For those who deal with dry, cracked heels and feet, the idea of a simple pedicure solving the problem is laughable. In reality, the problem of calloused, dry and even cracking or bleeding heels is something that has to be addressed daily to be cured — and even then, it’s not always easy.
As board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman says, the first plan of action for people with dry, cracked heels is to address the cracks themselves and keep them clean.
“Once the crack has closed, you can use regular (but thick) creams on your heels. Begin by applying a rich moisturizer to your feet, let it soak in for a few moments, then apply a thick sock to trap the moisture in and prevent further damage while your skin heals,” Engelman explained. “I recommend repeating this every evening so your skin can heal overnight while you sleep.”
If your feet are dry but they aren’t quite cracked yet, Engelman says, it’s much easier to prevent damage than to fix it.
“Daily moisturizing is key to maintaining soft, healthy skin on the heels,” Engelman said, noting that urea is a great ingredient to look for in a foot cream. “It is an intensely hydrating, multipurpose ingredient found in ointments, moisturizers and other topical balms and salves.”
To avoid having to search through thousands of foot creams yourself to find the right one, here are 11 effective solutions for dry feet that you can purchase right now. No appointment required.
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1. Lano Golden Dry Skin Salve
This cream is a top recommendation from Engelman and is made with all-natural lanolin, vitamin E and Manuka honey, which soothes and repairs dry skin. “Apply a generous amount to dry areas, then cover with a sock to allow the product to really absorb,” Engelman said.
If you have painful, cracked heels that are bleeding or exposed, then it’s important to make sure you address those before moving on to general dryness. Engelman says using rich, occlusive moisturizers should help address the cracks. “First, clean the area with soap and water, then apply a healing ointment like Aquaphor, and protect the skin with a Band-Aid/bandage and socks,” Engelman explained, noting that after this step you can start applying a moisturizer like Lano Golden Dry Skin Salve each night.
“Foot soaks can be a great pre-exfoliation step, as long as you do not have any open cracks or injuries,” Engelman said, suggesting Purely Northwest tea tree oil foot soak, which contains antibacterial tea tree oil to hydrate and soften the skin. “After using a foot soak, buff away dead skin cells and calluses with a foot file that has disposable sides. Move the file vertically across dry skin, being sure not to over-exfoliate.”
Pro tip: Engelman said not to use a foot pumice, as this option can quickly collect and harbor bacteria, making it much less sanitary than a foot file with disposable sides.
Foot masks work in the same way face masks do. They may not transform your skin overnight, but they can certainly add some much-needed moisture. “Foot masks can also be a great way to get moisturizing ingredients to penetrate deeply into the skin barrier,” Engelman explained, suggesting Aveeno’s Repairing CICA Foot Mask as an intensely hydrating mask for dry skin.
You’ve probably heard that humidifiers are a game changer for skin in the drier months, and this applies to the skin on your feet, too.
“Running a humidifier while you sleep is also a great way to keep skin hydrated when you aren’t able to replenish moisture by drinking water,” Engelman said, noting that Canopy’s humidifier is easy to use and releases pure, clean hydration rather than mist and water, which can carry allergens.
According to licensed medical pedicurist and owner of Medi Pedi NYC, Marcela Correa, people with hardened, severely cracked heels should look for products containing not only urea but also salicylic acid. “These ingredients help exfoliate and remove dead skin while softening and moisturizing your feet,” Correa said. “Using a foot cream like Gehwol’s Soft Feet Cream, which contains urea, is great for maintaining soft feet and preventing dry cracked heels.”
Correa also suggests using a silicone heel protector to offer a more targeted approach to healing damaged heels. These protectors work as covers for your heels to lock in moisture. If you’ve heard about wearing socks every night to lock in moisture, this is the super-charged option, because the silicone won’t absorb any of the product (unlike, say, cotton socks). Plus, it’s a bit cooler than wearing warm socks all night.
To maximize exfoliation and eliminate as many dry, dead skin cells as possible (which will in turn promote absorption of moisture or creams), Correa suggests using a manual exfoliating tool once a week.
“Epsom salt is used to provide exfoliation of the dead skin on the feet,” Correa explained. “The foot soak may help decrease roughness and leave the feet softer.” Correa suggests opting for an unscented Epsom salt to avoid any allergic reactions due to added fragrance.
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