Dry feet is a common problem, affecting both men and women. Although usually restricted to the soles of the feet, it can be quite unsightly, especially if you are wearing an open-backed pair of shoes. Dry skin on the feet gives rise to the even more common problem of cracked heels. Once heels start cracking, it becomes a problem which can no longer be left untreated. Let us take a look at why dry skin develops on the feet.
What Causes Dry Skin on Feet?
Cracked heels are the culmination of an extended period of dryness of the skin and the pressure it feels, before giving way to breaks and nicks. The dry skin itself is caused by one or more of the following factors:
1. Less Moisture
Like your face or hands, or any part of the body, for that matter, your feet and especially the heels, too, need moisture and stay hydrated. Unfortunately, there are very few sweat glands on the heels of the feet. Consequently, when the heels dry up, there is no lubrication available. In the absence of conscious hydrating, the skin shrivels up, loses elasticity and cracks up under strain.
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2. Excessive Contact with Water
This may seem counter-intuitive, but hydrating is not the same as adding water. In fact, water robs the skin of oil and sebum, which keeps the skin moist and soft. Instead, water only serves to dry up the feet.
As you grow older, the skin, especially under the feet, begins to thicken and become scaly. It becomes more rigid and starts to crack progressively. Cracked heels is thus a common occurrence in older people.
4. Pressure & Obesity
The feet bear the burden of the entire body weight. Unbeknownst to us, the feet remain the most worked-out portion of the body in the course of the day. Every time you walk or stand, the feet support the body, providing balance, without any discomfort. So, if you walk long distances, or stand for a very long time, the feet works overtime. Add to that excess body weight, the pressure the feet feel multiplies. Any part of the skin which comes under a lot of stress is bound to weaken in the absence of proper counter-care. The heels are no different. Hence, dry skin on feet develop.
5. Mineral Deficiency
The daily diet is also crucial in determining the health of the skin on the feet. If the diet is lacking in vital minerals and minerals, especially zinc, it could lead to drying of skin and chapping of the heels.
6. Bad Footwear
People should wear not only comfortable shoes – with adequate space to wiggle the toes and move the heels – but should also take care that the shoes provide adequate support to the body and protect the feet from the elements. Open-backed shoes expose the heels to water and dirt. Grime collects in the heels and aids in drying up of the skin, causing it to crack. Similarly, close-fitting shoes do not absorb the pressure on the feet uniformly and may direct it to the heels, causing then to experience excessive pressure. The result is drying, thickening, and cracking of heels.
How to Take Care of Dry Skin on Feet?
Taking care of the dry skin on feet and cracked heels are very easy and can be done right at home, unless if the issue has become too painful or too widespread. In that case, go visit a podiatrist. For all other cases, here is a handy guide to recovering your soft feet.
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Wet exfoliation starts with you dipping your feet in a tub of lukewarm water, preferably containing Epsom salts. These salts – along with the contact with warm water – helps loosen the dead and dry skin on feet. Epsom salts are also believed to possess antifungal properties, so your feet also get thoroughly cleaned. You can then scrub away gently at the dead skin using a pumice stone. Dry the feet using a clean towel and rub in copious amounts of a good foot creme. For added protection, you can also dab in a little moisturizer. Finish off the exfoliation by wearing a pair of clean cotton socks.
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Many proponents of clean, soft feet claim that the key is to treat the feet while it is dry. Wetting the feet turns the dead skin soggy, which often makes it difficult to scrub them away without hurting some of the fresh skin too. Also, the constant contact with water may end up doing more harm than good. If you believe in these sentiments, then you can choose to file away the dry skin on feet in a single direction, towards the middle line. Wash off the debris with warm water and moisturize the feet.
Sock ’em up
For rough, scaly heels, socks are the best. A pair of clean, cotton socks can help retain the moisture. In order to get the best results, you can rub in some essential oils or a thick creme before putting on the socks. Avoid movement as much as possible (which is why you should do this just before you go to sleep). The heat generated by the body keeps the oil in a liquid state and continues to keep the foot hydrated.
Some manufacturers have also developed electric gadgets which can scrape away the dead skin. Instead of rubbing it with a pumice, you can simply drag this device over the affected area for a quick treatment.
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Dry skin on feet can stop you from wearing good shoes and eye-catching heels. The embarrassment alone is enough to push you towards taking care of cracked heels, besides the obvious fact that the longer you keep cracked heels untreated, the harder it gets to return to those baby-soft heels.