Dry skin on feet how to get rid of dry skin on feet

How to get rid of dry skin on feet: The causes and treatments for rough skin and cracked heels

3rd August 2023 | Author: Annie Hopson

It’s harder to get rid of dry skin on feet than it should be. Here we explain why, and what to do about rough skin and cracked heels

Rough and cracked skin is extremely common yet knowing how to get rid of dry skin on feet is much more difficult than it should be, and more difficult than anywhere else on your body.

This is because your feet have fewer oil glands than other parts of your body.

Dry skin on feet can make the affected area feel itchy, tight and even painful at times, and from a cosmetic standpoint – a little bit gross in a pair of sandals.

Simple foot soaks, moisturisers and regular exfoliation can help get rid of dry skin, remove areas of dead cells and calluses, and prevent them from returning.

In this article, we’ve rounded up the main causes and treatments needed to maintain sandal-ready feet all year round. You can also jump to each section using the links in the boxes to the left.

READ NEXT: Best foot creamWhat causes dry skin and how to get rid of it | Best moisturisers for dry skin

Dry skin on feet: Common causes

First, we’re going to take a look at the everyday factors that may be to blame for the dry skin on your feet.

  • A lack of moisture: Dry, cracked and flaking skin is especially common around the heel and sole due to fewer oil glands. As a result the skin is thicker, and needs specialised creams to soften and restore moisture
  • Heat & humidity: Wearing closed shoes, such as trainers and boots, can create an extremely hot and humid environment for the feet. This in turn draws the moisture from the skin, which leads to dry, thick, and cracked skin on the feet
  • Soaps: Certain soaps and body washes contain harsh chemicals that can strip protective oils from the skin or leave irritating residues that contribute to dry skin. You can read more in our guide to clean beauty and our Sodium Laurel Sulphate explainer.
  • Ageing: Hormonal and metabolic changes over time decrease skin cell turnover, and as a result the skin’s outermost layer gets thicker with age. This also affects the protective fat pad on the sole of the foot, causing it to become thinner. This loss of cushioning in the heel and the ball of the foot can increase skin stress, leading to cracked, callused skin.
  • Irritation: Standing for long periods or wearing poorly fitting shoes can put constant pressure on specific areas of the feet, or cause friction on the skin leading to sore, dry and calloused skin.
  • Medical conditions: Dry skin on the feet may also occur as a result of a medical condition such as:
    • Athlete’s foot: A fungal infection that causes a scaly rash between the toes and underneath the foot
    • Eczema: This refers to a group of conditions that cause skin inflammation. People can develop eczema anywhere on their bodies. Common symptoms include dry, crusty, or itchy patches of skin
    • Psoriasis: A chronic autoimmune condition that causes thick, scaly patches of skin
    • Hypothyroidism: People may develop extremely dry feet because their thyroid gland cannot regulate the sweat glands on the feet, which can lead to them becoming dry.

How to get rid of dry skin on feet

Dead cells on the surface of the skin naturally fall off, and new cells take their place.

However, if you don’t remove the build-up of dead skin, they form thick, flaky patches on the feet. This is true, albeit to a lesser extent, on your face and other areas.

Over time, dry areas can become cracked especially on the heels, which can make feet vulnerable to infection, while thick calluses can make walking uncomfortable. Here’s how to get rid of dry skin on feet for good.

Step 1: Exfoliate

Exfoliation involves removing dead surface-layer skin using a physical or chemical exfoliator. These exfoliators also don’t need to be just for your feet, either. Many of the best exfoliators for your face will work on other parts of your body. This includes glycolic acid which recently went viral on TikTok. Some of our favourite feet exfoliators include:

Masoroo Natural Volcanic Pumice Stone for Feet

£9 | Buy now

If you’ve ever tried to get rid of dry skin on your feet, you’ll likely be familiar with pumice stones. They’re a natural form of exfoliator that can be a little tricky to use but work well.

This foot file from Masoroo is made of 100% natural lava stones, which have incredible exfoliating power.

The pumice stone is filled with hundreds of tiny holes to create a unique texture, which is great for removing dead skin and calluses on the feet without removing too much moisture.

Buy now from Amazon

Footner Exfoliating socks

£10 | Buy now

Chemical exfoliating socks have become popular ways to get rid of dry skin on feet and one of the bestsellers in this range is by Footner.

These socks will literally leave dry skin ‘peeling’ from your feet. It can take around seven days for the peeling to start.

After 10 days, the peeling process will have stopped completely, leaving you with incredibly soft skin. Again, a bit gross but very effective and highly satisfying!

We should note that these exfoliating socks aren’t the miracle cure they’re marketed as. They help reduce the damage but you usually have to use them in conjunction with other products in this list.

Particularly moisturising and using pumice stones or similar.

Buy now from Boots

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

£8 | Buy now

This glycolic acid toning solution from The Ordinary offers mild exfoliation for the skin.

This solution is designed to remove dead skin cells to give you fresher, brighter skin on your face but you can also use it on your heels and feet.

To add to the natural exfoliating properties, this solution contains aloe vera to soften and calm the skin.

The use of ginseng helps support the skin’s moisture barrier, while the addition of Tasmanian Pepperberry brings antioxidants to help soothe the skin.

