Exfoliation is an important skincare step, especially for overworked feet. Use these expert-approved options to keep yours in tip-top shape.

By Erica Metzger
August 20, 2020
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

A few months into the lockdown, I realized that the only time I really pay attention to my feet is when I get a salon pedicure. It was time to add some serious sole softening to my at-home routine. "You have to exfoliate your feet. Otherwise, the dry, thick skin can form callouses and cracks," says New York City-based dermatologist Shari Marchbein, M.D. She explains that the skin on our feet is naturally thicker, and thanks to normal things, including wearing shoes, walking on surfaces, and holding up all of our weight, this part of our body can get rough and tough if we're not taking proper care of it. Now, I pumice my tootsies every few days as part of my shower ritual. And if they still get too rough, I step it up with a chemical exfoliating treatment.

woman sitting on a bed applying lotion to her feet
Credit: Dmitry Belyaev/Getty Images

Foot Peels

Curious about chemical peels for your feet? Here's how they work: You start with an hour-long soak in exfoliating acids. About four days later, patches of dry, dead skin start to peel off painlessly. (The acids break down protein bonds between skin cells, Marchbein says.) Real talk: This is not a pretty process! But it's incredibly effective at removing tough, thickened skin for smoother feet.

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baby foot exfoliation peel
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Heavy-Duty Exfoliation

The Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel has a vast following and lives up to its name (and reputation for shedding skin like a snake). After about a week and a half of fast and furious flaking, my wizened soles looked a lot more like my 3-year-old's feet. 

Buy It: Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel ($25, Amazon)

posh peel foot treatment
Credit: Courtesy of Nordstrom

Less-Intense Resurfacing

I experienced similarly impressive results when I used Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure The peeling action of this blend of acids (glycolic, salicylic, lactic, and citric) is milder and more gradual.

Buy It: Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure ($20, Nordstrom)

Finishing Touches

If you're in-between peels, or maybe you're not quite ready for one, there are other methods to get rid of dry skin. These easy options will still give you supple feet with less mess.

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tweezerman stone
Credit: Courtesy of Tweezerman

Gentle Buffer

A pumice stone or ceramic foot file physically exfoliates dry, tough callouses. Use it at the end of your shower while feet are soft.

Buy It: Tweezerman Sole Smoother ($20, Ulta)

amlactin foot repair
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Double Duty Cream

A foot cream with lactic acid—a gentle alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)—hydrates and exfoliates at the same time. One I like is Amlactin Foot Repair. Top it with Vaseline ($2, Target), and slip on socks for an overnight treatment, Marchbein says.

Buy It: Amlactin Foot Repair ($12, Target)


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