Skin Care

By Erika Hilson Palmer

BREAKING NEWS:
A woman has been spotted walking down Broadway with shnasty feet and…gasp…an ingrown and unpainted toenail.

Although this is a funny (or gross, depending on personal opinion) image, damaged and ill-treated feet are far too prevalent, especially when you mix a New York City street, open toed shoes, and summer. While some are able to stick to the recommended monthly salon pedicure, others can’t for one reason or another. That is why it’s important to know certain key tips for a great home pedicure, so that everyone is able to keep their feet happy and healthy.

Pedicures – more than just a luxury:
A common misconception is that pedicures are a luxury as opposed to a necessary component in a healthy regime for your feet. They feel so great, it’s easy to see how some people may think that; however, those people could not be more wrong. Elaine Linker, a dermatologist and one of the co-founders of DDF, says that getting regular pedicures can act as a preventative measure for future foot problems. “It treats the foot from heel to toe,” Linker says. “Podiatrists treat common aliments such as corns, calluses and ingrown toenails all of which can be avoided or prevented with regular salon visits.” And Tara J. Oolie, co-founder of New York’s Just Calm Down salon, agrees. She says that getting regular pedicures is very important and that “it’s like a facial for your feet.” Furthermore, if you’re feet are healthy, the rest of you tends to feel pretty good–and that’s always a good reason to take care of you feet.

How often should you treat your feet?
Tara says that people should get pedicures every two weeks, but since that is sometimes hard to do, once a month is probably the longest a person should go without one. However, it is important to adopt some techniques for maintaining your pedicure and the health of your feet in between pedicures (or, if you’re not a fan of salon pedicures, it is really important to do home pedicures with the same frequency of every two weeks to a month). Home pedicures are actually much easier to do than some may think; although you can simulate salon practices, it’s not necessary.

I came, I saw, I soaked:
It’s definitely important to tailor your home pedicure to your needs, but one thing that is absolutely crucial is to soak. Soaking is key! You don’t need to get one of those fancy footbaths that cost a fortune and are impossible to clean. Any bathtub will do just fine.

What you put in the tub and use during the pedicure is a matter of personal taste, skin sensitivity. There are a myriad of products that you can buy at any local drugstore like a standard oatmeal soak to put in the bathtub, a salt scrub to exfoliate and a pumice stone or a foot file to specifically exfoliate the calluses on your feet. As far as soaks go, some of the best products on the market are at the market–the supermarket.

The experts at Just Calm Down Spa can’t say enough for the softening powers of a good milk bath (powdered milk and warm water) or a red wine (any one–choose your favorite) and grape seed oil soak. It doesn’t hurt to pour yourself a glass of that wine that enjoy while you’re relaxing your footsies.

Scrub, scrub, scrub:

Soaking may be the elemental step on the pedicure ladder, but a pedicure isn’t a pedicure without a good exfoliating scrub. Both Bliss and L’Occitane make great foot/body exfoliating scrubs (Bliss Super Slough Scrub) and L’Occitane Verbena Salts Scrub), as does Barielle (Barielle Foot Restoration Scrub). All are relatively comparable in price compared to the size of the bottle, and all work well to exfoliate the dead and tired skin off of your legs and feet.

Or, you can make your own exfoliating scrub like they do at Just Calm Down. To make your milk bath or wine soak even sweeter, just mix some sugar with olive oil for a great “I’ve got sensitive skin” scrub. If you want something with a little more umph, mix some kosher salt with extra virgin olive oil. Pumice stones and foot files are also great, and work especially well when used in conjunction with rich moisturizing cream or lotion. The Diamancel #11 is a great professional grade foot file. It has diamond dust grit that smoothes away calluses. This file is on the expensive side, but it’s nickle-coated and fiberglass facing ensures that it will last for ages unlike cheaper models. It’s important that you don’t try to get rid of your calluses–just soften and smooth them out. http://www.luxurybeauty.com.

Regardless of your choice of scrub, make sure to give yourself a great lower leg/foot massage while exfoliating the skin. Not only does it feel great, but it helps circulation and aids in getting rid of dead skin cells.

Cuticles: To cut or not to cut?

And the answer is both–you just don’t want to cut your cuticles all the time. Tara says that cutting them once a month is about as much as you need to do. Elaine says that cutting cuticles can actually lead to infection, and it’s better to just push them back as opposed to cutting them regularly. It is also important to apply a cuticle treatment oil after you cut your cuticles (or push them back) to moisturize them and keep them healthy. DDF makes an Antifungal Cuticle and Nail Treatment that provides essential nutrients to your nails and cuticles as well as antifungal properties to protect your cuticles from infection. http://www.ddfskin.com.

