What is a French Pedicure?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

A French pedicure is much like a French manicure, the main difference being that the particular style of polish is applied to the toenails instead of the fingernails. This kind of pedicure is marked by nails that are polished with two colors. The first color that is applied is a neutral translucent color that is close to peach in tone. This first color is applied over the entire nail. The second color that is applied is pure white.

Toenails with a French pedicure.
Toenails with a French pedicure.

The key feature of a French manicure or pedicure is the application of the white nail polish, which is painted in a thin line to the very top of the nail. It is usually the portion of the fingernail that extends just beyond the bed of the fingernail. Depending on the length of one's nails, the width of the band of white polish will vary.

Most spas include foot massages as part of their pedicure treatments.
Most spas include foot massages as part of their pedicure treatments.

Many women choose to have a French pedicure at the beginning of warm weather months so that their feet look nice in sandals and open-toed shoes. Other women maintain a French pedicure all year long. A French pedicure, as compared to a pedicure done with a vibrant color of nail polish, looks more natural and leaves the feet looking neat and well-cared for. Some prefer this look to the look of toenails painted with bright pinks or reds, which are common shades of nail polish.

Many women choose to have a French pedicure at the beginning of warm weather months.
Many women choose to have a French pedicure at the beginning of warm weather months.

In addition to the application of polish, it is common for pedicure treatments to include a number of other treatments for the feet. Most spas include skin buffing, callus removal, and a foot massage in their pedicure treatments. It is also possible to have reflexology incorporated into a spa pedicure. Some spas also offer paraffin treatments for clients who have particularly dry skin on their feet. These treatments are often options for spa clients who have booked French pedicures as well as pedicures that only require a single color of nail polish.

Some day spas offer reflexology as part of a pedicure treatment package.
Some day spas offer reflexology as part of a pedicure treatment package.

It is not impossible to give oneself a French pedicure at home. The key difficulty is getting an even white line across the tops of each of the nails. There are a number of kits that can be purchase with tools for at-home French pedicures. These kits are quite common and can be found at many drugstores and pharmacies. At-home kits are a good option for people who want the look of a French pedicure but don't want to pay spa prices.

Many women like to get a French pedicure when they know they'll be wearing open-toed footwear.
Many women like to get a French pedicure when they know they'll be wearing open-toed footwear.
Feet may be soaked prior to a pedicure.
Feet may be soaked prior to a pedicure.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


When I noticed a friend had her toe nails painted in an alternative french pedicure design, with the tips in a bright color, I decided to try it out.

I'm not very keen on people touching my feet as they are very ticklish, but I was OK with passing on the foot massage they offer as a bonus.

Turns out that I couldn't have any kind of treatment, as I have two fungal toe nails! The shop owner was very kind and polite about it but I felt mortified. I had no idea that infected toe nails can't take polish. Plus it would be unfair to expect people to work on them.

I'm looking into laser treatment, so maybe next year I can finally have myself a French pedicure on perfect feet!


@Sara007 - Doing a French pedicure can be one of the most difficult things to do yourself, but after getting some tips from a nail artist friend, and watching her work, I have tackled the problem.

First off, it is a good idea to do the white tips free hand. I know that sounds crazy, as those little guidelines look helpful, but they just end up crinkling, and getting stuck to everything.

Next, is you have a tough time using the nail polish brush, either get a nail polish pen, or use a real brush just for your nail polish.

My friend has a set of paintbrushes that an artist would use, in every small shape you can imagine.

First, make the line in one stroke and don’t worry if it is a bit sloppy. Then fill a small container with nail polish remover. Dip a brush that is shaped like the curve of your nail in it. Then use this to work at the bottom of the line until it is a shape you like.

When you’re done, let the line dry, and apply a clear coat over the whole thing, looks great.


Can anyone give me some tips on how to get my French pedicure looking great on my own? I really want to do it myself.


Visiting a nail salon has been something I do on special occasions. Sometimes, I receive a gift certificate for a salon. And sometimes, I just want to treat myself.

Anyway, the part I really enjoy about getting a pedicure is the paraffin treatment. It feels so good.

I like both the French manicure and the French pedicure. The white strip looks so classy and so "French." I have used French manicure kits at home. As long as I take enough time and am careful, they come out quite well.

At home French pedicure kits are great, but nothing beats going to the salon and being pampered.


I have learned that whenever I need my French pedicure that I do not –repeat, do not – have the skills to make that happen.

I had decided that we needed to cut some corners moneywise and that a good place to do that was at the local nail salon. After all, I had seen these little French pedicure kits at our local drugstore. Why not just try that instead, I thought. Surely, I could do this.

Okay – I was very, very wrong. I ended up with little French tips glued to my hands, feet and legs. My toddler ended up with one glued to his diaper. There was glue and goop and a huge mess everywhere, and my toes looked ridiculous!

The tips that I did manage to apply to the correct area were turned slightly at odd angles, making my toes look somehow unsymmetrical. Plus, I didn’t get the usual petting that I always loved when my toes were done at the salon. Boo!

Then my daughter, who thinks that she must do everything mommy does, had a tantrum all over the feet I had just slaved over because I wouldn’t put French tips on her toes, too.

Nightmare! This mommy decided to cut corners someplace else.


The look of a perfect French pedicure is definitely one that I love, especially in the summer. I don’t know, I’ve just got this thing about my feet always looking attractive. The rest of me could look crazy, with two kids and a sweet puppy running around all of the time – but my feet must look nice.

The thing about the French manicure is that I also have an excuse to give my husband the tab for a happy session at our local salon, which has an awesome nail technician. It’s very rewarding for me to know that I’ve earned that sort of special treatment by being a great mom and wife. And, my husband gets rewarded with nice, soft feet that are completely sexy.

Love, love, love a French pedi!

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