What causes dead skin on the feet?
Dead or loose skin forming on the feet is your foot’s way of naturally exfoliating and shedding dead skin cells.
Dead skin can build up because of a lack of moisture if your feet are constantly in closed shoes or socks, or from the friction of walking or running. It can also form if you don’t regularly care for, exfoliate, or scrub your feet.
If you suspect that’s the case, see your doctor for treatment. Otherwise, you may want to remove dead skin for cosmetic reasons or because it’s more comfortable.
Here are some options for removing dead skin.
Methods to try
1. Pumice stone
A pumice stone is a natural lava stone that can help remove dead skin and callouses from your feet.
- Dip the pumice stone in warm water. You can also soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes to soften them.
- Gently move the stone in a circular or sideways motion around your foot to remove dead skin. Focus on removing the top layer of the skin and not the entire area of dead skin, which will help promote healthy cell turnover.
- Apply lotion or oil afterward to help soften your feet.
Never use a pumice stone on injured or sore areas.
2. Paraffin wax
Many nail salons offer paraffin wax as an add-on for a pedicure treatment.
Paraffin wax is a soft wax that’s melted at a medium temperature of around 125°F (51°C). The wax shouldn’t be hot enough to burn or irritate your skin.
You can also do a paraffin wax treatment at home using an at-home paraffin wax bath, or you can melt the wax in a sauce pan and then transfer it to a bowl for dipping your feet.
During a paraffin wax treatment, you’ll dip your feet in the wax several times. After several layers of wax are applied, wrap your feet in plastic.
After the wax hardens, you can remove the wax. Any dead skin on your feet will be removed along with the wax. Your feet should feel soft afterward.
Do not use paraffin wax if:
- you have poor blood circulation
- you have a rash or open sore on your feet
- you’ve lost feeling in your feet, such as from diabetic neuropathy
If you use paraffin wax at home, be very cautious and monitor the temperature of the wax with a candy thermometer.
3. Foot scrub
Most pharmacies and drug stores sell different foot scrubs over the counter. Look for one with granules that will help scrub away dead skin.
Or, you can even make your own by diluting two tablespoons of sea salt into equal amounts of baby oil and lemon juice.
To use a foot scrub, apply the scrub directly to your foot and rub gently with your palm. Or use with a foot scrub brush or sponge to remove dead skin.
Rinse scrub thoroughly with warm water after use.
4. Oatmeal scrub
You can use oatmeal to make an at-home exfoliator to remove dead skin.
To make the scrub, mix equal parts oatmeal with rose water or milk to make a paste. To use:
- Apply the scrub to your feet and let set for up to 20 to 30 minutes.
- Use a foot brush to exfoliate your feet.
- Rinse with cold water and let your feet dry.
- Apply a foot cream.
Perform this treatment every other day for best results.
5. Epsom salt soak or scrub
Epsom salt is a crystal form of magnesium sulfate. Magnesium sulfate is a mineral compound.
You can soak your feet in Epsom salt that’s dissolved in water. It can help exfoliate and smooth dry, cracked feet. This, in turn, may help remove dead skin.
- Create an Epsom salt soak by pouring 1/2 cup of salt into a footbath or a full cup into a bathtub full of warm water.
- Relax and soak for up to 20 minutes.
- You may use a pumice stone or foot brush after to help remove dry skin.
To create an Epsom salt scrub for your feet, in the shower or bath, mix a handful of Epsom salt with a tablespoon of bath or olive oil in your hand or on a bath sponge.
Rub gently over wet skin to exfoliate, soften, and remove dead skin before rinsing off with water.
6. Vinegar soak
Vinegar soaks may help soften feet and allow you to remove dead, dry, or cracked skin.
You can use almost any type of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar are popular options, and you may already have them in your kitchen.
Use cool water to create the soak, as hot water may dry out the skin more. Use 1 parts vinegar to 2 parts water as a general guideline. Soak feet for 5 to 10 minutes to start.
If desired, follow the soak by using a pumice stone to remove dry or loose skin using the guidelines above. Apply moisturizer, petroleum jelly, or coconut oil before putting on socks to seal in moisture after doing a vinegar soak.
Only do this treatment a few times a week as it can be further drying on the skin.
7. Baby foot peel
Baby Foot Peel is a popular, 1-hour, at-home treatment to remove dead skin and smooth your feet.
To use, you’ll apply the provided plastic “booties” to your feet for up to one hour. They contain a gel solution of fruit acid and other moisturizers that may help dead skin “shed” from your feet.
Follow all instructions for use on the package:
- After wetting your feet, you’ll secure the plastic “booties” to your feet with adhesive tape.
- Leave the booties on for up to one hour.
- Remove booties and wash your feet gently with soap and water.
You’ll need to wet your feet daily in order for peeling to occur over the next three to seven days.
While there haven’t been any scientific studies supporting the benefits or efficacy of this treatment, it has a very popular following online of loyal users.
Use with caution
Baking soda soak
Baking soda is a popular at-home treatment for the removal of dead skin from the feet.
But some dermatologists warn that baking soda can be irritating, cause redness, and dry out the skin further. That’s because it may disrupt the skin’s natural pH balance.
If you have any skin sensitivities or allergies, don’t use baking soda on your feet. Always check with your doctor or podiatrist before trying out a new treatment.
If you decide to use baking soda, only use a small amount (2-3 tablespoons) in a full footbath of warm water for 10-20 minutes.
After your soak, gently use a pumice stone or foot brush using the method mentioned above to remove dead skin. Apply plenty of moisturizer after.
If you experience any redness or irritation while soaking your feet, immediately remove them from the solution.
Lemon water soak
The acidity in lemon may help remove dead skin cells from your feet.
However, similarly to baking soda, using lemon on your feet may interfere with the skin’s natural pH balance and lead to more dryness and dead skin.
Avoid lemon if you:
- have any cuts or open sores on your foot
- have sensitive skin
- experience any redness and irritation
Check with a podiatrist or dermatologist before using lemon, or if you have any questions or concerns.
If you decide to use this method:
- Prepare a footbath with warm water.
- Squeeze in lemon juice from one lemon. You can also leave pieces of lemon peel in the water.
- Soak your feet for up to 15 minutes.
- Use a foot brush to scrub dead skin off your feet.
- Wash and dry your feet completely. Apply a moisturizer or coconut oil, if desired.
Razor or scraper
Only allow a podiatrist or other trained medical professional to remove a callous or dead skin from your foot with a razor or scraper.
Do not use razors or scrapers on your feet at home. Doing so could cause damage to your foot or introduce another medical issue.
For example, if you accidentally cut yourself, you’re at risk for a bacterial infection.
If you’re concerned about removing dry or dead skin, see your doctor for alternative medication or at-home treatments.
The best way to prevent dead skin from forming on your feet is to moisturize regularly.
Ask a podiatrist to recommend therapeutic oils, ointments, or creams to help prevent your skin from drying out.
Avoid lotions that contain alcohol, which may dry out your feet more. Baby oil or petroleum jelly are usually safe.
Soak your feet a few times a week and use a pumice stone or foot brush to gently exfoliate off dead skin.
Avoid hot showers or baths, and rinse in warm water to prevent skin from drying.
Dead skin is usually nothing to worry about. It can often be removed at home.
Always see your doctor or podiatrist if you have an excessive amount of dead skin, callouses, cracked skin, wounds, or rashes that don’t go away on their own or with home remedies.
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