Warm weather means summer sandals and going barefoot, but if you’re like most people, your feet could use some tender loving care before making a public appearance. Taking good care of your feet is important not only for vanity’s sake, but also for good health. Regular foot and nail care can prevent painful heel cracks, calluses and ingrown toenails.
Plan a relaxing and rejuvenating pedicure once a week (or every other week). You can keep feet soft and smooth in between pedicures by running a pumice stone or foot file over your heels and smoothing on a rich moisturizing cream at night after washing your feet.
Salon pedicures are a wonderful treat, but you easily can duplicate the same treatments at home, using natural, nontoxic products. The following five steps will have your feet summer-ready in about 40 minutes.
Begin your pedicure with a soothing foot soak. A warm foot bath with baking soda and borax softens calluses and makes it easier to remove rough skin. Fill a large plastic basin or foot tub with comfortably warm water. Add 1 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of borax and stir to dissolve. To freshen and deodorize feet, add 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops of patchouli essential oil. (For an invigorating foot bath, instead add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil and 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil; to ease aching feet, add 5 drops of rosemary essential oil and 3 drops of lavender essential oil.) Relax, and soak your feet for 10 minutes.
After soaking, thoroughly cleanse your feet — the soles, between your toes and around your nails — with a natural bristle foot brush and a mild soap. To make a refreshing foot soap, combine 4 ounces of unscented liquid body soap with 10 drops each of rosemary essential oil, lavender essential oil and peppermint essential oil in a 4-ounce plastic bottle. Apply a small amount of soap to the foot brush and scrub your feet. Gently clean under your nails with the pointed end of an orangewood stick.
Finish your foot bath with an exfoliating scrub. In a small plastic container, mix 1 cup of Epsom salts, 2 tablespoons of almond oil and 5 drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil. Massage this mixture onto your feet, paying special attention to areas that are rough and dry. Rinse your feet in the footbath, and pat dry with a soft towel. Using a pumice stone or a foot file, gently remove rough, dry skin on the heels, sides and balls of your feet. If you have thick calluses, don’t try to remove the callus all at once or you can end up with painfully sensitive feet. Instead, plan for weekly pedicure treatments — you’ll have smooth feet within a month.
Rinse your feet with clean, warm water and pat dry with a clean towel. Massage a rich moisturizing cream into your feet, paying special attention to your heels and any other areas that tend to be dry. Also massage a small amount of cream into your cuticles and nails, or use the nail butter recipe on Page 18. Gently push back cuticles with the blunt end of an orangewood stick. Don’t cut cuticles, and don’t pry them away from the nail. Healthy cuticles protect the nailbed and keep bacteria out.
Trim your toenails straight across with a straightedge toenail clipper. To prevent ingrown toenails, don’t cut them too short, and don’t leave sharp corners. Using an emery board, smooth the rough edges of your nails. Follow the natural shape of your toenails, and file in one direction instead of sawing back and forth to avoid splitting and weakening nails. Finish by buffing your toenails to a natural shine with a nail buffer. Buffing your nails is an excellent alternative to toxic nail polishes and polish removers. Buffing also stimulates circulation to the nail bed and helps to create healthy, strong nails.
Laurel Vukovic writes and teaches about herbs and natural healing from her home in southern Oregon, She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000.)
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