Is dead skin on your heels becoming a regular concern? Inappropriate removal methods can cause unwanted injuries and infections.
While you are not alone, when it comes to cracked heels, these hard and dry patches on your feet may indicate internal conditions or improper skin care practices. Ayurveda has simple yet effective remedies that can give you feather-soft heels in no time.
Read on to know what causes dead skin on your feet and how to get rid of it easily.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
“ Ayurveda recommends daily exfoliation to upkeep good hygiene. Abhyanga (massage) softens the skin, while Udvartana (Scrubbing) detaches the dead skin. Takra dhara (Shower with sour buttermilk processed with amla) also helps reduce the skin scaling.
Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor Of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Happens If You Have Dead Skin On Your Feet?
Apart from being an everyday discomfort, cracking and accumulation of dead cells on your feet can spell some serious trouble. Dry skin on the feet basically means that your epidermal barrier is impaired. It indicates an excess of transepidermal water loss, that is leaving your skin parched and broken. As your feet are the most exposed to dust and dirt, it increases the risk of skin infection.
Feet are often one of the most neglected areas of your body. Walking barefoot, using ill-fitted shoes, lack of skin hygiene, diabetes and age-related skin atrophy are a few of the common causes that affect the texture and health of your feet. If dead skin on your feet is left untreated, it can lead to the formation of corns, calluses, pain and even bleeding.
As per Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, “Ayurveda recommends daily exfoliation to upkeep good hygiene. Abhyanga (massage) softens the skin, while Udvartana (Scrubbing) detaches the dead skin. Takra dhara (Shower with sour buttermilk processed with amla) also helps reduce the skin scaling.”
She adds, “Dead skin traps dirt, microbes and can trigger an inflammatory response and various other discomforts.”
Epsom salt, a popular ingredient in foot soaks and pedicures, got its name from a town near London called Epsom. This is where the mineral salt was first discovered about 400 years ago.
What Causes Thick Dead Skin On Feet?
1. Lack Of Moisture
The skin on your feet is easily dehydrated, as the soles are devoid of sebaceous glands (oil glands). So, if adequate water consumption and moisturizing your feet isn’t part of your daily routine, then it can lead to dryness and buildup of thick dead skin on your feet.
Your feet are constantly exposed to friction when compared to the rest of your body. Walking barefoot on rough surfaces, and physical activities like running, walking etc. can all lead to thick dry skin on your feet from heat, pressure and friction.
3. Tight Shoes
Blisters, corns and calluses  from tight shoes are a common occurrence. Skin cells in your feet suffer damage from recurrent pressure due to ill-fitted shoes. This leads to an accumulation of dead skin that the natural desquamation process isn’t able to slough off. People wearing work boots, high heels and runners are most vulnerable to the condition.
4. Harsh Surfactants
While unintentional, your feet may constantly be exposed to harsh surfactants such as floor cleaners, disinfectants etc. These strip your skin of essential moisture, leaving it dry and chapped.
5. Bad Posture
Maintaining the right posture plays a primary role in determining your overall health. Standing for long hours in an improper posture where the weight of your body is unequally distributed, can put more pressure on one leg. This causes obstruction in blood circulation and thick dead skin on the feet.
6. Flat Feet
People born with flat feet , where the inside of the foot does not arch enough, are more prone to developing hard, thick skin on their feet. This is due to excessive pressure on the inside of the heels and under the big toe.
People diagnosed with diabetes face various complications involving their feet. An article published by the American Diabetes Association titled Diabetes Foot Complications, states that nerve damage caused by diabetes can affect your body’s ability to keep the skin on your feet lubricated. With impaired moisture retention capacity, your feet can get extremely dry and have dead skin peeling off them.
8. Other Health Conditions
Apart from diabetes, a few other conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and fungal infections like athlete’s foot can lead to a severe build-up of dead skin on the feet.
9. Skin Aging
With age, your skin’s ability to hold moisture reduces. Your sebaceous glands also produce less oil that keeps your skin nourished and there is a loss of skin elasticity. As a result, you begin to observe dead skin cells on your feet and other exposed areas.
How To Remove Dead Skin From The Feet?
1. Pumice Stone
A porous, weightless, volcanic rock, the pumice stone has been used since ages as a dead skin remover for feet. The excellent, yet gentle exfoliative ability of this lava rock makes it an essential tool in most pedicures. While using a pumice stone, follow the below-mentioned steps for effective dead skin removal.
