A couple of years back, I was swapping secrets with fellow beauty editors when someone started raving about a “kinda gross” but “must-try” product from Japan called Baby Foot.
You slip on these plastic booties lined with gel, wear them for an hour (or longer), and then wash it off. Within a few days, literally layers of dead skin cells shed, leaving your feet feeling baby soft.
There are countless YouTube videos that show the stomach-churning peeling process. I dare you to press “play” and watch below. The millions of views on these videos and firsthand accounts I’ve heard from fellow Yahoo editors also prove that this weirdly obsessive exfoliating treatment works.
For anyone with dry, scaly heels or rough, callused feet, this may seem much simpler than scrubbing your feet to no end in the shower with a pumice stone or risking losing a pinky toe at the nail salon with a swipe of a stainless steel foot file. But I can’t help but raise a skeptical eyebrow when I think of the snake-like shedding or question the peel’s long list of ingredients that include alcohol, salicylic acid, and fruit acids.
So I turned to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and nail specialist Dana Stern to explain the pros and cons of the Baby Foot peel, as well as her expert tips for overall foot health. Here’s what I learned:
Baby Foot eliminates the need to use a mechanical exfoliator or visit a salon.
Being able to take care of your feet in the comfort of your home is a major plus to using this peel. It also excludes the need to use potentially dangerous tools. Stern explains, “Think cheese-grater-style or Credo blades, both of which can cause significant damage to the feet [such as] lacerations, cuts, abrasions, infection, overremoval of callus.”
It isn’t physician-formulated, so do a patch test before trying the peel.
According to Stern, most over-the-counter peels that are sold in the U.S. are safe if used with certain precautions. She highly suggests performing a patch test on a small area of skin to make sure you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients, especially if you have sensitive skin. The instructions also carefully recommend that anyone who is pregnant, lactating, or menstruating to avoid using the peel, as skin is highly sensitive due to changes in the hormonal balance.
Having calluses on your feet isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Callus is a natural protective mechanism,” says Stern. These hard, thickened areas of skin form as a result of friction or pressure to help protect the skin underneath them. Overremoval can result in pain. “When they are excessive, they can be safely removed but often it helps to leave a small amount of callus in areas that experience a lot of friction,” she says.
Even though Baby Foot may be a safer option for diabetics than mechanical exfoliators, definitely check with a physician first because the chemical ingredients can cause a burning sensation or nerve damage.
Urea creams work just as well, if not better, to get rid of dead skin cells.
The No. 1 disadvantage of Baby Foot, according to Stern: Peeling can be significant and timing somewhat unpredictable. “Plan to be wearing closed-toe shoes for the big event!” she says.
Another chemical alternative to remove dead skin cells is to use creams with urea. “Urea dissolves the intercellular matrix of the cells of the stratum corneum [the outermost layer of the epidermis], and thus it acts as a very efficient dead skin remover,” Stern explains.
Cleansing your feet with soap and water and applying sunscreen faithfully will work wonders too!
Stern believes that one of the most overlooked steps to achieving beautiful, sandal-ready feet is to wash thoroughly. “It may sound obvious, but people often just let the soap suds run down and hope that they will somehow permeate between the toe web spaces and somehow lather the soles,” she says. “But feet need to be cleaned, especially thoroughly, as they have many physiological characteristics that differentiate them from other areas of the body and make them a unique habitat for supporting microbes, including odor-causing bacteria.”
During the warm weather months, the dermatologist advises using an antibacterial soap and drying thoroughly between toes. Sweating and exposure to sun is almost inevitable in the summer. Keep feet funky-free with an antiperspirant or prescription from your podiatrist. Insoles with activated charcoal also help to fight odor.
And, of course, always apply sunscreen. Stern says, “If you fall asleep with your soles exposed, then you need to protect that area of the foot. Even though the soles are thick, they can get sunburned.”
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