Having dry, rough, or cracked skin on the feet is common. The feet have fewer oil glands than other areas of the body, and they experience daily wear and tear. People can relieve dry skin on the feet using some simple home remedies.

Dry skin often appears on the heels and sides of the feet and between the toes. It may make the affected area feel itchy, tight, and even painful. Although this may be irritating, it is rarely harmful.

Simple foot soaks, moisturizers, and regular exfoliation can reduce dry skin on the feet, remove areas of dead skin and calluses, and prevent them from returning.

In this article, we look at the causes and treatment of dry, cracked, or scaly skin on the feet.

Causes

The following everyday factors may cause dry skin on the feet:

  • A lack of moisture. Dry, cracked, and flaking skin is especially common on the heel and sole because these areas have fewer oil glands than skin elsewhere on the body.
  • Irritation. Standing for too long or wearing poorly fitting shoes can put constant pressure on specific areas of the feet or cause friction of the skin. As a result, these areas of the feet may become dry, calloused, or cracked.
  • Heat and humidity. Closed shoes, such as sneakers and boots, create an extremely hot and humid environment for the feet. Heat and humidity draw moisture from the skin, which can lead to dry, thick, or cracked areas on the feet.
  • Soaps. Soaps and body washes that contain harsh chemicals or irritants can strip moisture from the skin. Failing to wash excess soap off the feet can also cause these problems.
  • Aging. Over time, the skin loses its ability to retain water, becoming thinner and less plump. Older people may be more likely to experience dry skin as a result of the natural aging process.
  • Medications. Certain medications, including diuretics, can cause dry skin on the feet.

Dry skin on the feet may also occur as a result of a medical condition, such as:

  • Athlete’s foot. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes a scaly rash between the toes and underneath the foot.
  • EczemaEczema refers to a group of conditions that cause skin inflammation. People can develop eczema anywhere on their bodies. Common symptoms of eczema include dry, crusty, or itchy patches of skin.
  • PsoriasisPsoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes thick, scaly patches of skin. People can develop psoriatic patches almost anywhere on their body, including their feet.
  • Hypothyroidism. People with hypothyroidism may develop extremely dry feet because their thyroid gland cannot regulate the sweat glands in the feet, which can lead them to become dry.
  • Diabetes. Living with uncontrolled diabetes may result in damage to the peripheral nerves, which is called neuropathy. Neuropathy can affect the nerves that regulate oil and moisture in the feet, which can cause the feet to become dry or cracked.
  • Treatments and remedies

    Dead cells on the surface of the skin naturally fall off, and new cells take their place. When a person does not remove the buildup of dead skin cells, they can form thick, flaky patches on the feet.

    Over time, dry areas can become thick or cracked, especially on the heels. Cracked heels make the feet vulnerable to infection, while thick calluses can make walking difficult or uncomfortable.

    In the following section, we discuss five of the best ways to treat dry skin and remove dead skin from the feet.

    1. Exfoliate

    Exfoliation involves removing dead surface-layer skin using either a physical or chemical exfoliator.

    Physical exfoliators include:

    • foot scrubs
    • body brushes
    • electronic callus removers

    People can buy foot scrubs or make their own at home by mixing honey, warm water, and sugar.

    Chemical exfoliators take the form of lotions or thin liquids. They contain ingredients that dissolve dead cells on the surface of the skin, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acid.

    Foot peels are popular chemical exfoliators that manufacturers have designed specifically for the feet. Some foot peels contain artificial fragrances and alcohols that can irritate sensitive skin, so it is important to check the list of ingredients for any potential allergens or irritants before buying a foot peel.

    For a gentler foot peel, people can use chemical exfoliators that the label describes as being suitable for facial use.

    People can choose between brands of exfoliating product online:

    2. Foot soak

    A person can add different ingredients, such as oatmeal or Epsom salt, to a foot soak.

    Soaking the feet in warm water helps soothe and loosen dry skin while improving blood circulation to the feet, which can help prevent dry skin in the future.

    Adding a small amount of vinegar to a foot soak may help treat mild forms of athlete’s foot. Vinegar has powerful antimicrobial properties that may help disinfect the feet and even eliminate foot odor.

    Learn more about vinegar foot soaks here.