- Keep your feet soaked in lukewarm water for about 5 to10 minutes. You can add a gentle cleanser to the water. This helps remove dirt trapped in the cracks of your heels.
- Soak the pumice stone in water.
- Now gently exfoliate the dead skin off your feet in a circular motion.
- Avoid over-exfoliating as it may cause pain.
- Once done, wash off for clean, soft heels. Removing dead cells aids your skin’s natural cell renewal process.
2. Soaking Your Feet
Foot soaks are not only beneficial in removing dead skin from your feet but can also help curb various fungal infections.
A. Epsom Salt And Castor Oil Foot Soak
An article published by Cleveland Clinic in 2022 named Should You Take An Epsom Salt Bath?, states that the use of epsom salt falls under the branch of ‘integrative medicine’. This type of healthcare aims to treat both the body and the mind. Though there is a lack of medical research supporting the benefits of epsom salt, it is frequently advised by medical experts to relieve heel pain and reduce stress.
- Fill a tub/ basin with warm water that’s enough to cover your feet.
- Add half a cup of epsom salt to it and let your feet soak for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- You can use a pumice stone or a foot scrubber to gently remove the dead skin from your feet.
- Dry your feet and massage with castor oil.
B. Baking Soda Foot Soak
- Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of baking soda to a tub of warm water.
- Soak your feet for 10 to 15 minutes to soften dead skin, remove dirt and ease heel pain and itching.
- Dry your feet and moisturize to prevent further dryness.
C. Apple Cider Vinegar Soak
Vinegar is highly effective in removing corns, calluses and thick dead skin lining your heels. It also controls odour and fungal infections of the feet.
- Fill a basin/ tub with 2-3 cups of warm water to soak your feet.
- To this add 1 cup of apple cider vinegar.
- After 10 minutes, gently file away the thick dead skin from your feet using a foot scrubber or a pumice stone.
- Dry your feet and moisturize with a tablespoon of glycerin for soft and smooth heels.
D. Mouthwash Foot Soak
This might come as a surprise, but your mouthwash is an excellent dead skin remover. In fact, mouthwashes also help treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
- Fill a tub with warm water and pour 1 cup of mouthwash in it.
- Let your feet soak for about 15 minutes.
- Gently exfoliate with a pumice stone and wash off to remove dead skin.
Avoid using baking soda foot soak if you have open sores on your feet or sensitive skin.
3. Foot Scrub
Foot scrubs have a plethora of benefits. Depending on the ingredients you choose to add to your foot scrub, these can remove dead skin from your feet, reduce inflammation, pain and skin irritations, prevent microbial infections, relieve stress and improve blood circulation in your feet. Foot scrubs are often recommended to people with diabetes to keep a variety of foot complications at bay.
A. Oatmeal, Sea Salt and Almond Or Olive Oil
Mix 2 tablespoons of oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of sea salt and a sufficient amount of almond or olive oil to make a thick paste. Apply and exfoliate your feet. Leave the scrub on for another 10-15 minutes and wash off.
B. Coffee, Brown Sugar And Peppermint Essential Oil
Add 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to make a thick paste. To this add 3-4 drops of peppermint essential oil. Use this to exfoliate your feet and leave it on for 10 minutes before washing off.
Peppermint essential oil has a cooling effect on your feet. It also reduces pain and inflammation.
C. Walnut/ Apricot, Lemon And Honey
Finely crush walnut/ apricot into a powder. Use 3 tablespoons of the crushed nut powder and add 1 ½ tablespoon of lemon juice and enough honey to make a thick paste. Exfoliate your feet with this to remove dead skin and wash off with lukewarm water after 10 minutes.
4. Herbal Ubtan
Ayurvedic ubtans or herbal scrubs for the feet are great at balancing the Vata and Pitta doshas that cause dry skin, irritation and inflammation. It detoxes, relaxes and rejuvenates the skin on your feet and prevents it from looking aged and dull.
A. Multani Mitti, Triphala, Coconut Oil And Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Mix 1 tablespoon of Multani mitti (fuller’s earth) with 2 tablespoons of coarsely powdered triphala. Add a sufficient amount of coconut oil to make a thick paste. To this add 3 to 4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil and gently exfoliate your feet. Leave it on for another 10 to 15 minutes and wash off with lukewarm water.