Buy now from Lookfantastic

Fixology Ultimate Pedi

£9.99 | Buy now

Fixology Ultimate Pedi foot creamFixology

Alternatively, if you want a glycolic acid treatment that’s specifically designed for your feet, give the Fixology Ultimate Pedi a go.

As well as getting the exfoliating properties from glycolic acid, this cream additionally includes:

  • Urea – a component found in your skin that helps maintain a healthy and hydrated skin barrier
  • Aloe vera – to soothe and soften the skin
  • Nourishing shea butter

With regular use, it not only helps relieve dry skin but nourishes and protects the skin so that it stays softer and healthier for longer.

To get the most out of this cream, apply it at night and wear a pair of cotton socks to help it soak in.

The Body Shop Drops of Light Liquid Peeling Solution

£18.50 | Buy now

This may seem a little odd – but bear with us. If you have an exfoliating skin peel you use on your face, why not try it on your feet? This was a tip that our The Body Shop consultant posted and, in hindsight, it just seems like such an obvious thing to try!

We’ve been using our Body Shop Drops of Light Liquid Peeling Solution on our feet (and face) for the past few weeks and it seems to have made a big difference.

It’s not a catch-all solution but it might help shift those stubborn outer layers of dead and dry skin, allowing you to use more targeted treatments on the lower layers.

The Body Shop peel isn’t cheap – at £18.50 – but if it works for you, you’re effectively getting two products for the price of one. With less effort than a foot file and less shedding than exfoliating socks.

Buy now from The Body Shop

Scholl Velvet Smooth Electric Foot File

£40 | Buy now

Electric foot files are expensive but they’re amazing and they take the hassle out of filing.

This Smooth Electric Foot File from Scholl can be used on wet and dry skin, and they gently exfoliate dry and flaky skin on both your feet and lower leg area.

With a variety of different roller heads to choose from, you can adjust the device to your personal needs for smooth feeling feet.

Expect a whole lot of ‘foot dust’ with this one. It’s a bit gross, but so, so great and it’s a really nice sensation.

Buy now from Amazon

♥︎ Step 2: Soak your feet

Soaking feet in warm water helps soothe and loosen dry skin, whilst also improving blood circulation. This in turn can help prevent dry skin in the future.

Adding a small amount of vinegar to a foot soak may also help to treat mild forms of Athlete’s foot. This is because vinegar has powerful antimicrobial properties that help disinfect the feet and eliminates foot odour. You can read more about Athlete’s feet in our best foot cream guide.

Other beneficial ingredients that can also be added to a foot soak include: Epsom salts, honey, lemon juice, peppermint essential oil and oatmeal.

If you’re looking for a luxury foot soak from the comfort of your own home, we’d recommend using the HoMedics MySpa Luxury Foldaway Foot Spa (£39).

It’s fantastic for soothing aching soles, this spa offers a vibration massage to target the acupressure points on the soles of the feet. Pour in some Mavala Soothing Foot Bath Salts  (£11.55) to soothe swollen, dry, and tired feet, and you’re all set for the perfect pamper evening at home.

Step 3: Moisturise

how to get rid of dry skin on feetWallpaper Flare

Regularly moisturising the feet helps reduce existing dry skin but it also prevents new dry skin from accumulating making it a crucial step after using an exfoliator and foot soak, to lock in moisture in the skin.

If you suffer from sore cracked skin, it’s best to avoid lotions that contain alcohol, added fragrances and artificial colouring as these ingredients can irritate the skin further.

Instead look for products that contain humectants such as urea, aloe and hyaluronic acid, emollients, which include plant-based butter and oil and occlusive, such as petrolatum, lanolin and coconut oil.

See our science of moisturiser article or our What is hyaluronic acid guide? for more info.

Read our best foot cream list, where we’ve highlighted some of our favourite high-street buys for moisturising the skin on your feet and soothing cracked heels.

Step 4: Give your feet an intense moisturising treatment as you sleep

For extra hydration, try using moisturising gel-lined socks, or even make them yourselves at home by applying a generous amount of foot moisturiser and a pair of pure cotton socks at bedtime. We recommend Avon’s Moisturising socks.

Gel-lined socks contain natural oils and vitamins that help hydrate and repair dry skin on the feet.

We’d recommend using the NatraCure 5-Toe Moisturising Gel Socks (£14.99) which includes aloe vera and shea butter, slowly releasing therapeutic oils, botanicals and vitamins. For best results, wear these socks overnight 2-3 times per week. You can read more about overnight treatments in our sleeping beauty guide.

Step 5: Prevent dry skin from coming back

Once you have dealt with any dry, cracked areas on your feet you can’t stop there. Unfortunately, it comes back if you stop treating it. With this in mind though, there are several ways to prevent it from returning in the future.

Practicing proper foot hygiene: The above steps of thoroughly cleaning feet with a foot soak, removing dead skin and keeping the area hydrated with a good foot moisturiser, should be practiced often in order to maintain soft, healthy feet.

Using warm water: Use warm, rather than hot water for showers, baths and foot soaks to stop your feet getting too hot and humid and ultimately drawing moisture from the skin.

Pat dry: Instead of vigorously rubbing feet after a shower, gently pat them dry with a clean towel.

Wearing shoes that fit correctly: It may seem like an obvious one, but proper fitting shoes can make all the difference.

Invest in a foot spray: Try the Peppermint Cooling Spray from The Body Shop (£6.50) to cool and deodorise hot, tired feet and stop bad odours from occurring.

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