Everyone has a pair of nail clippers in their bathroom, and it’s probably been used more than ever before over the past few months, as so many people have resorted to giving themselves at-home pedis. Even though it’s probably the most-used tool in nail kits, it’s surprisingly the one thing you should avoid using clippers on your toenails.
According to Marie Watkinson, LMT, manicurist, spa expert, and founder of Spa Chicks On The Go, a luxury mobile spa in New York City, a common pedicure mistake she sees all the time is people busting out the seemingly innocent nail clippers. “We suggest that you leave toe nail clipping to the pros. This is mainly because—depending on the clipper you use, along with your technique—you’re prone to cutting below the nail bed line,” she says. “That increases your chance of bleeding and infection.”
According to podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a Vionic Innovation Lab member, there are some other issues that can result from improperly cutting toenail with clippers, too. “Cutting incorrectly or too short can lead to pain, cuts, and even ingrown nails and infections. Cutting off too much can also cause skin injury or sensitivity,” she says. Getting too excited with the clippers not only makes it painful to do normal daily activities, but it makes it nearly impossible to workout comfortably. Sneakers and painful toenails is not a good match.
Instead of using nail clippers, Watkinson recommends sticking to a trusty nail file ($8). Unlike using clippers, it’s really hard to go too low, and filing your nails won’t result in any cuts or infections. With that being said, if your toenails are too long for filing and have to be cut first, there’s a specific tool and method you should use. “I suggest using toenail clippers with a long ergonomic handle ($14) so that you have more control over the cut,” she says. “You should do it while sitting down with your foot placed in a stationary position. Make sure you have ample lighting, and don’t rush—be methodical in your cutting. By taking your time, you’ll be less likely to hurt yourself and will have best possible results.”
Dr. Sutera recommends cutting your toenails straight across and avoiding cutting into the corners, which can result in ingrown nails. “Whether you’re cutting or filing, you’ll want to leave just a little bit of white at the tip,” she says. After your nails are at your desired length, finish your at-home pedi by applying cuticle oil ($6) to your nail beds and gently push back your cuticles with a clean orange stick ($4) or a reusable cuticle pusher ($14). “Cuticles are there to protect the nail matrix (aka cells that grow nails), which lives underneath,” says Dr. Sutera. “Keep them hydrated by using a cuticle oil daily and push them back on a regular basis and when doing pedicures.”
Watkinson recommends finishing by using a nail buffer ($12) to gently and lightly buff your toenails. “Especially the big toe,” she says. “This ‘erases’ ridges in the nail and allows for a smooth canvas for painting.” Grab your favorite polish and paint your toenails, and you’ll be left with a salon-worthy pedi.
Now that you’ve prevented a major pedicure mistake, learn how to do the perfect mani: