If you’re looking into a callus remover, we feel you. Even if you get pedicures and take all the other steps to get fresh feet, these sorta-gross lumps punish you for being active, or going sockless, or for perhaps even for simply wearing your favorite shoes. They’re like tiny foot barnacles, taking up space without paying rent.
But first know that calluses aren’t all bad. They’re the body’s natural defense against friction and pressure. If you’re out for a run in a pair of loose shoes, your body does you a favor by obliterating all the skin cells in certain corners of your foot. Then it hardens those dead cells to create a protective layer that prevents further pressure and friction. it’s a good defense mechanism—but they can still be unsightly and gross if they get out of hand, and are often also painful.
As with many grooming conundrums, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before you reach for the callus remover, make sure your hiking boots fit and you’re wearing some high-quality socks. But regardless of how they got there, you almost certainly want to know how to remove dead skin from feet, and how to do it safely. Here’s how to do exactly that.
1. Soak the callus nightly.
Soak your feet nightly in a solution of warm water and Epsom salts. This will soften the skin (while soothing the feet), and can prepare the skin for other methods of removal.
2. Try a baking soda paste.
One DIY method of callus removal is to combine 3 teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon of water (or scale up from there if more is needed). This will form a paste which you can apply to the callus once it is softened. Then, wear a sock and let the solution help exfoliate the callus while you sleep.
3. Apply an exfoliating acid.
Just like an exfoliating serum helps lift dead skin cells from your face (minus any friction), an exfoliating foot cream can do the same. Get callus remover gel with lactic acid and/or urea, which will dissolve dead surface skin cells and break apart the proteins in that area. Depending on the severity of the callus, you may need to apply it nightly to clean, dry feet for a week or more. However, the dead skin will gradually dissolve as you sleep.
4. Use a callus remover.
Once the callus is softened, you can try a grinding stone on the area to help peel away dead skin cells. Or, when it is still hard, you can try a battery-powered callus grinder that helps sand away dead skin cells. These devices won’t finish the task (and you want to be especially careful with them if the callus is small and not thick enough to accommodate for this tough friction). However, if you’ve got a bruiser of a callus, these can help break it down fast.
5. Try a foot peel.
A foot peel is like a fancy home spa treatment that gives your entire foot a reset. Simply soak it in the peel solution as directed, rinse it all away, and in the coming days, any and all dead skin cells on your feet will peel away, revealing fresh, healthy skin cells underneath. It’s an extremely weird but rewarding process. (Just wear some socks to bed for the week to follow.)
6. Visit your podiatrist or dermatologist.
Sometimes, a callus may be too big, too painful, or too stubborn to handle at home. And in any such instance, you should visit your podiatrist (or get one in the first place), to discuss ways to smooth down the feet. You’ll should also learn how and why this callus occurred in the first place, and talk about methods for preventing its recurrence.
7. Invest in some insoles.
While you recover your feet from existing calluses, it’s important to wear supportive footwear and insoles that prevent the buildup of dead cells from reforming. This is a good practice moving forward, too, to keep callus formation at bay and to keep your feet smooth and sightly every day of the year.
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Originally Appeared on GQ