Even if you go for regular pedicures, dead skin on the feet is something you will certainly struggle with from time to time. If you’ve never paid much attention to your foot care, dry skin can lead to peeling skin and, even worse, the dreaded cracked heels.
While attempting to peel off your dead skin is not recommended, there are other highly effective methods to remove all those flaky skin bits, as well as ways to prevent dead skin from building up in the same area. Keep reading to find out what causes the dead skin on your feet, as well as what you can do to get your smooth heels back!
What causes dead skin on feet
Wondering why you still struggle with so much dead skin on your feet even though you regularly go for pedicures and foot massages? The key actually lies in your daily routine!
Dead skin on foot is mostly a result of your skin becoming too dry, thus flaking off. Dry, cracked, and flaking skin is especially common on the heel and soles because these areas have fewer oil glands than skin elsewhere on the body.
Other factors that may cause dry skin on feet include:
- Irritation: Standing for too long or wearing poorly fitting shoes can put constant pressure on specific areas of the feet and cause friction of the skin, resulting in dry and calloused skin.
- Heat and humidity: Closed shoes create an extremely hot and humid environment for the feet, especially in Singapore’s climate. Heat and humidity draw moisture from the skin.
- Unsuitable body washes and soaps: Body care products that contain harsh chemicals or irritants can strip moisture from the skin. Failing to wash excess soap off the feet can also cause these problems.
- Ageing: Over time, the skin loses its ability to retain water, becoming thinner and less plump, which is why it may be more prevalent as you grow older.
Dry skin on the feet may also occur as a result of medical conditions, such as Athlete’s foot, eczema, psoriasis, and diabetes. These would require medications in order to tackle the root cause, but will still benefit from regular foot care to get rid of existing dead skin on the feet.
How to get rid of dead skin on feet
1. Chemical exfoliation
Chemical exfoliation is one of the most popular ways of getting rid of dead skin on foot, partly because the results tend to be very obvious, which can be an oddly satisfying way of doing self-care.
Just like chemical peels for your face that contain acids to dissolve dead skin, many foot peels contain similar chemical exfoliants to loosen up dead skin until it’s literally peeling. These usually take the form of liquids and contain ingredients that dissolve dead cells on the surface of the skin, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acid.
That being said, some foot peels may contain artificial fragrances and alcohols that can irritate sensitive skin, so it is important to check the list of ingredients for any potential allergens or irritants before buying a foot peel. If you require a gentler foot peel that’s not as heavy-duty, you can use chemical exfoliators which are labelled as suitable for facial use.
Try: Holika Holika Baby Silky Foot One Shot Peeling
You may have seen many incredulous (and gross) photos of dead skin peeling off the feet before, and many of these are actually a result of using this famous foot peel from K-beauty brand Holika Holika.
This is one of the early pioneers of foot peels and is also one of the most highly-rated ones in the market. Enriched with exfoliating fruit extracts that gently buff away dead skin cells, the formula is designed to be poured into a pair of supplied ‘socks’ and left for an hour.
It is said to take about a week for all your dead skin to come off, after which you’ll be left with silky smooth and soft feet.
Get Holika Holika Baby Silky Foot One Shot Peeling at SGD9.50 from Shopee.
2. Physical exfoliation
Aside from chemical exfoliation, another common method used in salons and spas is physical exfoliation. This uses a rubbing or scrubbing action to remove dead skin and calluses.
Physical exfoliation tools, such as foot files, pedicure bits and pumice stones, can significantly reduce skin buildup much faster. However, take note that physical exfoliation can be very aggressive, so it can only be done on the bottom and sides of the feet.
Here is a simple guide to the steps for physical exfoliation of your feet:
- First, soak the feet in warm water to soften the dead skin.
- Wet your physical exfoliation tool with warm water.
- Gently rub the tool over the dead skin or callus. If you are using a pumice stone, rub it in circular motions; for foot files, use gentle back-and-forth motions.
- Rinse the dead skin off the feet. Repeat step three as necessary.
- Pat the feet dry with a clean towel.
Try: Hydrea London Natural Pumice Stone
Touted as a natural way to soften dry and hard skin, Hydrea London’s Natural Pumice Stone is a well-loved physical exfoliation tool that you can use in the bath or shower to scrub away the dead skin on your feet.
With continued use, the Natural Pumice Stone from Hydrea London promises to remove even the hardest and driest of skin that has accumulated on your feet over the years!
Get Hydrea London Natural Pumice Stone at SGD5.50 from Lookfantastic.
3. Do a foot soak
Here’s another method that is commonly done at spas, which you will love if you need a pampering session as well.
