When you think about it, your feet go through a lot every day. It shouldn’t be a surprise then to see a little wear and tear, particularly when it comes to hard, dry, flaky feet and cracked skin. In fact, tough dead skin on the feet is quite common, but the good news is it’s often easy to fix. You don’t have to go to a pro for a pedicure either, since there are several solutions that remove dead skin from feet that can be done with home remedies.
If you’re wondering what causes hard, dry skin on your feet, there are a few reasons. Feet naturally exfoliate dead skin cells, so that hardness could be an accumulation of that. A lack of moisture will compound the dry dead skin issue, as well as friction from running or walking, especially if you don’t regularly scrub your feet. We tend to ignore our feet more during the winter, when the elements are much harsher, leading to a buildup of hard and dry skin. Another potential cause is your feet develop hard skin to prevent blisters, since they’re always in motion when you’re walking.
There are different types of dry skin that could be causing hardness. One of the most common is a callus, which forms when hard skin thickens over a dry area. (That’s what makes them so common for runners and athletes.) Corns are smaller than calluses and are typically found on the toes, most commonly the little toe. Friction is most often the cause, and corns are common for regular high heel wearers.
Though calluses and corns are usually harmless, if they become super-dry and crack, leading to pain and possibly bleeding, then they can trigger bacterial infections. That’s why it’s important to treat hardened skin, since over time it can become even drier, possibly leading to swelling and cracks.
In most cases, dry skin can be removed at home. However, if you have an extreme case, see a professional or consult a podiatrist (aka a foot doctor). Sometimes underlying conditions like athlete’s foot, psoriasis or atopic dermatitis could be causing hard, dry feet.
These are the best at-home treatments to remove dead skin from your feet.
1. Pumice stone
A natural lava stone, pumice stones are a popular way to remove callouses and dead skin from your feet. For best results, let your feet soak in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes before getting started. Easy to use, all you have to do is dip the pumice stone in warm water, then gently move it in circular motions on your foot to remove the dead skin from your feet. Be sure to stop as soon as you remove the top layer of dead skin (redness or bleeding means you’ve definitely gone too far!), then apply lotion or a foot cream to finish. Never use a pumice stone on broken skin or an injured area.
2. Foot scrub
Easy to find at drugstores and pharmacies, foot scrubs physically exfoliate dead skin from your feet. Simply apply a scrub directly to your foot and rub it in with your hand, sponge or a scrub brush. Once you’re done, rinse your feet thoroughly with water and apply lotion to lock in moisture.
3. Paraffin wax
You can do this as an add-on at most salons after a pedicure or go the DIY route at home. Paraffin wax is a type of soft wax that’s melted at around 125°F, which is warm enough to be effective but not so hot that it will burn your skin. For the treatment, your feet are dipped into paraffin wax a few times until a few layers are applied, then your feet are wrapped in plastic. After the wax hardens, the plastic is removed and the dead skin on your feet goes along with it, leaving your tootsies soft and smooth.
However, paraffin wax isn’t an option for everyone, specifically if you have an open cut, sore or rash on your feet; poor blood circulation; or if you have lost feeling in your feet. If you’re doing the treatment at home, make sure to carefully regulate the temperature of the wax with a thermometer to avoid burning yourself.
4. Epsom salt soak or scrub
Epsom salt—a crystal form of magnesium sulfate, which is a mineral compound—is a great natural remedy for removing dead skin from feet. Pour Epsom salt into water and let it dissolve, then soak your feet to exfoliate skin. Use half a cup of Epsom salt in a foot bath or a full cup for a full tub full of warm water. After 20 minutes, you can use a foot brush or pumice stone to help remove dead skin from your feet. You can also create a foot scrub by combining a handful of Epsom salt with a tablespoon of oil or bath oil, then rub it onto feet with your hands or a bath sponge. Before you rinse your feet thoroughly, remove as much dead skin as possible.
5. Vinegar soak
A vinegar soak helps soften and remove dead skin as well as repair cracked feet. Practically any type of vinegar will do the trick and you likely already have apple cider vinegar or white vinegar in your kitchen. Use one parts vinegar to two parts of cool water, letting feet soak for 5 to 10 minutes. For extra oomph, you can use a pumice stone to remove the loose skin. After the soak, apply lotion to seal in the moisture and then put on socks.
6. Heel file
Similar to a pumice stone, a heel file or emery board is used to exfoliate and smooth skin, as well as to remove calluses. First, soak the area of dry skin in warm water, then use the heel file until the skin softens and comes off. Once you’re done, rinse off feet, apply lotion and put on socks to keep the moisture in.
7. Wear the right shoes
Too-tight or ill-fitting shoes are often the culprit behind calluses. Make sure your shoes fit you properly, especially running shoes, checking that there’s at least an inch of space from your toes to prevent blisters and calluses. Wearing the same pair of shoes every day can also cause feet problems, so keep a few pairs in regular rotation.
8. Stop friction
The easiest way to treat calluses is to prevent them in the first place. If you know where your feet are prone to getting them, such as along your toes, place a moleskin there before you put on your socks, which will prevent your shoes from rubbing there.