What is a Pedicure?

Feet have a lot to put up with: carrying us around for the thousands of miles we travel in a lifetime, the weight (and sometimes overweight they have to support), the standing, running, queuing jumping,  balancing, generally ignored, and for most of the year stuffed into socks, tights, shoes, boots and airless wellingtons. Pedicure is a holiday for hardworking feet.

What a manicure does for the hands, so a pedicure does for the feet. The word Pedicure comes from the Latin words ‘pedis’ and ‘cura’, together meaning  ‘care of the foot’.

Performed by a skilled professional , regular pedicure keeps nails tidy and improves their appearance; the skin is treated and high quality products are used to promote natural  strength and healthy growth of the nails. Although it is basically a beauty treatment for the feet, a pedicure can have many beneficial effects on the physical health of the feet. A pedicurist removes dead skin, softens hard skin and shapes and treats toenails, and also massages the feet and lower leg with softening  ils and creams.

Good footcare, undertaken on a regular basis, can also prevent foot problems such as ingrown toenails, cracked heels and callouses. And, especially when combined with massage, hot stones, a herbal or aromatic rub or a soak in scented oils, it can enable you to walk more comfortably and feel relaxed all over.

What to expect

A pedicure is a luxury treatment, so it’s worth getting the best from it. Give yourself time to enjoy the experience and get the full benefit. BABAC recommend that before you start any treatment you should check that the therapist is both qualified and insured.

A pedicure often begins with a foot bath or spa, where your feet are soaked and cleansed in fragrant warm water in a foot-bath. Some salons may offer a foot bath with bubbling water, like a mini-Jacuzzi for your feet.

To soften and refresh your feet, they will be massaged with foot creams or oils. You may be given the chance to choose the fragrance you like. Some pedicurists have additional training in reflexology or acupressure techniques to give you a fully relaxing experience. Many other additional treatments can be offered as extras, for instance: mud packs or seaweed wraps, or the use of hot stones, or ‘hot bootees’. The special healing oils of aromatherapy may also be employed.

To exfoliate your feet, they may be scrubbed with a rough pumice stone or with salts or minerals to get rid of the dead skin. Attention will be given to your cuticles, so that the loose skin is removed (this little job can also be done by Garra Rufa fish which nibble at cuticles while your feet are immersed in their tank, see Fascinating Facts, right).

Once your toenails have been softened with creams or oils they will be cut and shaped.  Your pedicure will usually close with a massage of your feet and lower legs and possibly another soak in the foot bath before a good quality polish is applied to your nails.

Nowadays a pedicure service can extend beyond just the foot, to leg care below the knee. Leg care can include either shaving or waxing or other typing of depilation, followed by the application of moisturizer, and finally a brief lower leg massage.

If you go for the full beauty option, you will be offered a wide selection of professional quality nail polish for your toenails. It’s worth noting that these pedicure-standard varnishes take longer to dry completely (up to 12 hours) so you would do well to take flip-flops or sandals that don’t cover your toes.

Effects and Benefits

Regular attention to the feet which involves cleansing, moisturizing and massaging can keep them healthy and provide a general sense of well-being. Skilled attention to the nails also has many benefits.  When the nails of the feet are properly trimmed (straight across the top), this can prevent the edges turning over and becoming “ingrown” (a painful condition, which if left unattended can require surgical correction or removal of the nail). A pedicure can therefore be considered a preventative health process, helping to avoid nail diseases or disorders (such as fungus or infection). And if they are in an early stage, a trained eye spotting the onset can advise early treatment.

Pedicures are not restricted to the nails; often hard skin forms on the heels or base of the toes. This condition can be treated during a pedicure with a rough stone called a pumice stone (that comes from volcanic rock). Regular rubbing of dead skin cells prevents a build-up of hard patches.