Soaking the feet in warm water helps to soothe and loosen dry skin while improving blood circulation to the feet, which also helps to prevent dry skin in the future.
Instead of just soaking your feet in normal water, consider adding other beneficial ingredients to your foot soak to get the most out of it. These ingredients include Epsom salts, honey, oatmeal, lemon juice, and peppermint essential oil.
Tip: if you have mild athlete’s foot, add a small amount of vinegar to your warm water. Vinegar has powerful antimicrobial properties that may help disinfect the feet and even eliminate foot odour.
Try: Herbivore Botanicals Calm – Ylang Ylang + Vanilla Dead Sea Soaking Salts
Keep your feet smooth and your mind clear with the ultimate self-indulgence: Herbivore Botanicals’ soaking salts.
The ultra-fine, nutrient-rich Pacific Sea Salts and detoxifying Himalayan pink salt crystals come with a revitalising blend of Ylang ylang essential oil (maintains skin’s moisture and oil balance) and vanilla oil (renowned for soothing properties and having a calming effect on the mind).
Some users have also claimed that this not only smells heavenly but also manages to relieve all foot pain – an affordable and convenient alternative to luxurious foot massages!
Get Herbivore Botanicals Calm – Ylang Ylang + Vanilla Dead Sea Soaking Salts at SGD28 from Sephora.
4. Moisturise your feet, especially after you exfoliate
Even after you’ve sloughed away the dead skin cells, your foot care routine is not quite finished yet – you have to lock in moisture with a hydrating moisturiser.
Those who do not have very serious issues with dry and/or dead skin on their feet, or suffer from sensitive skin that does not react well to chemicals or manual scrubbing, can consider skipping exfoliation and concentrate on getting their feet well-moisturised.
While it is recommended to get a product made especially for your feet, you can also opt for a regular body moisturising lotion to get the job done.
Tip: apply your moisturiser while your feet are damp!
Try: Sephora Collection Foot Mask
With close to 400 positive reviews on Sephora, this foot mask will give your dry and cracked feet the moisturising it needs to stay smooth and supple.
You can think of these as sheet masks for your feet, except that they come in the form of socks soaked in rich formulas to keep your feet moisturised in as little as 20 minutes.
The lavender variant contains lavender extract and menthol to further alleviate fatigue and aching feet, whereas the almond variant soothes and nourishes dry feet and softens rough areas with almond extract. If you have a very serious struggle with dry skin on feet, we recommend that you opt for the latter for maximum results.
Get Sephora Collection Foot Mask at SGD7 each on Sephora.
5. Wear moisturising gel-lined socks to bed
If you find that your heels remain cracked even though you regularly do all the above, or if you’re in a very dry climate where even moisturisers barely have any effect on your feet, try using moisturising gel-lined socks.
Gel-lined socks contain natural oils and vitamins that help hydrate and repair dry skin on the feet. Just slip on a pair and wear them around the house for a few hours, or even to sleep. After that, you can place the socks in the washing machine, let them air-dry, and then wear again when you feel that your feet need more moisturising.
Try: AYAOQIANG Moisturizing Gel Spa Socks
Affordable, easy to use, and hypoallergenic, this set of gel socks is one of the most highly-rated gel-lined socks on Amazon.
The deep moisturising gel in the socks is formulated with vitamin E and a blend of mineral oils, including rose oil, grape seed oil, and olive oil, designed to enrich your skin.
In addition, while most other socks only cover the heel (which is most prone to dryness and cracking), this sock covers all five of your toes are enclosed so that they each get targeted treatment for maximum relief from dryness, plus cushioning to prevent the formation of calluses.
Made from silica gel and spandex, each pair is reusable and can even be worn regularly over an incredible lifespan of seven months!
Get AYAOQIANG Moisturizing Gel Spa Socks at SGD24.31 on Amazon.
Try: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
Aside from wearing pre-made moisturising socks, you can also get similar effects by applying moisturiser on your feet, and then wearing cotton socks for a few hours to lock in the moisture.
Consider using a super affordable holy grail – the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly – to keep your feet well-moisturised for hours on end.
Take note that it takes a while for the jelly to be soaked into the skin, and that you should wash your feet after removing your socks.
How to prevent dead skin on feet
While we have shared some of the most effective ways to get rid of dead skin on feet, it is even more crucial to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Here are some good practices that you should take note of, as well as changes to be made to your current lifestyle:
- Practise proper foot hygiene regularly – this includes thoroughly cleaning the feet, removing dead skin, and keeping the skin hydrated with a good moisturiser.
- Avoid body care products that contain alcohol, added fragrances and colours, and other potential irritants.
- Wear shoes that fit correctly.