Summer and sandals go hand-in-hand or rather foot-in-shoe. But after spending a winter (and, let’s be honest, most of the spring) stomping around in boots, your feet might not be ready for a warm-weather reveal. While a trip to the salon or a serious at-home pedicure can get you set up for the season, preserving it once everything dries takes much more than a touch of topcoat, especially if a beach vacation is on your agenda.
In fact, nail experts say all that splashing around can easily undo all the hard work and money you invested and, in some instances, leave you prone to fungus or worse. “Saltwater may be the most damaging because it’s irritating and drying to the feet,” says Dr. Shari Lipner, assistant professor of dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical College at Cornell University. “This makes you more prone to getting skin and nail infections.” Meanwhile, chlorine can have the same moisture-zapping effects on your feet, leaving your toenails brittle and possibly peeling.
But there are plenty of ways to thwart any threats to your toenail polish, no matter what the elements throw at you. We turned to some of our favorite manicurists to score their best tips to keep your peds looking lovely all summer long.
Prep with a Gel Pedicure
While you can snag a last-minute mani-pedi before you board the plane to your upcoming summer getaway, you’ll want to step away from the wall of regular polishes and invest in a gel instead. The experts say that while it might be a little pricier than its classic formula counterpart, the long-lasting finish has proven to be more durable against the elements.
“Going to the beach with a pedicure [makes it] really hard not to chip it because you’re not only getting your feet wet, but you’re walking on sand and it definitely erodes the polish really quickly,” says Fleury Rose, creative director of Wild Oleander salon in Brooklyn. She also pointed out that the bottom of pools often have a rough texture that can easily cause regular polishes to crumble while gel can withstand a small scrape or two without losing its shine or color.
Opt for A Nail Topper
If you’re already battling against brittleness and broken toenails, adding a press-on or acrylic over your natural nail could be the answer. Celebrity Manicurist and KISS Nails brand ambassador Gina Edwards suggests Impress’s new Press-On Pedicure ($8) if you need a temporary topper. They come in a variety of colors and prints to match your mani and won’t pop off like the versions you might’ve played with in middle school. “You can a achieve a gel-like pedicure in minutes and slip your feet into your sandals without a worry,” she says.
Rose approves of acrylics as a more permanent solution to keep the look and feel of polished peds when the natural nail falls short, unless you’ve already got something funky going on in the nail or below the surface. She and the other nail experts advise you to do your homework to find a reputable salon with licensed nail technicians who specialize in acrylics.“I cannot stress enough that the cheap service isn’t worth the issues you may face in the long run. Granted, mishaps can happen anywhere,”says celebrity manicurist Gracie J.
Keep the Clipping to a Minimum
Nail techs usually ask if we’d like our cuticles pushed or cut during any mani-pedi, but Lipner says the answer should always be no. “Cuticles serve an important purpose,” she says. “They seal the nail from the outside environment and protect it from infections.”
The same goes for questions about shaving off calluses, as Lipner says that calluses are the result of friction, pressure, or irritation so there’s no point in cutting them off when they’re bound to grow back. Even though the razors have been banned from salons, there are plenty of places that still provide the service, according to Rose.
“You can give yourself an infection, and if you’re cut or the razor’s dirty or they take too much off, your feet are going to be really sore and sensitive,” she says, suggesting you simply slough them off in the shower with a pumice stone when the skin is softened. “It’s the same with everything in life — slow and steady wins the race.”
Rinse Off & Air dry Immediately
Whether you’re getting swept up in the ocean waves or paddling in a pool, Gracie J suggests rinsing afterward with fresh water to resist the drying effects on your feet. This reinforces moisture back into the skin that you can seal in with a hydrating lotion. Just be sure to keep your flip-flops on if you’re stepping into a public shower (just like you did in college), lest you end up with a major fungus.
“Walking around barefoot on pool decks is a risk for getting athlete’s foot and [if left] untreated [it] may lead to a fungal nail infection (onychomycosis),” Lipner explains. “If you do have itchy feet or a rash between your toes, it is important to see a board-certified dermatologist before this rash gets worse.”
But drying off could be the deciding factor between a pristine pedicure and a funky infection. As Rose notes, trapping moisture in soggy shoes or socks or under a nail enhancement that has air bubbles could put you on the fast track to mold and fungus. “If you put on a press-on toenail and went swimming and went hiking afterward, you might get some kind of fungus because all of that heat and bacteria trapped underneath,” she says. So keep an extra pair of socks or sandals to slip into when your feet get wet.
Create a Consistent Routine
Sure, your feet are on full display during the summer, but that doesn’t mean maintenance should stop once the weather starts cooling down. “I never wait until last minute to get my pedi game on point. It’s a year-round process. Consistency is key,” Gracie J says.
If you want to treat your feet from the comfort of home, the nail experts insist on starting with exfoliation. Rose recently fell in love with CND’s Cucumber Heel Therapy Intensive Therapy ($15) that uses alpha hydroxy acids to remove dead skin, though she regularly uses disposable pumice stones that can you toss out after a few uses. But Edwards advises mixing avocado, honey, and brown sugar if you want to stir up a scrub of your own.
Should you decide to stick to regular polish for your at-home pedi, keep your feet away from any fans or air conditioners since they can force air bubbles into your top coat and cause cracks in the polish; just allow your feet to air dry. That’s why Rose regularly uses Out The Door Topcoat ($7) when she’s on set. As for speeding things up with quick dry, she encourages everyone wait at least 10 minutes before adding them. “You want to make sure that the inner layers dry, not just the top layer,” she says.
(Photos via Getty)
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