Sandal season often goes hand in hand with unsightly calluses and cracked heels, since the thwacking of a clog or flip-flop can harden the soles of your feet. And while we’ve already sung the praises of Japanese foot peel Baby Foot for softer, smoother feet (which even podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera of City Podiatry, Tenoverten co-founder Nadine Abramcyk, and Jin Soon founder Jin Soon Choi recommended when we asked), we thought we’d do a deeper dive for summer and see what else is out there. Here, we’ve reached out to pedicurists, podiatrists, and spa experts to find a range of recommendations for getting the smoothest soles possible.
Chemical Foot Peels
Just like chemical peels for your face that contain alpha hydroxy acids to dissolve dead skin, many foot peels contain similar chemical exfoliants to loosen up dead skin until it’s literally peeling — which, while gross, can also be oddly satisfying. Pedicurist Carrie Telles of W Austin’s Away Spa says for deep exfoliation, she always looks to Patchology’s PoshPeel kit, an AHA and BHA botanical blend that “sells like hot cakes at our spa.” She notes that it’s also incredibly easy to use at home. “You simply soak your feet in bags (or foot masque socks), and the calluses gradually peel off, leaving your feet very smooth.”
Choi also suggests this ProLinc Callus Eliminator, which writer Alison Freer wrote about for the site last year. It’s a liquid peel that Choi says is “highly effective” for exfoliating your feet when it’s applied to calluses, left to sit for three to five minutes (only!), and then followed up with a pumice or foot file. We’ve called this out before, but the fact that it’s under $10 is very good news if you want something fast-acting for cheap.
For a gentler peel option, Skyy Hadley — celebrity manicurist and owner of both the As U Wish Nail Spa in Hoboken and Blink Beauty Boutique in Harlem — recommends this Cucumber Heel Therapy Cream. It contains exfoliants like AHAs and urea, but it’s balanced with soothing cucumber, chamomile, and aloe. “The cream softens the heels at the same time and leaves them feeling amazing,” she says.
You might also consider foot-peel masks, which Choi says are similar to chemical peels for your feet, except these “have enhanced efficacy because the mask ensures that the liquid is thoroughly absorbed into the callus.” She likes this foot mask from Korean brand Tonymoly. “The more time you have to allow the chemical to soak into your skin, the better it works.”
Physical Foot Exfoliators
And some nail experts consider physical exfoliants a much more effective and gentle way to scrub off dead skin than an acidic mask or peel (though you could certainly use them in tandem). Choi says the best way to mechanically remove calluses is to use a foot file, “which is effectively a skin grinder.” She likes the stainless-steel Tweezerman Sole Mates Foot File and Smoother for a handheld option, which comes with a compartment to contain all of your foot filings (kind of like a no-mess set of nail clippers).
For something gentle enough to use with regularity, Abramcyk swears by this Diamancel diamond file, which she uses at least three times a week, especially in the summer. “It’s best when used on dry feet for a few minutes on each foot, and then again just after showering,” says Abramcyk, and can be followed up with a heavy-duty moisturizer or oil to really soften up your feet. “You could do it as often as you’d like. It’s also not harsh, so it won’t encourage increased skin regrowth like some other harsher skin-removal procedures.”
Should you prefer something electric that doesn’t require quite as much elbow grease, Choi says this hyperpopular Amopé Pedi Perfect Wet & Dry Rechargeable Foot File works quite well. Users compare it to an electric sandpaper roll that scrubs off dead skin, and it has different frequencies of intensity, so you can turn it up depending on your needs.
Sutera says another alternative to harsher chemical peels is a Clarisonic kit for feet. All parts are sold separately, too, so if you already own a Clarisonic, Sutera recommends the “Pedi” brush attachment for your feet and the peel that comes with it called the Pedi Blend. How it works is that you rub a small amount of the peel to loosen and soften dead skin on your cracked heels, and then use the Clarisonic to physically buff away skin. “I like this product because you can control how much goes on, and then it dries up pretty quickly,” she says.
The Pedi-Buff peel uses lactic acid and fruit acids to exfoliate cracked skin, which Sutera says are helpful, but best used in moderation. “I would rather a patient use a gentler approach and do it a few times than to apply a very strong peel once and run the risk of injury, infection, and burn.”
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