    Other beneficial ingredients to consider adding to a foot soak include:

    • Epsom salt
    • honey
    • oatmeal
    • lemon juice
    • peppermint essential oil

    3. Pumice stone or foot file

    People can use a pumice stone or metal foot file to remove dry skin and calluses from the feet.

    They can do this by following the steps below:

    1. Soak the feet in warm water to soften the dead skin.
    2. Wet the pumice stone or foot file with warm water.
    3. Gently rub the pumice stone or foot file over the dead skin or callus. Use circular motions with a pumice stone and gentle back-and-forth motions with a foot file.
    4. Rinse the dead skin off the feet. Repeat step three as necessary.
    5. Pat the feet dry with a clean towel.
    6. Moisturize the feet with cream, lotion, or oil.

    People can buy pumice stones in drug stores or choose between brands online.

    4. Moisturize

    Regularly moisturizing the feet will help reduce existing dry skin and prevent new dry skin from accumulating. Moisturizing the feet after using an exfoliator or a pumice stone will help the skin lock in moisture.

    It is best to avoid lotions, creams, and moisturizers that contain alcohol, added fragrances, and artificial colors as these ingredients can worsen dry skin.

    Instead, a person should look for products that contain:

    • humectants, such as urea, aloe, and hyaluronic acid
    • emollients, which include plant-based butter and oil
    • occlusives, such as petrolatum, lanolin, and coconut oil

    5. Wear moisturizing socks to bed

    For extra hydration, a person can try using moisturizing gel-lined socks. These are available to purchase online, or people can create their own.

    Gel-lined socks contain natural oils and vitamins that help hydrate and repair dry skin on the feet. The individual just needs to slip on a pair and wear them around the house for a few hours. Afterward, they can place the socks in the washing machine and let them air-dry.

    People can get similar results using their usual moisturizer and a good pair of cotton socks. At bedtime, they can apply a generous amount of moisturizer to the feet before slipping on a pair of breathable, cotton socks. In the morning, they should remove the socks and rinse the feet.

    Prevention


    People can use the following tips to help prevent dry skin on their feet:

    • practicing proper foot hygiene, which includes thoroughly cleaning the feet, removing dead skin, and keeping the skin hydrated with a good moisturizer
    • avoiding lotions, soaps, and body washes that contain alcohol, added fragrances and colors, and other potential irritants
    • using warm, rather than hot, water for showers, baths, and foot soaks
    • wearing shoes that fit correctly
    • instead of vigorously rubbing the feet after a shower, gently patting them dry with a clean towel

    10 Home Remedies to Remove Cracked Heels and Get Beautiful Feet

    Do you feel too ashamed to remove your shoes in public because of cracks in your heels? While we spend a lot of time caring for our face, our feet are mostly ignored. It is this lack of care and hygiene that causes your heels to crack. If that is the case, we have got you covered.

    Your kitchen is a treasure trove of amazing products with medicinal value that can treat many daily ailments, including the problem of cracked heels. Bright Side brings you 10 remedies directly from your kitchen to help you attain the perfect heels you have always deserved.

    Listerine and vinegar

    What to do:

    1. Prepare a mixture of one cup of Listerine, one cup of white vinegar, and 2 cups of water.
    2. Soak your feet in the mixture for 15 minutes.
    3. Remove your feet, and scrub them using a pumice stone to remove dead skin.
    4. Rinse with clean water.
    5. Pat dry, and moisturize.

    How often: Repeat every day until your heels heal.

    Why it works: Listerine contains thymol and alcohol, which help to fight toenail fungus, cure cracked feet, soothe skin, and treat plantar warts. The mild acids present in vinegar soften dry and dead skin, making it easy to exfoliate.

    Rice flour, honey, and vinegar

    What to do:

    1. Make a scrub by mixing 3 tsp of rice flour, one tsp of honey, and 2–3 drops of apple cider vinegar. Stir well to form a thick paste.
    2. Soak your feet in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes, and then gently scrub using the paste to remove dead skin.

    How often: Repeat the process 2–3 times a week.

    Why it works: Rice flour exfoliates, purifies, and remineralizes the skin. Honey is a natural antiseptic that helps heal cracked feet. Vinegar is a mild acid that softens dry and dead skin, making it easy to exfoliate.