Another benefit of pedicure is the observation of change in the feet. For instance, if you have Diabetes, that condition may affect your feet in a number of ways. One of the early changes can be loss of sensation in your feet, often starting at the toes. This is known as peripheral neuropathy.  And the danger is that you may unknowingly damage your feet by stepping on sharp objects, piercing the skin even down to the bone without realising. If unnoticed and not treated appropriately this can have potentially serious consequences.  Periodic medical checks with a podiatrist are recommended, but regular attention to the feet by way of a therapeutic pedicure can keep feet in the best condition.

Cracked heels, known as heel fissures are generally caused by dry skin. At first these are merely unsightly, but they can develop into deep fissures, which bleed, are painful to walk on and ultimately become infected.  Regular moisturising at a pedicure helps to keep the skin of the heel soft and pliable and less likely to develop cracks.

It is also reported that attention to the feet in the form of a gentle foot massage which often follows a full foot treatment adds to the recipient’s sense of wellbeing. People who have regular or even occasional pedicures – the full works with moisturising, massaging, painting the nails – say that it gives them a psychological lift. They can leave the pedicurist ready to put their best foot forward…

Fascinating Facts about Pedicures

  • Natural wear and tear can affect the feet. When you consider that a person walks between 75,000 and 100,000 miles (or nearly two and a half times round the world) in the average lifetime, it’s easy to understand why people have problem with their feet later in life. Three out of four people at the age of 70 have to see a podiatrist in order to remain comfortable, and by the age of 60, 90% of you will have seen a podiatrist at least once.
  • There is evidence to show that human beings have been attending to their nails cosmetically for over 4000 years. In Babylonia, the wealthy used manicure and pedicure equipment made of solid gold.
  • For generations, in Asia, especially Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore, it seems a species of tiny fish called Garra rufa have been employed in giving pedicures to humans. Garra Rufa fish, or “doctor fish” as they are known, are a type of toothless carp that nibble on dead skin of feet immersed in their water.  There’s an enzyme in fish saliva called diathanol, which improves the skin regeneration process, say the proponents of fish pedicure.
  • Currently there is some concern about possible hygiene and health issues of pedicure fish treatments which are being investigated by the department of environmental health, Health Protection Scotland and the Health and Safety Laboratory.
  • From a carving on the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, it is clear that the ancient Egyptians engaged some kind of manicurist and pedicure to attend to their feet and hands. Queen Nefertiti of Egypt is reported to have had her nails painted ruby red.
  • Pedicures come in many different choices. For example, here are some variations:
  • French Pedicure is classic treatment which includes squaring off the nail, whitening the tip, and applying top quality, long-lasting nail varnish
  • For an Intensive paraffin wax: you’ll get warm wax into smoothed your nails, feet and lower legs  which softens and moisturises.During a Deluxe pedicure you’ll receive a whole-foot treatment includes a foot massage then the softening paraffin wax treatment and finally, heated wrap and towels to warm and soothe your feet, the whole process softens and hydrates your feet and nails.To achieve that professional, glossy finish that last a good long time, you’ll need a Gel pedicure: this is a treatment that uses clear or coloured gel, which bonds to your nails for a long-lasting glossy appearance.
  • A manuscript from the Ming Dynasty in China has recorded that royal personages of the day used lacquer to paint their nails in red and black.

Professional Organisations

The Guild of Beauty Therapists

The Guild of Beauty Therapists can offer membership and insurance to beauty therapists, nail technicians and holistic therapists. Launched in 1994, The Guild of Professional Beauty Therapists is the UKs biggest professional beauty trade body. The Guild has over 6,000 members who are all fully qualified beauty and holistic therapists. All Members of the Guild of Professional Beauty Therapists work to a strict code of ethics.

British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (BABTAC)

Established in Gloucester in 1977, BABTAC are the premier UK association for beauty, as well as one of the longest standing and influential bodies for Beauty and Holistic Therapies. It concerns itself with the wellbeing of its Members, regulation of the industry and public welfare. Headed by a Council of industry professionals, they also offer beauty expertise, a rigorous ethical code and a professional practice standard.

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