Mois-tur-ize vt -ized; iz-ing: To add moisture to…your completely dried out and cracked skin!
There are so many different types of moisturizer you can use, and even though each one may smell a little different or have slightly different descriptions in their functionality, as long as it moisturizes your skin, you’re good to go. Barielle makes several great foot moisturizers like the Time Release AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) Foot Cream and the Cucumber Foot Smoother. The alpha hydroxy formula, which is also mixed with glycolic acid, acts to exfoliate and soften the skin over time; and the cucumber soothing formula helps to cool and relax hot and tired feet. (Which is great to apply after a long day.) There is also the Total Foot Care Cream, which is excellent for more sensitive skin types because it contains zero exfoliant–only soft baby powder smelling moisturizers.

DDF’s Pedi-Cream contains 18% Glycolic acid, which acts to hydrate and soften calluses on the feet and diminish them over time. It also contains a mix of spearmint and menthol, which, like theà‚ Bliss and Barielle products, cools and soothes the feet and lower legs as it softens, exfoliates, and moisturizes the skin.

Bliss Labs also has a line of foot moisturizing products like Rosy Toes (26) and Foot Patrol. Rosy toes is a gel based lemony blend that is a moisturizing foot and leg balm and can be used like a lotion outside of the tub; and, if you want to use it in the tub, it turns into a milky soak for your feet. How perfect! The Foot Patrol, similarly to DDF’s pedi-cream, contains salicylic acid and glycolic acids for exfoliation of dead skin cells, peppermint to cool your feet, and aloe to soothe your feet–how comprehensive! You can also do an overnight foot moisturizing treatment with the Bliss Sock Salve and Softening Socks. The Sock Salve contains Babassue Oil, eucalyptus, chamomile flower, oat extract, and the apparent odor-eating rosemary,; then throw on a pair of the Softening Socks, which contains the moisture from the Sock Salve and…Voila! Freshly moisturized feet every morning.

And for dessert:
Nail polish no longer complies with the ROYGBIV code of boring. When it comes to polish, there isn’t one best company or one greatest color; it all comes down to preference and what catches your eye (or whatever will match that dress you’re going to wear on Friday night.) Some people feel that polish isn’t necessary, and others can’t live without it. Christine Cortese, Tara’s partner at Just Calm Down, says that polish is one of the most important component to a pedicure for her, and recommends Seche for a great top coat and base coat.

Even though we all love polish, especially in the summer, Elaine points out that it is important to leave your nails polish-free from time to time. She also said that red polishes tend to stain nails, but soaking them in lemon juice can help remove those stains if they haven’t been there for too long. Otherwise, you’ll just have to let them grow out like a bad haircut.

As if there aren’t enough warnings for pregnant women…
Beauty treatments, and pedicures in particular, are usually seen as the refuge for a pregnant woman, especially when your feet are tired and swollen. However, it is important to know which essential oils and treatments could potentially be harmful to someone who is pregnant. Strong scented oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus are a hands down no-no when you’re pregnant, as is any sort of reflexology treatment. Some essential oils can affect the fetus onà‚ hormonal level and reflexology on the hands and feet can even cause complications. Because of this, it’s best to stay away from certain oils if you’re pregnant, and unfortunately foot rubs, too. If you’re doing your pedicure at home, it’s best to play it safe and stick with completely neutral products (certain scents are considered mild enough, but if you’re not sure, play it safe and stick with milk soak). And if you’re going to a salon, double check with your pedicurist before he/she does any treatment.

Some fun home pedicure tips from Tara at Just Calm Down:
– You should always keep at least one foot soaking in the water during your home pedicure.
– Wet exfoliation is better than a dry exfoliation.
– Although non-acetone polish remover is better for you, it just doesn’t work as well as the acetone variety.
– You can buy essential oils for your pedicures at any health food store. You should use four drops of your favorite oil for pedicures and two drops for manicures.

If you’re in the New York City area…
And want to treat yourself to a great pedicure at a spa, definitely check out Just Calm Down (which was recently deemed the best pedicure in New York City by New York Magazine). Tara, Christine and their extremely talented team of experts will treat you and your feet like royalty. Every pedicure treatment is specifically tailored to the pedicure and her likes/dislikes, and you’ll never want to leave this metropolitan haven. To see their full list of pedicure services (as well as their comprehensive list of beauty treatments), check them out on the web at http://www.justcalmdownspa.com.

Originally published June 2003
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