How A Medical Pedicure Revitalized My Neglected Feet
After 18 months without a pedicure, one writer tried a medical-grade treatment to transform her tired feet.
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Despite the fact that I have heard from many friends and colleagues that they felt perfectly safe going to a nail salon for a manicure and/or pedicure during the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t made it in for a service. In fact, I haven’t had a professional pedicure since the summer of 2019. Yes, I am a beauty editor who loves to paint her fingernails on a weekly basis and methodically layers creams and balms on her hands every night while pretty much neglecting everything that happens below the ankles.
For context, I live in New York City (which means I walk just about everywhere) and my go-to form of exercise during the pandemic has been socially distanced runs around my neighborhood. Needless to say, my feet have seen better days. So, you can imagine my delight when I was invited to Medi Pedi — the midtown Manhattan mecca for medical-grade pedicures — to try the signature “medicure” service that is customized for every client depending on their needs.
What Is a Medical Pedicure?
For starters, you might be wondering what differentiates a medical-grade pedicure from one you would get at your local nail salon. Perhaps the most obvious distinctions are the lack of water and nail polish, though there is plenty more that make medical pedicures unique. “Medical nail technicians are trained to detect and treat harder to deal with ailments like athlete’s foot, fungus, corns, and more,” explains Marcela Correa, a licensed professional medical pedicurist and founder of Medi Pedi. “Even when it comes to basic nail cutting, knowing the proper technique will prevent the nail from getting ingrown and causing the client more trouble in the end.”
Whether you take great care in tending to your feet or treat them more as an afterthought, little issues can turn into bigger problems if they are not addressed properly. “More often than not, the reason why small ailments turn into more dangerous ones is due to lack of knowledge,” Correa says. “When getting a medical pedicure, not only do your feet get the makeover they need, you leave with the knowledge of how to maintain them healthy for a longer period of time.”
A medical pedicure also has both immediate and long-term effects. “The treatment has many amazing benefits, with the main one being the prevention of serious infections,” Correa shares. The hygienic standards are — surprise, surprise — medical-grade, which assures the treatment is safe and effective for everyone (including those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, she says). “Not worrying about if your tools are clean or if your nail tech knows about that weird thing on your nail gives you room to relax and enjoy the experience,” Correa adds.
When I arrived at Medi Pedi, I was greeted by the masked office manager who immediately took my temperature and offered me hand sanitizer. I was then whisked away to my treatment room as to avoid unnecessary interaction with other clients. While Correa and her team have made some adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene and privacy have always been a priority.
Correa describes her signature service as “a facial for your feet.” I would liken it to a no-frills facial — you know, the kind that is all about results — in the best way. The non-invasive, dry treatment lasts about an hour and focuses on the hygiene and aesthetics of the toenails and soles of the feet. It can target and treat athlete’s foot, corns, calluses, dry and cracked heels, ingrown and overgrown toenails, nail fungus, nail discoloration, and more.
Step 1: Cutting & Filing the Nails
Correa’s long-time associate Alejandra began my treatment by asking me if I was experiencing any pain, as she creamed my heels and placed (ingenious) silicone slings on top. I was not, and she quickly got to work manually cutting and filing my nails and cuticles. When she noticed pesky corns on each of my pinky toes, she cut them out with ease.
Step 2: Buffing the Nails & Cuticles
Next up? The electric nail file to buff my nails and remove the buildup of dry, dead skin. There were different attachments used for different toes, and she asked me to tell her if I experienced any pain or discomfort along the way (I didn’t). I had a small crack in my right big toenail that she was able to smooth, and the file removed all traces of surface stains from the nail plate. A dollop of cuticle oil on each toe started to rehydrate the freshly filed skin around my nail beds, and she finished up this part of the process by removing the silicone slings from my heels.
Step 3: The Diagnosis
At this point, Correa came into the room and immediately detected the very early stages of athlete’s foot on my soles. She recommended I pick up an over-the-counter antifungal cream on the way home to nip it in the bud (needless to say, I took her advice). She also asked if I walk around barefoot at home. I sheepishly told her I do. She thanked me for my honesty and told me she could tell. Even so, she said my feet were in good shape. I thought she might be trying to make me feel better, but Alejandra confirmed the damage was mostly cosmetic.
Step 4: Buffing the Bottoms
Now it was time to focus on the bottoms of my feet. Correa applied moisturizer (a must before buffing, as not to damage healthy skin) and got to work on my heels with a single-use foot file. She recommends her clients do this once a week at home, filing in the same direction as the cracks. Her one rule? Skip the pumice stone because it harbors bacteria. She buffed my soles as well, and it’s safe to say they’ve never been smoother. All the while, she placed my shoes under a UV lamp for 15 minutes to kill any bacteria that was causing them to be, in her words, “sick.”
Step 5: Finishing Touches
As I mentioned, there is no polish with this pedicure, but that doesn’t mean your feet don’t look fabulous when you leave. Alejandra finished my treatment by giving my nails one last buff and shine that made them gleam more than any high-shine top coat ever has.
Nearly two months later, all traces of athlete’s foot are gone, my cuticles remain crisp, and my toenails are still shining bright like diamonds. Correa says she sees clients with painful ingrown nails and corns every four to six weeks — but every three months will do for most. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.
“To maintain an independent and pain-free lifestyle, our feet must be in tip-top shape,” Correa insists. What may seem like a mild concern (think: discoloration or peeling) can worsen into time-consuming conditions that were easily preventable. “Things like ingrown nails, thick nails, and cracked heels can cause pain that eventually affects every aspect of your life,” she explains. “Unbeknownst to many, most back problems start with the way we walk. You can think about that next time you shift your weight to avoid that painful nail that's been bothering you.”
Her main advice? Wear comfortable shoes and don’t neglect your feet. “Caring for your feet is as vital as caring for your teeth, skin, or any other part of your body,” she says. Noted.
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