the skin and make it easier to exfoliate.

It also helps to relieve those aches and pains.

Epsom salts are typically added to the water because of their anti-fungal benefits.

You can expect to sit with your feet in there and just relax for around 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Removing dead skin and calluses (exfoliating)

remove dead skinf from feet and heels

Next, they will dry and exfoliate your feet.

The pedicurist will use a foot scrub, pumice stone (or both) to remove the dead and hard skin from your feet.

This leaves your feet feeling smooth and soft.

If you have calluses, the therapist will break them down to smooth out the skin.

3. Clipping the toenails down to size

clipping toe nails

The next step is toenail clipping.

This is done using a regular set of toenail clippers.

If your toenails aren’t that long, the nail technician may skip this step and just file them into a nice shape for you.

4. Taking care of the cuticles

taking care of cuticles

The next step is to work on your cuticles.

Your cuticles will be nice and soft after the soak, so removal will be easier.

Using a cuticle pusher, your therapist will gently push back your cuticles.

They may also use a nipping tool to pinch off any dead skin.

If you happen to have very hard and stubborn cuticles a cuticle remover may be applied and left on for a few minutes to soften them even more.

5. Filing and shaping the nails

file toe nails

After that, they will file your toenails into the desired shape.

You may want a rounded or more sqaured off shape.

6. Giving your feet a massage

massaging feet

Sore and tired feet will love this next step!

Using lotion or oil, the therapist will give you a relaxing foot massage.

This helps to improve circulation and can do wonders for any aches and pains.

Not all pedicures include a foot massage, but if it’s something that you’re interested in, be sure to ask before you book.

7. Buffing the toenails

toe nail buffer

For this next step, the therapist will use a buffer to buff the surface of your nails.

This helps to remove any ridges and it adds shine.

8. Applying polish (and waiting for it to dry)

apply polish to toes

Finally, it’s time for the polish!

Your therapist will apply a base coat, followed by 2 coats of your chosen color.

Then they’ll add a topcoat to help protect your nails and make them extra shiny.

You’ll need to wait for the polish to dry before you can put your shoes back on and walk out the door.

9. Optional step – Applying nail art

If you want a design on your toes, make sure that you ask beforehand and allow extra time for your pedicure appointment.

Your nail technician will be able to paint on any design you like using regular polish or gel polish.

How often should you get a pedicure?

It’s a good idea to get a pedicure every 4-6 weeks.

This helps to keep your feet looking nice and it also helps to prevent any problems such as ingrown toenails.

If you suffer from conditions such as athlete’s foot, you may need to go more often (to a medical professional) to help keep the infection at bay.

What should you not do during a pedicure?

There are a few things you should avoid doing during your pedicure.

Here’s a list of pedicure don’ts:

  • Don’t shave your legs right before your appointment. This can leave your skin susceptible to infection. 24 hours before is fine.
  • Do not allow unsanitized tools to be used on you.
  • Avoid using sharp tools to clean underneath toenails.
  • Don’t leave with wet/moist feet. This increases the chances of infection.
  • Do not eat during your pedicure. This is distracting and a little rude. A drink is fine.
  • Don’t talk on your phone the whole time. You could potentially disturb other customers who are looking for a relaxing experience.
  • Do not talk about how awful your feet look. This can be misconstrued as you looking down on the work that pedicurists do.
  • Don’t wear the wrong shoes. Remember, flip-flops are your friend.

When should you not get a pedicure?

There are also a few times when you should steer clear of getting a pedicure.

If you have any cuts, scrapes, or open wounds on your feet, it’s best to wait until they’ve healed before going in for your appointment.

The same goes for if you have any contagious conditions such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to be extra careful when getting pedicures.

Make sure that your nail technician uses freshly sanitized tools and that they don’t cut your cuticles too deeply (which can lead to infection).

Ingrown toenails are also a pedicure no-no.

What is a pedicure with gel?

A pedicure with gel is a pedicure that uses gel polish instead of regular polish.

Gel polish is a type of nail lacquer that is cured (set) using ultraviolet light.

It’s more expensive than regular polish, but it lasts much longer (up to 4 weeks on toes without chipping).

If you’re looking for a pedicure that will last, a gel pedicure is a good option.

But it is more difficult to remove gel nail polish because it has to be soaked in acetone.

