How to Remove Dead Skin from Feet: 7 Methods to Try

Are your feet drying out this winter? Experiencing a build-up of dead skin on the feet is a common podiatric problem, especially during these cooler months.

Thankfully, there are several ways to remove dead skin from your feet from the safety of your home. Canyon Oaks Foot & Ankle is here to share tips for exfoliating your feet. Beyond that, we’ll discuss the causes of dead skin on the feet and how to prevent foot dryness.


1. Pumice stone

A pumice stone is a natural lava stone that can help remove dead skin and callouses from your feet.

  • Dip the pumice stone in warm water. You can also soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes to soften them.
  • Gently move the stone in a circular or sideways motion around your foot to remove dead skin. Focus on removing the top layer of the skin and not the entire area of dead skin, which will help promote healthy cell turnover.
  • Apply lotion or oil afterward to help soften your feet.
  • Never use a pumice stone on injured or sore areas.

    2. Paraffin wax

    Many nail salons offer paraffin wax as an add-on for a pedicure treatment.

    Paraffin wax is a soft wax that’s melted at a medium temperature of around 125°F (51°C). The wax shouldn’t be hot enough to burn or irritate your skin.

    You can also do a paraffin wax treatment at home using an at-home paraffin wax bath, or you can melt the wax in a sauce pan and then transfer it to a bowl for dipping your feet.

    During a paraffin wax treatment, you’ll dip your feet in the wax several times. After several layers of wax are applied, wrap your feet in plastic.

    After the wax hardens, you can remove the wax. Any dead skin on your feet will be removed along with the wax. Your feet should feel soft afterward.

    Do not use paraffin wax if:

  • you have poor blood circulation
  • you have a rash or open sore on your feet
  • you’ve lost feeling in your feet, such as from diabetic neuropathy
  • If you use paraffin wax at home, be very cautious and monitor the temperature of the wax with a candy thermometer.

    Most pharmacies and drug stores sell different foot scrubs over the counter. Look for one with granules that will help scrub away dead skin.

    Or, you can even make your own by diluting two tablespoons of sea salt into equal amounts of baby oil and lemon juice.

    To use a foot scrub, apply the scrub directly to your foot and rub gently with your palm. Or use with a foot scrub brush or sponge to remove dead skin.

    Rinse scrub thoroughly with warm water after use.

    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:

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

    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.

    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
  • 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.

    Last medically reviewed on April 8, 2019

    How To Remove Thick Dead Skin From Feet

    Dead skin typically emerges from a lack of moisture, which happens when the feet are regularly suffocated in closed shoes or heavy socks. Athlete foot, or the friction created by running or walking, can also promote dead skin. If you dont have a regular foot care regime of exfoliation, moisturizing, or vinegar foot soaks, you are more likely to experience this problem.

    For a foot soak, dissolve two tablespoons of Epsom salt into a footbath with warm water. Soak your feet for at least 20 minutes to enjoy effective exfoliation for dry and cracked feet. You can always dissolve a cup of Epsom salt into a bathtub full of warm water to prevent dryness and relax your mind after an exhausting day.

    Oatmeal scrubs are a popular traditional remedy to exfoliate the skin from deep within and remove dry skin. You can make your own oatmeal scrub at home by mixing oatmeal with some milk and rose water. For effective results, apply the oatmeal scrub to your feet and work its magic for at least half an hour. Then, take a foot file, pumice stone or foot brush to exfoliate the feet and peel off the layers of dead skin.

    You can create an Epsom salt scrub by mixing some salt with olive oil, coconut oil, or even hot water. Use a sponge to apply the scrub all over your feet and rub gently to exfoliate and remove the dead skin. Be sure to wet your feet before applying the scrub and moisturize your feet once youre done to prevent dryness.

    You can create an Epsom salt scrub by mixing some salt with olive oil, coconut oil, or even hot water. Use a sponge to apply the scrub all over your feet and rub gently to exfoliate and remove the dead skin. Be sure to wet your feet before applying the scrub and moisturize your feet once youre done to prevent dryness.

    Causes of Dead Skin on Feet

    Dead skin build-up links closely to dryness. Many internal and external factors can affect the skin of the feet and cause excessive dead skin.

    Common causes of dry feet and dead skin build-up include:

  • Weather – As the seasons change, our skin may react negatively. Cold weather can cause the feet on the skin to dry out.
  • Diabetes – “Diabetes can cause changes in the skin of your foot. At times your foot may become very dry. The skin may peel and crack. The problem is that the nerves that control the oil and moisture in your foot no longer work,” explains the American Diabetes Association.
  • Calluses – When feet experience high pressure or friction due to footwear, sports, or daily activities, calluses can build up on the foot.
  • Showering – “Dry skin is mainly caused by too much bathing and soap (soap dermatitis). Soap removes the skin’s natural protective oils. Once they are gone, the skin can’t hold moisture,” says Seattle Children’s Hospital.
  • Age and Hormones – Skin, including the skin on the feet, may experience dryness due to changes within the body.
  • Skin Conditions – Patients suffering from skin conditions such as eczema are more likely to experience dryness of the foot and dead skin build-up.
  • Everyone’s feet will shed dead skin. It is a natural function of the human body. However, if you are experiencing excessive dead skin on your feet, visit your podiatrist. Your foot doctor will examine your feet’s skin condition and assess whether there could be underlying causes requiring medical attention.

    It is possible to treat most cases of dead skin build-up on the feet at home.

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