[Kelli Glazebrook is back with another informative post on how to care for our skin during the long, scorching summer months. For more helpful tips, read her post “There’s a Reason You Hate Sunscreen, But Here’s How to Fix That.”]
Summer is in full swing. During this time, many of us bare our feet in sandals, exposing our heels and toes to the elements. And let’s face it: it’s not pretty out there. It doesn’t take long for those adorable new sandals to rub our feet the wrong way or for our heels to become cracked and our toes dry on the tenth straight day of 100-degree weather.
It’s time to get serious about foot care. There are three major areas to think about when dealing with feet: exfoliation, moisturization, and protection.
Exfoliation is often misunderstood. Some people use manual methods to remove dead skin and cracks in the heel. Online videos will show you people slicing away skin with razor blades and even using sharp files to grate their skin like cheese. These methods can be dangerous; it’s easy to injure yourself and you might introduce infection into the foot. Leave the cutting to the experts and see a physician instead.
There are ways to exfoliate your skin that are safer than slicing and dicing. If your feet need only a little intervention, use a good salt or sugar scrub. Make a scrub at home if you want to save money, or splurge a bit and buy one. Some of my favorite scrubs are:
- DIY sugar or salt scrub made with ½ cup sugar or coarse salt, ½ cup of olive oil or coconut oil, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Tree Hut has a line of affordable, yet very effective scrubs. I like the coconut lime, which you can order online or get at a nearby Ulta.
- The Body Shop always has great scrubs on offer, and usually a sale too. Right now, this Piñita Colada scrub is rocking my world.
- Lush’s Ocean Salt scrub is a cult classic. It has two different kinds of salt for maximum effectiveness. And the lime scent doesn’t hurt. Do you notice a theme in my lime recommendations?
Tip: It is a good idea to use a scrub a few times a week or so to keep feet in good shape. It’s very easy to just extend the scrub down your leg, especially useful when you are exfoliating before shaving. (You are exfoliating before shaving, right?)
If you need something a bit heftier than a scrub, use a heel cream. These products have an exfoliating agent paired with a heavy, emollient (moisturizing) cream. You apply the cream overnight to gently break down dead skin and repair cracked heels. Some of my favorites are:
- Soap & Glory Heel Genius sinks well into the skin and has a minty-citrus smell. Bonus: you can now buy this line at Target.
- Gehwol Med Callus Cream is much less scented and available at drugstores.
Tip: Wearing socks at night over the heel cream helps keep the product off your sheets and close to your foot, where it can do the most good.
Now, if have a lot of dry skin, cracked heels, or even problems like corns and bunions, foot peels are for you. Like facial peels, they literally peel away dead skin using fruit extracts as well as known skin exfoliators like glycolic acid.
Wait a moment! Before you go running for the hills, be aware that this process is entirely painless. You start with clean feet that you’ve soaked and dried. Then, you wear little plastic booties filled with the liquid peel and you keep them on for quite some time, at least over an hour. This is a great time to get caught up on an episode or two of Game of Thrones. Then you remove and rinse your feet. They will look exactly the same.
Now the magic has begun. Sometime after the third or fourth day, your feet will begin to peel. Sheets of old, dead skin will peel off for a few days. If you want to be entertained and grossed out, just scroll to the bottom of the post where I’ve embedded some great foot peeling videos. You’re welcome.
At the end of this process, you will have the smoothest and most pampered feet. They will feel amazing. Some of my favorite foot peels are:
- The Holika Holika Baby Silky Foot One Shot Peel works great and doesn’t dry out my feet too much.
- The Etude House BeBe Foot Mask is perhaps a tad gentler than the Holika, but will still cause shedding.
Tip: You need to pre-plan this exfoliation. Obviously you don’t want your feet looking like shedding snakes when you are on your vacation in Hawaii. Start the peeling process a couple of weeks before you need your best feet.
Once you’ve exfoliated your feet, moisturize the baby skin you’ve uncovered. You’ll want to keep this new skin in good shape. Use your personal preference to choose from the many options, including coconut oil, thick foot creams, and even cuticle cream for extremely dry heels.
The important thing is to cover your feet in a layer of hydration. During the day, a lighter cream is more advisable, but at night you can really goop them up with a thick layer of cream, pop on some socks, and let the cream work its magic while you sleep.
Some of my favorite foot moisturizers are:
- An organic, unrefined coconut oil does great things for dry, cracked feet. I buy mine on Amazon, but you can find coconut oil almost anywhere now.
- Palmer’s Foot Magic is cheap and deeply moisturizing. And you can buy it at Target, a favorite place of mine.
- Eucerin Intensive Repair Foot Crème Fragrance Free is especially good for those sensitive to smells.
Tip: Moisturizing your feet is a great time to give them a little massage. While working the cream into your feet, glide your thumbs on the tops and sides of your feet. Gently glide your fingers in between your toes and rub them. Form a ball with your fist and rub the arch of your foot and end at the heel. Alternatively, have a friend or significant other do this step for you. Either way, you might be surprised how relaxed this makes you and is a calming ritual right before bed.
So now you have baby-soft feet. How can you keep them this way as long as possible?
- Keep a pumice stone or foot file in the shower. When your feet are warm from the water, give them a once over with the stone or file—you can use a bit of shower gel to help get the file to glide over the foot.
- Soak your feet in the tub or a basin of warm water with some essential oils. The warm water softens the skin on your feet and keeps it from turning hard and calloused. The essential oil is calming and something like peppermint oil can help keep your feet smelling great. You can multi-task and put on a face mask while soaking your feet and even watch another episode of Game of Thrones.
- Be kind to your feet. Give them a break from the high heels and uncomfortable sandals. It’s difficult to maintain your feet if you are constantly putting them through the ringer. Choosing comfortable shoes and rotating out heels and ill-fitting footwear can go a long way towards smoother feet.
Here are some of my favorite products for keeping my feet in top shape:
- A lava rock pumice stone is one the best I’ve used. It lasts forever too.
- Essential oils can work wonders for your mood. Try a couple of drops in your basin while soaking your feet, or even a drop or two in your shower. It is like having a mini-spa experience for cheap. There are many blends to choose from, but I like this one.
Tip: If your feet tend to sweat a lot, a bit of anti-perspirant spray can help keep them fresh all day long.
Now your feet are ready to brave the worst of the Fresno heat, my sweet summer child.
And as promised, a link to the foot peeling video. Fair warning: If you don’t like feet or peeling skin, this is not the video for you.