What is a pedicure for a man?

Men’s pedicures are pretty much the same as women’s, but there are a few key differences.

Let’s see what you can expect from a man’s treatment.

What is included in a male pedicure?

  • Soaking
  • Exfoliation
  • Massage (if included in the service)
  • Trimming and filing toenails
  • Pushing back cuticles
  • Buffing the nail plates

As you can see, a male pedicure generally includes all of the same steps as a regular pedicure, but there are a few things that may be different.

For example, rather than using floral scents, the products used during a male pedicure are often more masculine (think: musk, sandalwood, etc.).

Since most men don’t want the nail polish, the male pedicure typically ends after buffing the nails into a nice shine.

However, the option for toe polish is still available for those that want it.

Is it weird for a guy to get a pedicure?

Not at all. In fact, more and more men are starting to get pedicures.

It’s a great way to relax and take care of your feet at the same time.

The pedicure procedure is not all about pretty colors and shiny polish. It’s about foot health.

There are many therapeutic benefits to pedicures that both men and women can (and do) take advantage of.

Does a pedicure include polish?

This is a great question!

As a general rule, female pedicures do include polish application, men’s don’t.

But it’s really up to you whether you want to have polish or not, regardless of your gender.

Does a pedicure hurt?

If a pedicure is done well, you shouldn’t feel any pain.

However, if the cuticles are cut too deeply or the nails are trimmed too short, it can be uncomfortable.

Make sure to communicate with your nail technician if you’re feeling any pain so they can adjust their technique.

If you are experiencing a lot of pain during your pedicure, it’s possible that you have an issue that requires medical attention.

How to prepare for a pedicure

If you’re getting a professional pedicure, there’s not much preparation that needs to be done.

Just show up with clean feet (you can even clip your own nails and remove any polish beforehand if you want).

Shave your legs, but do it 24 hours before your appointment to decrease the risk of infection.

You may want to pick out some suitable clothes and shoes and think about what color and type of polish you want.

That’s pretty much it!

What to wear to a pedicure

Let’s talk bottom half first.

Your best bet is to head out to the salon wearing something loose.

The last thing you want is to be trying to take off your skinny jeans without wrecking your new toes!

A skirt, shorts, or loose-fitting pants are ideal.

I like to wear trousers with elasticated bottoms because they are easy to roll up and down and I can stretch the bottoms when I take them off.

Ok, now shoes.

This is a tough one.

I mean, flip-flops are ideal obviously.

But what if it’s winter?

Well, I would suggest wearing open-toed shoes with a bit of warmth to them or closed-toe shoes in a very soft material.

If you give yourself enough dry time you should be fine.

Can you get a pedicure with bad toenails?

If your toenails are yellow, brittle, or have fungus, you may be wondering if you can still get a pedicure.

The answer is: maybe.

It really depends on the salon and its policy.

Some salons will only do pedicures on healthy nails, while others are more lenient.

If you’re not sure, it’s always best to call ahead and ask.

You can even send photos to check if they are ok with it.

If your toenails are in poor condition you should try getting a medical pedicure.

Do they cut your toenails when you get a pedicure?

Yes, cutting the toenails is part of the pedicure service.

Your nail technician will use a tool to gently trim away any excess length.

They will then file the nails down into your desired shape.

If you don’t want them trimmed, that’s perfectly ok. Just ask.

Why is it called a pedicure?

Why is a pedicure called a pedicure?

It’s a weird word, right?

It’s called a “pedicure” because “pedis” means “of the foot” in Latin, and “cura” means “care”.

So the Latin phrase translates as “care of the foot”.

Final thoughts:

Let’s have a quick recap, shall we?

A pedicure is a cosmetic beauty treatment for the feet and nails.

It involves trimming, filing, and polishing the nails; and often includes massage and exfoliation of the feet.

Pedicures are beneficial for both men and women, as they can help to improve foot health.

To prepare for a pedicure, make sure your feet are clean and dry, and if you want to, shave your legs 24 hours beforehand.

When choosing what to wear, opt for loose-fitting clothing and shoes that are easy to take off.

Most salons will require you to remove any existing nail polish before beginning the pedicure.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this article and that you now have a better understanding of what a pedicure is.

Until next time!


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.