After a summer of hikes and a winter of playing and coaching basketball (more like masketball these days!), my feet had logged a whole lot of mileage and it was showing. But did these little piggies go get a pedicure? Nope. They stayed home, and, as part of a DIY spa day, I slipped them into a pair of $5 callus-removing booties I picked up at Walmart that boldly claimed they could soften my feet.
Frankly, I forgot all about the foot treatment as soon as I finished it. Then, a week later, the product delivered on its promise: Skin was peeling off my feet. Lots of skin. It was much like when you were in elementary school and you’d let glue dry on your hands so you could peel it off in a sheet — except that instead of Elmer’s, it was actual epidermis.
Was the foot peel experience satisfying? Yes, dear readers, I’d be lying if I denied this. But are callus-removing booties safe?
As we do more DIY pampering at home and as variations of these callus-removing booties pop up in beauty aisles just about everywhere, Simplemost interviewed experts to find out whether these treatments are safe. Here’s what they say you should know about foot peels.
How Do Callus-Removing Booties Work?
After my own foot peel experience, I checked the online reviews of similar products. Some say the foot peels didn’t work at all. Others say that the peels sloughed away so much skin it left their feet raw, making it painful to walk. My own experience: My feet were soft afterwards, with no pain, but I was quite shocked by how much skin was removed.
So, how do these callus-removing booties work?
They’re essentially a chemical peel for your feet, with acids that strip away dead skin. However, Dr. Larissa Rolim, DPM, a board certified podiatrist at Maverick Foot and Ankle Specialists in Irving, Texas, says that the glycolic, salicylic or lactic acids that are often in these foot peels can potentially burn your skin.
“Many times the acid percentage in these foot peels is not regulated or reported and can cause a chemical burn requiring medical attention,” Rolim says.
Another problem with these callus-removing booties is that they don’t necessarily differentiate between good skin and bad skin, saysDr. Dana Canuso, a podiatric surgeon and chemist who has formulated a line of products to treat dry and cracked heels.
While it’s satisfying to see skin peel off and it feels productive, the process is typically a short-term fix that will make your feet temporarily feel soft, Canuso says. (Same goes for that cheese grater-like tool at the salon; it’s actually causing microtears in your skin, which allows fungus to flourish, Canuso explains.)
If you have dry skin that’s lasting longer than a couple of days, she says, fungus is likely at play and can be treated with over-the-counter creams like Lamisil or Tinactin.
Can You Safely Do Foot Peels?
Rolim and other health professionals we contacted say that diabetics should avoid foot peels altogether because high blood glucose levels affect the body’s ability to heal wounds. Those with sensitive skin or a neurologic impairment that can affect their ability to feel pain, burning or tingling sensations should also avoid these types of products, says Dr. Anna H. Chacon, MD FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and medical writer for Zelen Life.
Dr. Malini Fowler, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist with Westlake Dermatology in San Antonio, Texas, says she mostly considers foot peels safe and effective to exfoliate and remove dead skin, but cautions they shouldn’t be overdone. In general, she says, foot peels can safely be done once a month, Fowler says.
If you already exfoliate your skin in the shower or with sugar scrubs, you may not need to use a foot peel at all, though.
“Too much exfoliation can lead to thinning of the skin, dryness, rash and cracks in the skin,” she explains.
Alternatives To Foot Peels
The most effective way to treat calluses and obtain soft feet is to prevent corns and calluses from occurring in the first place, Chacon says. This can be achieved by using a moisturizing cream or even a soothing emollient such as Vaseline to help prevent dryness and calluses.
Pumice stones can also be used to gently remove some calluses and thickened hard skin before using a moisturizer or foot peel. If dry skin persists, you may need to tackle a fungus issue.
Have you ever tried a foot peel? What was your experience?
This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Checkout Simplemost for additional stories.