Why is the skin on foot calluses so thick? How does it get to that point, and why does it seem to return so quickly?
The skin on the bottom of our feet is highly evolved for walking upright. It is the thickest skin on the body with the highest concentration of sweat glands while lacking hair and pigmentation found elsewhere on the body. The skin on our feet is actually supposed to make calluses since calluses serve as protection! They are formed in areas of constant friction to protect the skin from this wear and tear. You do want some calluses, however, when they become too thick they become yellowish-white (from dead keratinocytes), can fissure, and just look unsightly.
How do products like Baby Foot, etc., differ from chemical peels that we might use on our faces?
Foot peels need to be stronger than face peels because of the thickness of the skin and calluses. Baby Foot does not list the percentage of the acids they use but they use a wide range of AHA and BHA acids to remove the thick layers of dead skin by eating away the bonds between the dead skin cells. Since there is usually so much dead skin on the feet, the results can be very impressive with sheets of dead skin coming off.
How frequently can we do a foot peel? For example, if we feel like there’s still dead skin after finishing a round of peeling (which takes about two weeks), can we do another one immediately, or should we wait? Why?
If you are using a strong peel like Baby Foot, I recommend starting with one and see if you need to repeat. If you are using something more gentle, you may be able to do it more often but you can easily remove too much skin. You need some calluses on your feet. If you peel them all away you will develop tender feet. When you walk without shoes or do anything athletic it will be uncomfortable. For the month after I did a Baby Foot peel I got hot spots at friction points with my shoes when I played tennis. Yes, you want to make your calluses look better but over-exfoliation, be it on your face or feet, always does more harm than good.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t do a foot peel, or are there any reasons someone should think twice before a foot peel? Why?
Anyone with poor circulation or chronic swelling of their lower extremities should be cautious about doing foot peels. Also, people with diabetes or a compromised immune system. These conditions can slow the healing process and increase one's risk of getting an infection.
Is it bad to peel the skin yourself once it starts to shed, or should we let it shed on its own? Why?
I know it is hard because it is so satisfying but try not to manually peel the dead skin off! When you pull skin that is partly falling off you often remove living skin that is not ready to be removed it can cause bleeding and, on rare occasions, infection.
Are your feet at risk for sun damage after a foot peel? Tips for helping counteract this?
Yes, freshly peeled skin anywhere has less sun protection than skin covered with a thick layer of dead skin. Most people do not get sun on the bottom of their feet but you should apply sunscreen to the top of your feet if you are wearing sandals - or just wear sneakers or something with more coverage.
Are there ways to increase the efficacy of a foot peel before using it? (Steaming feet, or anything else?)
Yes! I recommend doing the peel after the shower or bath when your skin is moist. That will allow the peel to penetrate more quickly into the dead skin.
Any tips on extending the smooth, soft results of a foot peel?
After you do a peel, make sure to hydrate your skin and nails that can be dried out from the acids. I coat my feet with Doctor Rogers RESTORE Healing Balm and sleep in cotton socks the first night. Thereafter, I use the balm on my nails for about a week. Once you have done the peel and the skin has shed, you can use an exfoliating cream with AHA or BHA acid before bed or after you shower to slow down the accumulation of new calluses.
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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.