    Banana

    What to do:

    1. Mash 2 ripe bananas into a smooth paste. Make sure that the bananas are ripe. Unripe bananas contain acid that is harsh for the skin.
    2. Gently rub the paste all over your feet, including the nail beds and sides of the toe. Keep it on for 20 minutes.
    3. After 20 minutes, rinse your feet with clean water.

    How often: Repeat this every night before going to bed for 2 weeks or until you are satisfied with the results.

    Why it works: Banana is a natural skin moisturizer. It contains vitamins A, B6, and C, which all help to maintain the elasticity of the skin and keep it hydrated.

    Honey

    What to do:

    1. Add one cup of honey to a tub of warm water.
    2. Soak your clean feet in the mixture, and gently massage for 20 minutes.
    3. Gently exfoliate your skin using a pumice stone.
    4. Pat your feet dry, and apply a thick moisturizer.

    How often: This can be done regularly before going to bed.

    Why it works: Honey is a natural humectant, meaning it draws water from the inner tissues to the outer layers of the skin. This fluid shift creates a plumping effect that helps the outer skin heal.

    Vegetable oil

    What to do:

    1. Clean your feet thoroughly.
    2. Dry your feet using a soft towel.
    3. Apply a thick layer of vegetable oil to your heels and toes.
    4. Put on a pair of clean comfortable socks, and leave them overnight.

    How often: Daily before going to bed.

    Why it works: Vegetable oils are readily absorbed by the skin. Most vegetable oils contain vitamins such as provitamin A, D, and E, which all help nourish the skin and create new cells.

    Vicks VapoRub

    What to do:

    1. Before heading to bed, apply a generous layer of Vicks VapoRub to your feet.
    2. Massage for 5 minutes, and then put on comfortable socks (preferably cotton).
    3. Wash your feet with lukewarm water the following morning.

    How often: Daily before going to bed.

    Why it works: Vicks VapoRub contains camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol in a turpentine oil base. This type of ointment is emollient, thereby trapping moisture. The menthol and eucalyptus provide a cooling effect.

    What to do:

    1. Add 3 tbsp of baking soda to a bowl of lukewarm water. Mix well until the baking soda dissolves.
    2. Soak your feet in this for 15 minutes.
    3. Remove your feet, and scrub gently with a pumice stone.
    4. Rinse with clean water, and dry your feet with a clean towel.

    How often: Repeat the procedure twice a week.

    Why it works: Baking soda is an exfoliant. It removes dead cells and also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Baking soda can also neutralize foul odor.

    Aloe vera gel

    What to do:

    1. Soak your feet in warm water, and scrub using a pumice stone to remove dead skin.
    2. Pat dry, and apply a thick layer of aloe vera gel to your feet.
    3. Wear cotton socks, and head to bed.
    4. Wash with lukewarm water in the morning.

    How often: Repeat this every night for 4–5 days to see the results.

    Why it works: Aloe vera contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C, and E. These have antioxidant properties while the cholesterol, campesterol, β-sitosterol, and lupeol contained in aloe vera have anti-inflammatory properties. Lupeol also acts as an antiseptic and analgesic. The auxins and gibberellins present in aloe vera help in wound healing.

    Vaseline and lemon juice

    What to do:

    1. Soak your feet in warm water for about 20 minutes. Rinse, and pat dry.
    2. Add 3–4 drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice to one tsp of Vaseline. Mix well.
    3. Apply this mixture to your heels and other cracked parts of your feet.
    4. Wear a pair of woolen socks, and let it sit overnight.
    5. Wash using warm water in the morning.

    How often: Regularly before going to bed.

    Why it works: Vaseline acts as a moisturizer, and the citric acid in lemon juice promotes skin peeling and regrowth of new skin cells.

    Summary

    Wearing the wrong shoes or spending too much time standing can result in dry, itchy feet and areas of irritated or scaly skin. Without treatment, dry skin can thicken and crack open, leaving the feet vulnerable to infection.

    People can use pumice stones, exfoliators, and foot soaks to remove dry skin from their feet at home. Regularly applying moisturizer and removing dead skin will help keep the feet healthy and hydrated.

    Certain medical conditions, such as eczema, hypothyroidism, and diabetes, can cause very dry skin on the feet.

    People who have severely dry skin on their feet might want to consider contacting a specialist foot doctor called a podiatrist or another healthcare professional to discuss possible treatment options.