Summer is the perfect time to step out wearing a cool outfit and your favorite flip flops. If you have dry and cracked heels and the thought of showing off your legs makes you cringe, it is time to address the issue.
Flaky, dry or cracked skin on feet is a result of a build-up of dead skin over time. There are many reasons behind cracked heels such as lack of moisture or certain medical conditions. Understanding the causes and the natural remedies for dead skin can help you prevent the condition from developing in the future.
What Causes Dead Skin?
- Insufficient Moisture: One of the most common reasons behind dead skin on feet is lack of moisture. The skin on the heels has fewer sweat glands as compared to the rest of the body. External conditions including extreme temperatures or dry weather can add to the problem, making the skin around the heels cracked, rough, dry and flaky. If you are not in the habit of moisturizing your heels and feet regularly, the skin in the area becomes severely dry, leading to build up of dead skin.
- Constant Pressure: Your feet are subject to constant pressure as they need to bear the entire body weight whether standing, running, walking or sitting. Excess body weight or standing for long periods of time can stress out the feet, causing dead skin build up. Being overweight causes the pad of the feet to expand sideways leading to cracked heels.
- Aging Skin: Proteins such as collagen and elastin maintain the skin’s elasticity and volume. With age, the skin is not able to produce enough of these proteins, leading to loss of elasticity and skin tone. Over time, the skin around the heels starts to thicken and develop cracks.
- Deficiencies: If your diet is deficient in terms of minerals, vitamins and proteins, your skin health can be affected.
- Medical Conditions: Certain health conditions including thyroid disease, eczema, diabetes, psoriasis, fungal infections such as Athlete’s foot can increase the risk of developing dead skin on feet.
- Open Footwear: Open-back shoes or sandals enable fat beneath the heels to expand sideways, increasing the pressure on your feet. When wearing open footwear, it is important to follow a skin care regime to prevent dead skin build up.
- Hygiene: Covering the feet with socks and shoes most of the time, staying in wet and sweaty footwear or socks and not focusing on foot hygiene can all lead to fungal or bacterial infection such as Athlete’s foot or Jock itch. Fungal infections can damage the structure and tone of the skin, leading to build up of dead skin cells.
- Exposure to Qater: Prolonged exposure to water can rob the feet of their natural oils, making them dry and flaky. Using very hot water while bathing or standing for long periods of time in damp areas can increase the risk of dead skin build-up.
- Ill-fitting Shoes: Wearing very tight footwear or high heels can put pressure on the feet, leading to cracked feet.
- Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to developing dry and thick skin or calluses on feet
Natural Remedies for Removing Dead Skin on Feet
For optimal skin health, it is important to maintain an ideal body weight by focusing on regular exercise and a balanced diet that provides adequate amount of nutrients. Avoiding excessive exposure to water, not standing for prolonged periods of time and cleaning your feet regularly are other measures that can help prevent build-up of dead skin on your feet.
Here are some natural remedies that can remove dead skin:
1. Virgin Coconut Oil: Use pure cold pressed coconut oil that has no harsh chemicals or preservatives added. Massage some coconut oil till it is absorbed well and leave it on the skin overnight. Doing this everyday helps prevent moisture loss while removing dead cells from the heels.
2. Lemon Juice: Lemon is naturally rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and skin health vitamin that helps boost collagen production. Being a mild acid, lemon juice can effectively cleanse the skin while removing toxins and dead cells. To make this natural foot soak, cut some lemons and squeeze the juice into a bowl of water. Soak your feet for fifteen to twenty minutes. Use a pumice stone or a loofah to gently scrub your feet to remove dead skin cells.
3. Scrub: Make a nourishing exfoliating scrub at home by adding one teaspoon of pure honey to 3 to 4 teaspoons of oats or rice flour. Add two drops of apple cider vinegar and stir the mixture well. Soak your feet for ten to fifteen minutes in hot water, pat them dry and apply the homemade scrub. Apply the scrub four to five times in a week. While oats or rice flour naturally exfoliates skin, honey has anti-septic properties that help cleanse the skin from toxins. Apple cider vinegar is a mild acid that helps soften rough skin, making it easy to remove them.
4. Banana: Use two ripe bananas and mash them to a smooth paste. Gently apply this paste on the feet and leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse your feet. As banana has no side effects, you can do this every day to treat dead skin build up and to prevent dryness. Banana is full of vitamins and fiber apart from being a natural moisturizer.
5. Baking Soda: Take lukewarm water in a big bowl and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Mix well till the soda dissolves completely and then soak your feet for fifteen minutes in this water. Use a pumice stone to gently scrub off dead skin cells on your feet. This procedure can be repeated twice a week to get maximum results. Baking soda is a cleansing agent and an exfoliant. While removing foul odors, baking soda also helps control inflammation.
6. Aloe Vera Gel: The skin health properties of aloe vera have been extensively studied. While being rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, E and A, aloe vera soothes and rehydrates the skin effectively. Aloe vera also contains campesterol, lupeol and β-sitosterol which have anti-inflammatory properties while some other substances help in wound healing. If you have an aloe vera plant, you can make a gel at home easily by scraping off the top layers of the leaf and collecting the thick gel inside. Apply the gel directly on to your feet and leave it overnight for maximum results.
7. Epsom Salt: Epsom salt contains magnesium sulfate that helps exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells while fighting inflammation and pain. The sulfates help remove toxins from the skin cells and soften the skin. Make a soaking solution by adding 3 tablespoons of Epsom salt (half cup) to a big bowl of warm water. Stir well and soak in your feet for fifteen minutes. Use a pumice stone to remove dead skin cells.
Foot Creams to Fix Dead Skin Cells on Feet
While there are many home remedies to address dead skin on feet, not many people have the time to make a foot soak or scrub from scratch. Some over the counter products that address dead skin on heels include heel masks, foot creams, scrubs and foot soak solutions. Here are two of the highly rated foot creams that help rehydrate and exfoliate the skin on heels:
Miracle Foot Repair Cream
Manufactured by Miracle of Aloe, the product provides fast acting relief for cracked, dry heels while exfoliating gently. With the active ingredients being menthol, Miracle Foot Repair Cream also has Ultra aloe (aloe leaf juice, water) along with mineral oil, salicylic acid and peppermint oil. With 60 percent organic aloe vera, the potent formula penetrates deep inside the skin’s surface to heal the skin from within. While the natural skin moisturizer rehydrates, it removes skin irritation, itching and pain associated with dry and cracked heels.
Miracle Foot Repair Cream is safe for diabetics and for those who suffer from Athlete’s foot. A great feature of the product is the exclusive blend of ingredients and process that is guaranteed to provide overnight results with no side effects.
O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Exfoliating Foot Cream
This foot cream contains a rich concentration of glycerine which is a gentle yet powerful exfoliating agent. While drawing in and retaining moisture, O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Foot Cream penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin to begin a comprehensive healing process. Apart from glycerine, the formulation comprises of paraffin and allantoin. While paraffin creates a waterproof barrier to encourage rehydration of skin, allantoin softens the rough, dry surface, enabling easy exfoliation.
With a non-greasy formula, the product is safe for diabetics. The cream also has peppermint oil infused in it to help soothe and soften extra dry skin while removing pain and inflammation. O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Exfoliating Foot Cream exfoliates and hydrates extremely dry skin while promoting cellular turnover that encourages growth of healthy, new softer skin. Applying the cream after bathing and at bedtime is the best way to provide optimal protection to your heels.
Dead skin can be a chronic issue for some people but as long as you know the main culprits and are equipped with ways to treat the symptoms, dead skin is something that can be easily managed.