4 Steps to the Perfect Pedicure

"It was the big handbag, then the stiletto, and now the sandal is the accessory," says Elisa Ferri, lead nail tech for the Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren shows. "Even if you don't want a bright pedicure, you need to keep your feet moisturized so cracks and flakes don't distract from your fabulous shoes." Whether you're rocking Lanvin's bejeweled spikes or Christian Louboutin's gussied-up gladiators, Ferri and polish queen Essie Weingarten help you ace your next at-home pedi just in time for sandal weather.

PLUS: OUR GUIDE TO SANDAL-READY FEET

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STEP 1. PREP WORK

First things first — pretty toes are hair-free. Depilatories are a faster, longer-lasting, and painless alternative to tweezing or waxing. Next, soften tough heels in a mineral sea salt soak. "In a pinch, liquid dish soap also removes dirt and makes cuticles more pliable," says Ferri. Pat one foot dry — letting the other soak longer — and slough away calluses with an emery board or pumice stone. "Don't use anything more abrasive, like a metal tool," warns Weingarten, "and avoid infection by not exfoliating any blisters, corns, or bunions." Soak the scrubbed foot in a clean bath while working on the other and dab a cotton ball soaked with hydrogen peroxide on any blisters after feet have been washed.

MC Recommends: Revlon Pedi-Expert Shower Kit, $9.99.
Jeffrey Westbrook/Studio D

STEP 2. TAKING SHAPE

On dry feet, apply cuticle oil to the base of the nail — Ferri swears by olive oil as a substitute — and push back cuticles with an orangewood stick. "Only cut cuticles [with a cuticle trimmer] if they look like they're about to tear the skin," says Ferri. File away extra length with an emery board, getting nails as short as possible without causing discomfort. Keep the shape of the nail square and only use a clipper if nails are excessively long, as unnecessary cutting can cause brittle nails to split. "Don't round the corners, because this is where the strength of the nail comes from," says Weingarten. "A lot of people get ingrowns from trying to file the sides."

MC Recommends: OPI Shiner XL File, $2.50.
Jeffrey Westbrook/Studio D

STEP 3. LACQUERED UP

"Applying cuticle oil to the base of your nails every night will help pedicures last up to two weeks." —Essie Weingarten

From moisturizing to ridge-reducing formulas, "the right basecoat can troubleshoot a lot of nail pigmentation and texture problems," says Weingarten. Apply two coats of your shade of choice before finishing with a topcoat — preferably one with UV filters to prevent fading. Allowing two minutes between each step will ensure a streak-free application and expedite overall drying. To minimize the chance of smudging, apply polish first to the foot opposite your dominant hand, then move to the other. Finally, fix mistakes with a corrector pen or, after the lacquer has dried, by scraping away any excess in the shower.

MC Recommends: Clarins Foot Beauty Treatment Cream, $25.
Jeffrey Westbrook/Studio D

STEP 4. PERFECT HUE

"When in doubt, choose coral," says Ferri. The blue and yellow undertones complement fair and warm skin alike. "Your fingers and toes don't need to match, but they should be somewhat complementary shades," notes Weingarten. If you opt for a neon purple to play off your Kool-Aid-colored espadrilles, choose a ladylike lavender or neutral mauve for your hands.

MC Recommends: Yves Saint Laurent Long-Lasting Nail Lacquer in Mauve Silk, $20, Borghese Nail Lacquer in Berry Confezione, $8, MAC Nail Lacquer in Scorcher, $12, Wet n Wild MegaLast Nail Color in Club Havana, $1.99, Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color in Lickety-Split Lime, $4.95, Chanel Le Vernis in Mistral, $23, Essie Nail Polish in BBF Best Boyfriend, $8, Rimmel London Pro Nail Enamel in Posh Pink, $3.99, OPI Nail Lacquer in Red My Fortune Cookie, $8.50, Estée Lauder Nail Lacquer in Wild Orchid, $18, China Glaze Nail Lacquer in Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, $6.50.
Jeffrey Westbrook/Studio D
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