Good foot health is rarely discussed unless you are in the industry and then it tends to be a discussion about what can be done with people whose health has deteriorated. A good pedicure has nothing to do with polish, waxing or other hair removal. The focus of a good pedicure is to stimulate blood flow to the lower extremities by therapeutic massage. Normally a pedicure starts with the application of a moisturizing product to your cuticles. Most of the time this is a chemical concoction however it fails to address the underlying question of why moisture has been lost.
Chemicals have no place on food or skin. Skin is the largest organ you have, responsible for absorbing nutrients and filtering unwanted toxins out of your system. For moisturizing the cuticles, a quality food grade oil such as olive or sesame can be used. Many people have dry feet. This can be blamed on certain socks however in most cases dry skin represents inadequate hydration. If your body is continually denied enough water it will learn to use what it has and take the change out where it can.
Your feet take a lot of abuse during a typical day. Moisturizing lotions and creams are only a temporary measure as they can not replace missing fluids. At best these topical applications can trap surface water molecules for short periods of time. Rehydration is time consuming and most people want immediate results not realizing that beautiful nails are the product of a body that functions optimally. Examination of nailbeds can reveal nutrient deficiencies and underlying disease conditions. Pressing on a nailbed can test capillary refill, covering your nails up with polish clogs the exchange surfaces and hides their natural beauty.
Many people would deny that they are dehydrated. Studying their hands and feet gives you an idea of how in tune they are with their bodies. Cuticle separation from the nailbed is a sign of chronic dehydration. To clarify: when I use the term dehydration I am not using it in a clinical sense, think of it as a plant that needs more water than someone has been routinely giving it. The plant hasn't died yet however it is neither as bountiful or as lush as you know it could be.
Cuticle trimming can be done at home. This takes practice however patience is a virtue and eventually you will have aquired a new skill. If you are purchasing your own tools go to a store that sells to salons. Places like Walgreens and Target offer lesser quality goods, do not be fooled into thinking that these products will function as well as the ones that professionals use daily. Fabulous amounts of dirt, dead skin and germs reside on your hands and feet. Quality tools will be a joy to use, can be easily cleaned and should provide years of uninterrupted service. My tools have been with me for at least fifteen years and properly cared for, will last me a lifetime.
Soaking your feet in warm water first softens cuticles. Note that there is a difference in removing skin that has become separated from its attachment and digging into your cuticle which is there for your protection. While you can give yourself, or another, a manicure or pedicure at home knowing what you are doing and how it should be done is standard protocol before attacking a body armed with sharp metal tools. First hydrate by drinking plenty of water, oil the cuticles, soak them, gently push back any accumulated cuticle growth that has separated and remove only the dead skin. If you encounter cracked, broken or irritated cuticles do your best if you know what you are doing. If not, leave those to a professional.
After cuticle clean-up you are ready to start on the nails and nail beds. Massaging oil into skin stimulates blood flow. Oil is used to moisturize dry skin and provides a lubricated friction reducing surface for therapeutic massage. Support their joints at all times and if you can learn to follow the lymphatic system your client will reap many benefits from this gentle tissue manipulation. Manicures, pedicures and massages are designed to nourish and relax. Breathe in for a count of three and exhale for a count of six, focus on the exhale while you relax.
As the massage portion of the manicure or pedicure comes to a close nails may be buffed and filed. The best shape for your nails is the one you were born with. Some nails are naturally round while others are more squared. Perfect ovals and squares are rarely found in nature, avoid them on your hands and feet as well. Nails should be contoured to flatter their owner. Filing reduces nail height, nails should be filed in one direction and the edges rounded to avoid future snags. The arch is a structurally sound shape, your goal is a nail tip that is arched on top, supported by straight sides. Less is more when you are shaping with your file.
A quick word on nail files. These, like sandpaper, are available in different degrees of grittiness. The finer the grit, the smoother the finish. Coarser files are used for decreasing nail heights, finer grits are used to shape and smooth. Buffing blocks follow the same principles. Start with the roughest texture and shift to gradually smoother surfaces. Buffing is what gives nails their shine. Compare nail buffing to buffing your car after a hand wash and wax. It removes the last traces of grime and allows for the luster of the finish to really shine. To preserve cuticle integrity buff only the upper three-quarters of the nail bed.
So far we've covered soaking, chemical avoidance, cuticle trimming, filing and buffing. A pumice stone may be used on the feet to smooth them out. Here is another area where your degree of knowledge plays a role in identifying the scope of your practice. Almost everyone has areas of rough, dry skin or small patches of hardened the average lay person would call a callus. Friction is responsible for most callus formation, corns are another unsightly medical problem that once formed, are difficult to treat. Although there are other causes of corns and calluses most of them can be prevented simply by wearing good shoes that fit.
Do not attempt to treat corns and calluses at home. They can be a sign of a larger underlying problem such as diabetes. Some people make the mistake of thinking that podiatric services can be replicated at home. It isn't so much that your podiatrist is doing something that you can't learn how to do it's the physical evaluation and accompanying medical knowledge used to address the problem that can't go home with you. Never compromise when it comes to good health. The most expensive podiatry visit is a cheaper bill to pay than one you receive from a foot surgeon.
To reiterate a quality manicure or pedicure avoids the use of chemicals, includes the use of good tools when nail height reduction or superficial smoothing is required. Hydration is key to maintaining beautiful, healthy nailbeds. Ideally you should be drinking pure, clean water as caffeine is a diuretic. Urine color is another parameter to use, it should be lightly colored although keep in mind that certain B vitamins may change the color of your output.
Ideally everyone would be able to afford routine manicures and pedicures. Vein and laser clinics are a thriving business. Spider veins and varicosities are clues that your veins are not functioning the way they should be. People get hung up on their appearance and fail to address the conditions that caused them. Massage is one of the few ways you can receive exercise type benefits while sitting or lying down. Take advantage of these opportunities. Manicures, pedicures and massages are viewed as luxury items while coffee, restaurant food and stress are viewed as necessary.
Take some time to read up on how to perform a simple manicure or pedicure at home. A couple salon trips can eat into a budget quickly however going at least once gives you the opportunity to watch a professional in action. Once you know how to give a great pedicure have a party and invite your friends. Manicures and pedicures are not just for women, men also have feet, legs, hands and arms that could use a little TLC. Hopefully this has addressed some of the common misconceptions regarding proper manicure and pedicure techniques. Please, take care of yourself and our earth, both are resources where the quantity is limited to one.
This writeup is dedicated to the two noders who provided the inspiration for it. Thank you.