Treat your feet

Our hands and fingernails are always out on display, only hiding now and then in winter mittens or gloves. We slather our hands with lotions and many people regularly paint their nails or get professional manicures. It's easier to neglect our feet, as they are often out of sight and sometimes out of mind.

In recent years, though, women and men alike are realizing how good it can feel to treat their feet with more tender loving care. Pedicures have nearly caught up to manicures in popularity, and previously timid toes are now being pampered and polished. While professional pedicures are widely available and reasonably affordable, you can also treat your feet to a home foot spa.

Prime your feet

Feet bear a lot of weight and are exposed to friction and pressure. They're also often wrapped up in socks or crammed into shoes. Tight, hardened, dry skin and calluses can develop in those conditions.

To prime your feet for pampering, first soak them in warm, soapy water. Drop a bit of scented oil into the water if you'd like – peppermint to invigorate or lavender to relax. Take advantage of these stolen moments to flip through a magazine, read a chapter from a novel, or simply close your eyes and just be.

Once the skin on your feet is softened up, use a washcloth, loofah, or pumice stone to gently remove any calluses or dead, dry skin. Knead some lotion onto your feet, giving yourself a massage while you're at it. If you're feeling like spoiling your feet, you can try a "foot mask" to lock in the moisture.

Trim your toenails

With your feet now supple and soft, your toenails should be more yielding, too. Toenails need a trim every few weeks. To prevent ingrown toenails, foot experts advise that nails be trimmed straight across. And keep your toenails trimmed to just beneath the edge of your toe. Too long or too short, and they can become ingrown or infected.

The cuticles can also be sensitive and vulnerable to inflammation, so don't cut or push them back. To clean under the nails, use soap and a nail brush or an orange stick. Hard metal tools are too rough. Be gentle.

Spa safely

If you choose to take your toes to a pro, be aware of spa safety. Salons have health codes they must follow, but businesses get lazy and, well, busy. Sometimes health and safety may fall to the wayside. Fungal and bacterial infections from whirlpool foot baths do happen.

When you're waiting your turn for a pedicure, watch and see if the salon's foot spa is drained, washed, and disinfected between customers. Take a look around the salon or spa. Does it seem clean and tidy? Ask the staff how the foot spas are cleaned. If they won't tell you, that's a good sign that you might want to get your feet out of there.

Don't shave or wax your legs within 24 hours of your pedicure or foot spa. Open or irritated skin can welcome infection. Likewise, if you have cuts, scratches, scabs, rash, or insect bites on your shins, ankles, or feet, wait until you're all healed up to treat your feet to a professional foot spa and pedicure. If after a pedicure you develop any skin problems in those areas, contact your doctor.

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