this thing's incredible

The Unsexy Foot Cream Dermatologists Swear By

Doesn’t look like much, but it works wonders. Photo: Retailer

When it comes to what we treasure, people fall into two camps. Those of us who feel that bedrooms are sanctuaries, birthday cards are heirlooms, and feet should be pampered — and those of us who don’t. I’m in the second camp. My bed is my office, birthday cards are kindling, and my feet are utilitarian. Ninety-minute pedicures in which your barking dogs are dipped in rose nectar and then dried by cotton pads don’t appeal. (Who has the time!) Which is not to say I don’t want my feet clean, groomed, and supple — I do. I always want job-interview feet, first-date feet, feet that can be bare at a friend’s house without any jump of existential nervousness.

Almost a decade as a beauty editor has confirmed for me that, happily, dermatologists and most nail aestheticians are on my side. The single most important ingredient in an effective foot cream isn’t anything cooling, anti-bacterial, or anti-inflammatory. Besides heavy-duty hydrators, the best foot creams also contain chemical exfoliants — lactic acid, urea, salicylic acid — that loosen the bonds between ossified dead skin cells, allowing them to gently slough away. The best contender I’ve found for this job? CeraVe Renewing SA Cream, which itself was developed with dermatologists and contains both exfoliant salicylic acid (that’s what the SA stands for) and ammonium lactate in the first ten ingredients, meaning the concentrations are significant, not an afterthought.

The cream is Crisco–thick although not greasy (if you prefer a gel option, the Strategist recommends this one), and smells of nothing at all. I use it two ways. I’ll rub it all over my feet and be someone who sleeps with socks on for just one night. In the morning, the fine white fissures in my toes and along the heels will have disappeared, craggy cuticles will have laid flat, and the ashy nubs around big toes will have receded. My second option is to rub it all over my feet and allow it to soak in for the better part of a half-hour (any sooner is too slippery). The second approach requires a few treatments for perfect feet. The cream also contains glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and cholesterol — a.k.a. the very best skin-moisturizers science knows about right now.

The company confirms that CeraVe also sells the exact same formulation in a squeezy tube, Renewing SA Foot Cream, which is easier to apply to the feet. But because rubbing anything labeled “foot” anywhere above the ankle reminds me of that scene in Amélie where the villainous grocer unknowingly brushes his teeth with crème pour les pieds, I’d recommend the tub, which I’ll dip into to quench dry knees, elbows, or even occasional patches of eczema on my eyelids.

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The Unsexy Foot Cream Dermatologists Swear By