In a world or vitamin C serums, neck creams, retinol, body scrubs, and even hand creams, it seems there is one part of the body that we tend to neglect when it comes to skin care: our feet. “Many people forget to moisturise their feet. They don’t see their feet as an important area to moisturise as their face and hands,” says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a certified dermatologist.
But that’s a huge mistake, since your feet are naturally drier than other parts of your body. That’s because the bottom of your foot has a thicker stratum corneum (a.k.a. protective dead layer of skin on the surface), which is “designed to protect the surface on which we walk,” says Heidi Waldorf, M.D., founder of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics.
Think about it: Your feet go through a lot. Chronic pressure from walking, rubbing from your shoes, trauma from exercise, skin conditions like psoriasis, or infections like athlete’s foot can all lead to flakes, cracked heels, and calluses.
And just like a lack of moisturising can cause dry, flaky skin on your face, it doesn’t do your feet any favours, especially during winter when the air becomes dry, says Dr. Jaliman. The fix: Invest in a hydrating, healing foot cream and add it to your nightly routine.
How to choose (and use) the best foot cream to heal dry, cracked feet
Look for hydrators: A good foot cream needs the right cocktail of ingredients. The dermatologists we talked to recommend looking for humectants (substances that draw water into the skin), like urea, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. You’ll also need occlusives (to seal in other ingredients and moisture), such as ceramides, dimethicone, and shea butter.
Don’t forget skin-smoothers: An effective foot cream also contains exfoliating ingredients that help speed skin cell turnover, like salicylic, glycolic, or lactic acids. “Getting rid of dead skin is important to keep feet looking their best,” says Dr. Jaliman
While it’s tempting to just use a pumice stone to remove flakes and scale, make sure you’re always following with a foot cream. “Otherwise, you aren’t changing the root of the problem,” Dr. Waldorf says.
Apply before bed: You can lather on a foot cream whenever you want, but a beneficial time to apply one is after a shower, when the skin is still moist (but not wet), says Ramsey Markus, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Westside Dermatology. Put some socks on afterward and head to bed. This ensures your skin has enough time and ability to really absorb the product as you sleep.
“For an extra boost, stick your moisturised foot in a baggie or plastic wrap under a sock for all or part of an evening,” adds Dr. Waldorf. She also recommends applying foot cream whenever you’re going to be wearing gym socks (say, before a hike) to reduce friction and blisters, and to moisturise while you’re working out.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money to find a quality foot cream, says Dr. Markus. For less than $20, he likes this DU’IT Foot & Heel Balm Plus, which contains 25% urea. “Urea is the most popular ingredient [in foot creams], as it smooths rough skin and kills the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot,” he explains. It also contains nourishing vitamin E, tea tree and lemon myrtle oil (which has natural antibacterial properties), and natural AHAs, to remove dead skin. Unlike many foot creams, this non-greasy formula absorbs quickly and never feels too thick.
The formula is also very gentle, and non-irritating—it even earned a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association of Australia.
“I am a nurse and I am on my feet constantly. I have had calluses on my feet forever, probably from years of wearing poorly fitting dress shoes when I was young woman,” one reviewer wrote. “It is a very nice, rich moisture cream with the addition of urea which, when used daily, is effective in eliminating calluses.”
Learn more about DU’IT Foot & Heel Balm Plus here.