16 Hacks for the Perfect At-Home Mani-Pedi

Going to a spa for a manicure and pedicure is a luxurious treat, but this splurge comes with a luxurious price tag. If you want to keep your hands and feet looking great without shelling out big bucks, here are some simple mani/pedi hacks that you can try at home for spa-like results with a much lower price tag.


Spas get pretty creative with their hand and foot soaks — special ingredients, scents, and lots of decorative accents. You can put the effort into creating a foot soak with rose petals if that's your thing, but the point of a hand/foot soak is to soften skin and relax muscles. So with that in mind, consider the following inexpensive ingredients to create a soothing soak.

You don't need to purchase a home spa soaker, although you certainly can. Any large bucket or container that's clean can serve as a soaking tub. Add some warm water and your soaking solution of choice, and sit back and relax.

1. Epsom Salt

Epsom salt softens dry skin. It also contains magnesium, which can help reduce muscle soreness and even reduce arthritic pain.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar also softens dry skin and has the added benefit of killing certain bacteria. The smell isn't the best, but your feet probably don't smell amazing right now anyway.

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a kind of miracle cure for rashes and irritation, so if your hands or feet need some gentle attention, baking soda makes for a great soak. (Bonus: it's also a really good way to soothe diaper rash — just add some to baby's bath water.)

4. Essential Oils

The reason that spa soaks seem so luxurious (besides the really nice soaking basin) is the scent — spas LOVE to throw a bunch of essential oils into almost every treatment. You can easily do the same. A few drops of your favorite oil will soften your skin and smell amazing. Be sure not to go overboard with the oil (no more than 10 drops) — some oils, like eucalyptus, are caustic when applied too heavily and can cause skin irritation.

Exfoliate/Remove Dead Skin

Getting rid of dead skin is probably one of the biggest hassles in home pedicures. Your chosen method for removing dead skin depends on how much skin you need to remove, how much time you have, and how much you want to spend on a removal device. And some skin removal tools are best used on dry skin, so you may want to do this before the soaking step. Manual removal of dead, dry skin can be tricky, so be incredibly careful when wielding these implements.

5. Pumice Stone

The Body Shop makes an excellent pumice stone that really does remove dead skin. Use it on hands and feet that have been soaked in warm water for at least 15 minutes. Continually rinse the stone to remove the dead skin that builds up.

6. Electric File

Although the mechanism is the same, electric files do most of the removal work for you, so they are great if you are lazy (like me). An electric file is best used on dry skin, as wet skin will simply coat the rough surface of the sander and make it impossible to use. The catch is that you often have to use the file for a long time to really get the dead skin off. Amazon carries an array of well-liked electric files that start at around $30.

7. Callous Slicer

I once had a professional pedicure with one of these, and it was amazing. However, I am terrified to try it myself. You simply soak your hands/feet, and then use the slicer to remove layers of dead skin, like your body is a block of parmesan. You can buy a callous slicer on Amazon, but use at your own risk.

8. Chemical Peel

Chemical peels have come a long way in the past few years, and there are many home-based options that are safe and effective, although they do take several days to work their magic. One good example is Baby Foot (read a review of Baby Foot here) which uses alpha hydroxyl acids to eat away at dead skin. Your feet with be all gross and peeling for a week, but once you've molted that outer layer of dermis like a snake shedding skin, your feet will be soft and renewed.

Make sure to follow-up dead skin removal with the liberal application of a deeply-moisturizing crème or body butter.


Many spas offer inexpensive or complimentary add-on treatments during mani-pedis, like paraffin dips or salt scrubs. The good news is that you can do these at home for relatively cheap.

9. Paraffin Dips

Paraffin dips are great for moisturizing skin and easing muscle aches and arthritis pain. And the good news is that you don't have to buy anything special to do them at home — you can use canning paraffin and a simple double boiler. In fact, WebMD has a handy online guide to home paraffin dips.

10. Keratin Gloves

Nancy Reagan (no, not THAT Nancy Reagan) of Bella Reina Spa in Del Ray Beach, FL, says that her customers love Keratin Gloves (they also make moisturizing socks), an inexpensive home treatment that moisturizes hands and softens cuticles. Just warm in the microwave and wear while you binge-watch The Good Wife.

11. Cuticle Treatments

Speaking of cuticles, Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse (MD, FAAD of Rapaport Dermatology in Beverly Hills) advises, "Do not cut your cuticles off or shove them back with instruments. Removing cuticles leaves a gap for infectious agents to enter [the body]. And shoving them back with a tool can damage the nail matrix, leading to potentially permanent ridges and dents in the nail plate."

Instead, Dr. Shainhouse recommends applying a cuticle-softening lotion (she recommends Dr. G's Antimicrobial Callus and Cuticle Exfoliator) for one to two minutes, and then gently pushing your cuticles back with your own fingernails.

If you don't like pushing or your cuticles are in bad shape, try applying Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream at night. It softens skin and you can scrape away the dead stuff in the morning.

Trim and File

You probably don't need a primer on trimming your nails, because if you're old enough to read this blog, chances are you already know how a nail clipper works. Use a clean emery board to shape the nail to your liking (the American Podiatric Medical Association recommends filing in one direction and avoiding scratching or buffing the nail surface). Change emery boards often (hey, they're cheap!) and never share your boards with anyone else, to avoid spreading bacteria and fungus.

Quick-Drying Polish (Optional)

Nail polish obviously isn't necessary, but if you enjoy it, then by all means, have at it!

12. Lamp-Cured Gel Polish/Shellac Home Kit

Gel/Shellac nail polish is fairly new, but it's a good value. You get roughly 10 days of chip-free wear, which is more than you can say for conventional nail polish. You can buy the UV lamp starting at about $25 online. If you want to buy everything in one go, there are home kits (see some home gel kit ratings here) that include polish (base, color, and top coat), a lamp, and acetone and alcohol wipes.

There are some downsides to gel polish — they are more expensive per bottle, and the variety of colors available pales in comparison to those available in conventional polish. It takes a while to remove them, and some medical professionals warn that the UV light used to cure the polish poses a skin cancer risk, but there aren't any conclusive studies on the dangers of polish-curing lights yet.

13. Sunlight-Cured Gel Polish

Although not as durable as the shellac polish, there are gel nail polishes that can be cured using just sunlight. Sally Hansen offers a line of Miracle Gel nail polish with designer colors. The final finish is tougher than conventional polish, although the results don't last as long.

14. Fast-Drying Nail Polish

Many different brands offer fast-drying nail polish, available at your local drugstore or Amazon. These affordable polishes typically dry fully in three minutes or so (they say one minute, but that's not accurate), and are less likely to scuff or chip.

15. Any Glittery Nail Polish

Nail polish that contains sparkles tends to last longer than regular shiny or matte polish. It can be harder to remove, too, but if you want a polish job that lasts, apply a glittery polish as a top coat.

16. Quick-Dry Oil

Quick drying oils can be applied over the top of your nail polish to speed up the drying process. They are affordable and can be used with any color or other brand.

Are there any home mani/pedi tricks that you love? Share them with us in the comments!

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