Keeping the skin on one's feet and heels soft, supple, and un-ashy requires commitment. "The epidermis is much thicker on the soles of your feet," explains Cheri Frey, a dermatologist based in Maryland. "As a response to the pressure of standing, this skin also sheds less frequently. This, along with friction, can lead to callouses." It's that thickening that makes it difficult for regular foot creams to penetrate and nourish your heels and soles. And that's where foot peels come in. (Drum roll, please.)
Do foot peels actually work?
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If you haven't heard of foot peels, seen the results on TikTok, or tried one yourself, allow me: A foot peel is a baggie of exfoliants—usually glycolic, alpha hydroxy or lactic acids—that you slip onto your foot. After allowing it to absorb, you remove, cleanse and...nothing happens. At first.
Five to seven days after using a foot peel, the outer layer of your skin—usually the dead, desiccated stuff that's causing rough and dry patches, starts coming off in satisfying sheets, allowing smoother, softer feet to reveal themselves.
Are foot peels safe?
According to Frey, foot peels are entirely safe, unless your feet have any active wounds and sores. But because of the strength of the acidic blends you're dealing with, it's also important to diligently follow instructions. Don't leave foot peels on longer than indicated, or apply to other areas of your body.
Gloria L. Williams, a celebrity pedicurist, reflexologist and founder of of Footnanny, stresses the importance of moisturizing after applying a foot peel. "You'll want to take care of the new skin you've revealed," she says, adding that hydrators like shea, coconut or olive oils are great options. Depending on the needs of your tootsies, the foot peels ahead should leave your feet quenched, moisturized and ready for
Best Old School Classic
Glycolic and lactic acid team up in this OG foot peel that is both safe and effective. A bonafide cornucopia of botanical extracts means that while the exfoliating properties are deeply powerful, the result is gentle and doesn't sting or smell.
Best for Thick Heels
A three-acid blend—glycolic, lactic, salicylic—comes in separate pouch that you squeeze into plastic socks. The footies tie up easily so you won't risk spilling, and the result, five to seven days later, is dramatic, even on the toughest feet fissures.
Best Fruit Acid Choice
White lactic acid and urea are the top two exfoliants, a unique slosh of fruit acids makes this formulation more gentle than some. Instructions also indicate soaking feet first and wearing the treatment booties under socks to enhance absorption—both great tips that work.
Most Elegant Process
Two cotton-lined booties come with a baby food-like pouch of glycolic, salicylic, lactic, and citric acids, for an elevated take on a somewhat non-glamorous process. Some reviewers did comment on the longevity of the peeling process—two weeks, potentially—but that's a good thing if you're really going for deep softening.
Best for a Budget
What you'll get for a tenth of the price of some of the foot peels on this list: A strong blend of exfoliants that effectively loosens dead skin cells on even the thickest and most stubborn zones. What you won't get? Some reviewers complained the formula was a bit tingly and left their feet tight, although slathering on a basic moisturizer does ease any lingering discomfort.
Who said foot peel booties can’t spark joy? These sock-like numbers are a rainbow leopard print, and the gel inside is effective and non-irritating. Slip them on, throw up a ‘gram of your cute tootsies, and let the peeling commence.
Best Quick Fix
If your feet are bad but not like that bad, this 30-minute version might be your best bet. In less than an episode of Shadow & Bone, you’ll be primed for soft and revitalized skin in about a week.
This 1.5-Hour Treatment
Instead of multiple days of scrubbing with your pumice stone to no avail, apply this foot wrap and relax. In an hour and a half, this formula of 33 botanical extracts and AHAs will go to work on your feet to reveal soft, smooth skin.
The Hydrating Pick
If you need extra hydration, take a look at this foot peel. It uses a combination of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acid to exfoliate and remove dead skin, but it also offers nourishing watermelon fruit extract. This ingredient is ultra-hydrating and full of antioxidants, so it'll rejuvenate and soothe your tootsies.
Best for Sensitive Skin
Slip into these booties to treat your feet to a gentle but deep peel. This formula was made with sensitive skin in mind, and it uses milder alpha-hydroxy acids to exfoliate. It also uses antioxidant-rich fruit extracts to moisturize your feet, so you are left with healthy, soft skin.
This Botanical Formula
Using 35 botanical ingredients in its formula, this foot peel will soften, soothe, and refresh your feet. Get rid of rough patches, calluses, and dry, cracked skin without a trip to the spa.
This Gentle Peel
You can wave goodbye to dry, rough skin with this exfoliating foot mask. Infused with an alpha hydroxy acid complex, botanicals, and Australian tea tree oil, these sock-like masks will have you ready to break out your favorite sandals.
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Hannah Morrill is a writer and editor based in Portland, Maine. She’s an avid reader, an indifferent face-washer and a sunscreen/retinol evangelist.
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