Dry feet: how to get rid of hard, dead skin on your feet

From cracked heels to flaky skin, we’ve all experienced dry feet at some point. Here, a podiatrist explains how to treat hard, dry feet at home.

Self care becomes more entwined with skincare during the pandemic and we’re treating our faces and bodies more so than before. Whether it’s the use of a bi-weekly face mask or you’re investing in a luxurious body scrub, these areas are seeing a lot more love than a slightly less glamorous area: your feet.

And even if we aren’t currently barefoot on a beach or wearing sandals to the office, it’s important to look after our overall foot health all the time. As we spend a lot more time barefoot or wearing house slippers, our feet may be experiencing more pressure than its used to during lockdown, which can cause cracks and dry skin.

So, we asked Dr Bharti Rajput, podiatrist and Flextiol ambassador, to break down the best way to treat hard, dry skin on our feet during lockdown.

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What causes hard and dry skin on feet?

“The skin on our heels cracks for various reasons but mainly cracked heels develop due to a mixture of dryness and pressure. Sometimes if they’re spending a lot of time indoors or the heating is on, the skin texture can become a little bit dryer and that can often lead to cracks.

“Wearing open-back shoes in the summer time may cause the skin to crack as your bare heels are always hitting the back of the shoe which can cause a lot of pressure and then cracks at the same time.

“Cracked heels can also be caused by lack of vitamins in your diet, such as iron and zinc. The hair and the skin are very much made up of the same chemical components and iron and zinc playing important roles in hair and skin regeneration and repair.”

How can we prevent getting hard skin on our feet?

“To prevent getting hard skin on your feet, you should regularly use a specialised moisturising foot lotion or heel balm. Many people just use any kind of lotion on their feet but the skin on your feet is six times stronger than anywhere else on your body, so you need a specialised cream that can penetrate the layers.”

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What are the best types of tools for removing hard skin?

“The best type of tool is a foot file that resembles sandpaper on a stick. I find it better than an electric foot file because you are more in control of the amount of pressure you’re using. There is a fine line of how much you can take off and people tend to overdo it when they try to remove hard skin – they usually scrub too hard back and forth, especially with one of those metal cheese grater type of files, which is a definite no go.”

What ingredients should we look for in foot cream?

“I always recommend a cream that contains urea. Urea is a naturally occurring element in the skin that improves hydration by increasing the water uptake from the dermis. So, for those whose skin can be dry and lack natural moisturise, products containing urea are an effective way to replicate the hydration process.

“Also, have a good foot file to hand. There are a lot of different types of foot files, ones that look like cheese graters, electrical ones, or natural pumice ones, which will help remove some of the dry skin. This combined with a urea-based foot cream will allow your feet to be hydrated and reduce cracks and dryness.

“During the summertime, our feet can get a bit sweaty, so I would also recommend a good foot powder for in-between your toes. This helps to prevent any moisture build-up in-between toes, which can lead to conditions such as athlete’s foot.”

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What’s the most effective and safest way to remove hard skin from your feet?

“You can get rid of dry skin on your feet by using a foot file but always use it on a dry foot, never on a wet foot. When the skin is wet, it tends to become more rubbery. So on a dry foot, you can actually buff the skin down. Put a piece of kitchen towel or newspaper on the floor and you’ll get great pleasure in seeing white powdery hard skin getting rubbed off your feet.

“Then soak your feet in some water. You can add a bit of lemon or some salt, and give your feet a soak. Then what I always recommend is applying a urea-based foot cream if you have really dry skin on your feet, as it is medically proven to provide relief from dry, cracked skin on the heels and feet.

What’s the best way to trim and cut your toenails?

“The best approach is to cut your toenails straight across and try not to get all the white edge off. Leave a bit of the white edge as it is there to protect the area of your nail which acts as a protective seal for the skin. Also, if you cut them down too short you can start to get ingrown toenails.

“To do this, use toenail clippers, these are generally the best, and then use an emery board to get rid of any sharp edges.”

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