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You've got your legs at the ready, no-fuss hair good to go and you smell like a dream; but holidays don't come without a little effort, especially when it comes to making your feet look good in sandals. In general, feet are worse looking than the rest of the body simply because they’re farthest away from the heart and your circulation is worse. Add to that the fact that we completely disown our winter feet and we've got our work cut out for us. Here's how to get beautiful feet naturally in time for holidays, parties or even just your own peace of mind.
Cut your toenails
Trimming your toenails can take feet from claw-toe to polished in under two minutes. The trick is to cut them straight across: “Don’t treat them like fingernails,” says podiatrist Margaret Dabbs, “Cutting them in to a curved shape very easily leads to ingrown toenails.” If you do want that curved shape, use a crystal nail file (like OPI’s Nail Treatment Crystal Glass File) to round off edges – it’ll stop the nail splitting.
Get rid of hard skin
It’s the awful, hard, yellow stuff that you accumulate over the winter months; how you get rid of it typically depends on how much you have.
For the lightly padded foot, go for a foot scrub, which won’t completely transform feet, but will spruce them up. One of the best, and most refreshing particularly after a hard day’s walking, is Body Shop’s Peppermint Foot Scrub. Just massage onto wet feet in the bath.
Slightly more skin? One of the easiest ways to lessen callus is by using a foot file. They have a rough edge, which gently files off dead skin. Note that there are rules: “Under no circumstances should you file while skin is wet,” advises Dabbs. Why? Water softens the skin, which means that you’re not able to see the dry areas well enough to file properly, plus you also risk tearing the skin. Try Margaret Dabbs’ Professional Foot File or, for something that does all the hard work for you, Scholl’s Electronic Foot File. If you’re filing weekly – throughout winter – hard skin shouldn’t be a problem.
Those in dire need of some maintenance, let us introduce you to the glorious world of Footner - a world that is not for the faint hearted, but does remove every last morsel of any dead skin… ever. Simply put on the alpha hydroxy acid-filled plastic socks for an hour and after 2 – 3 days, skin painlessly peels off and will continue to peel off for around a week. It’s a very satisfying and gentle way to smooth feet.
“Regular intensive moisturisation is essential to prevent dry, cracked feet; after all, feet go through exactly the same ageing process that the face does,” says Dabbs. Hydrating your feet might seem like an unnecessary indulgence but using a foot cream at night can completely change the way they look and feel and it’s a great time to give yourself a DIY foot massage to help boost circulation. The best foot creams we’ve come across are Clarins’ shea butter-based Foot Beauty Treatment Cream, Dr Hauschka’s all-natural Deodorising Foot Cream, which helps reduce sweat, and Margaret Dabbs’ own Treatment Foot Oil which is enriched with super-healing emu oil. And, for the ultimate hydration, look no further than Bliss’ Softening socks. Put them on before bed and wake up with moisturized feet. What’s not to love?
Paint your toenails
It’s amazing what a lick of colour on toes can do to perk up winter-tired feet and the nail polish world is your oyster when it comes to colour. “You can get away with bolder and brighter colours on your toes as they’re further away from the eye than fingers,” says nail expert Michelle Humphrey.
The most universally flattering colour for toes? Coral. “From paler, pastel shades to more red or orange tones, there is a coral for everyone,” says Humphrey. Her picks are Essie’s Tart Deco and China Glaze’s Sun of a Peach. We also love Dior’s Vernis in 445 Coral Crush and Cheeky’s nail paint in Tongue ‘n’ Cheek.
If you’re self-pedicuring then here are a few tricks of the trade:
- Firstly, make sure to clean nails with an acetone-based nail polish remover to remove any excess oil and help polish adhere to the nail.
- Use a toenail separator: “They really help prevent smudging,” says Humphrey, “and if you don’t have a professional foam one, improvise using a piece of tissue weaved between toes.”
- Always use a base coat to help anchor colour and prevent chipping. Our favourites are Essie’s First Base and Nails Inc’s NailPure Base Coat.
- Paint two thin coats of your chosen colour, aiming to cover every part of the nail plate without going onto the skin
- Use a top coat to seal polish and further avoid chipping. Try a fast drying one like Jessica’s Brilliance Top Coat and Seche’s Vite Dry Fast top coat.
- Finally, make sure you oil cuticles at the end when toenails are touch dry, or, use a drying spray. “Leighton Denny’s Miracle Mist is a firm favourite of mine,” says Humphrey.
And if you aren’t great at painting your own toes or simply don’t want to…
Go and get a proper pedicure
Renowned as a total MOT for feet, Margaret Dabbs’ Medi Pedi is a great starting point for summer-ready feet. It’s carried out by a podiatrist, i.e. a specialist in all things foot (either Dabbs, £130, or one of her amazing staff, £85) so whatever you’ve got, they can deal with it. From thoroughly cleaning out the nail bed and gently razoring off any hard skin to suggesting exercises that prevent dry skin buildup and buffing nails to a mirror-like shine, you’ll walk away with a real (baby-footed) spring in your step. It really is wonderful.
For those who just want a maintenance top-up treatment, look no further than Cowshed’s little sister brand, Cheeky, for their Toe Shine Pedicure. It’s a great all-rounder, leaves toes perfectly painted and is a great place to go with a friend.