B. Masoor Dal, Turmeric And Sesame Oil
This ubtan not only removes dead skin from your feet but also helps to detan them. Powder 2 tablespoons of masoor dal and add 1 tablespoon of turmeric to it. Make a thick paste by adding warm sesame oil to it. Scrub your feet using circular motions and wash off after 15 to 30 minutes.
5. Salicylic Acid Foot Peel
If you are troubled with hard calluses and thick dry skin on your feet, a mild salicylic acid foot peel can serve as an easy remedy. This is also beneficial for the treatment of plantar warts . While these are available in the market, for making a DIY salicylic acid foot peel, follow the below-mentioned instructions:
- Soak your feet in warm water to soften the dead skin and remove surface dirt.
- Crush 7-10 aspirin tablets in a bowl.
- Add 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to it and mix well.
- Apply the paste on your feet, carefully coating only the areas with thick dead skin.
- Avoid cuts and sores.
- Now wrap your feet using a plastic wrap.
- After 10 minutes, gently scrub and wash off.
6. Exfoliating Foot Mask
There are various types of exfoliating foot masks such as creams, sock masks and gels. These usually contain exfoliating agents such as AHAs and BHAs along with serums and other natural hydrating and skin rejuvenating ingredients.
You can easily apply or slip it on and give your feet a refreshing spa for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove/ wash off and moisturize once done.
7. Paraffin Wax
Paraffin wax foot treatments and pedicures have gained popularity for their gentle yet effective ability to remove dead skin cells from your feet. To do this at home, follow the below-mentioned steps:
- Melt paraffin wax in a microwave bowl.
- Check the temperature to make sure it is not too hot.
- Use a spatula to apply the wax on areas of your feet with calluses and thick dead skin. Alternatively, you can dip your feet into the wax repeatedly to form a few layers.
- Wrap your feet using a plastic wrap and allow the wax to dry.
- Once dried, gently peel off the wax to remove all the dead skin from your feet.
- However, avoid paraffin wax if you are suffering from foot complications due to diabetes or have a pre-existing condition that leads to poor blood circulation.
Moisturize your feet twice daily with natural moisturizers such as aloe vera gel, coconut oil or glycerin to avoid the formation of dead skin on your feet.
How To Prevent Dry Dead Skin On The Feet?
Follow the below-cited tips to prevent dry skin on your feet:
1. Cleanse your feet daily with warm, soapy water . Avoid using hot water.
2. Since your feet are prone to dryness, moisturize twice daily with a slightly thick, creamy moisturizer or foot cream.
3. Exfoliate your feet 2-3 times a week focusing mainly on the heels and under the big toe.
4. One to two professional pedicures a month at a salon can have added benefits.
5. Wear properly fitted shoes. Medicated shoes can give relief from heel pain and prevent the occurrence of dead skin on your feet.
6. Avoid walking on rough surfaces without protective footwear.
7. Keep your diabetes under control.
8. Keep yourself hydrated at all times.
9. Limit direct sun exposure to your feet.
10. Prevent your feet from coming in contact with harsh surfactants.
11. Contact a physiotherapist to correct your body posture if that is causing the dead skin on your feet.
12. Contact your Ayurvedic doctor for a complete dosha analysis. This will help you plan the right diet, lifestyle and foot care routine.
Should You Cut Off Dead Skin On Feet?
Cutting dead skin off your feet is not advisable. You may end up damaging underlying tissues or causing an infection. Reach out to your doctor if you experience excess dead skin on your feet.
Should You Use A Razor To Remove Dead Skin On Your Feet?
No. There are various risks to shaving dead skin on your feet with a razor. Not only can you cut yourself, but you may also find yourself dealing with an unwanted infection. Simple home remedies, exfoliating masks, foot scrubbers and pumice stones can help effectively remove dead skin off your feet, leaving them soft and smooth.
The Last Word
Beautiful soft heels are not just an aesthetic desire, but they also play an important role in your holistic health. Simple exfoliation practices and daily care is enough to prevent the formation of dead skin on your feet. The methods mentioned in this article are safe and easy to try at home.
Along with foot care, keep yourself hydrated and eat a nutritious meal to keep your doshas in balance and aid the natural skin renewal process.Know Your Dosha Now
1. Corns And Calluses, 2019 November
2. Feet- Problems And Treatments, 2014 May
3. An Armamentarium Of Wart Treatments, 2006 December
4. Foot Care For A Lifetime, 2013 January
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