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The chilling winters can be hard on the feet. The skin on your feet is typically drier than the rest of the body, primarily because there are no oil glands underneath it to keep it naturally hydrated.
Certain factors such as friction, pressure, diseases such as eczema and advanced diabetes, and even old age can make your skin increasingly dry.
Besides water intake and sebum production, your skin derives its moisture from the environment. (1) But the cold winter months are characterized by low humidity, which means there isn’t enough moisture in the air to keep your skin properly hydrated. Thus, the arid winter breeze can make your feet dry and rough.
Your feet go through constant wear and tear as they carry the load of your body and rub against the hard ground. Dry skin is not only rough and flaky but also less elastic and therefore prone to tearing. This is why the dry skin of the feet often develops cracks, especially around the heels, which are under maximum strain.
Prolonged standing, vigorous physical activity, and some medical disorders can make you more susceptible to this kind of skin damage.
Ultimately, your feet take the full pressure of your life. It is your responsibility to at least pamper them occasionally to keep them silky and smooth. With just a little bit of care, you can be more comfortable and confident with your pretty feet.
How to Take Care of Your Feet This Winter
The following are tips that can be your best solutions to keep your feet healthy, especially during winter.
1. Dab on some glycerine
Almost all households have a bottle of glycerine in the medicine cabinet. And if you don’t, it is easily available at most pharmacies at an affordable price. This lubricating remedy can go a long way in keeping your feet soft, smooth, and crack-free throughout the winter.
Glycerine is a humectant, (2) which means it traps moisture from the air and seals it into the skin. This keeps your skin softer for a long time.
How to use:
- Mix 3 tablespoons of glycerine with 1 tablespoon of rosewater.
- Rub this mixture on your feet, and wear clean socks to prevent it from rubbing off your feet.
- Keep the treatment overnight on your feet and wash it off with lukewarm water in the morning.
2. Oil massage
Oil massage has always been a popular remedy for dry skin. When done regularly, it deeply hydrates rough, dry, cracked feet to prevent further damage and promote fast healing. (3)
Plus, the topical stimulation helps improve blood circulation under the skin to relieve the soreness and aches associated with tired feet.
How to use:
- Clean your feet thoroughly with warm water before bedtime. Dry any excess moisture, especially between the toes.
- Mix 1 tablespoon each of coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil, and massage this blend all over your feet and heels for at least 15 minutes.
- Wear socks to avoid staining your bedsheet, and wash your feet the next morning.
3. Apply petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly is another classic remedy that prevents dry feet during winters. It works by sealing in the dry cracks on the feet and adding a consistent moisturizing effect, which allows the skin to repair itself. (2)
How to use:
- Add 3–4 drops of rosehip oil to ¼ cup of petroleum jelly and mix well to achieve a thick and smooth consistency.
- Apply this mixture quite liberally to your feet, wait a few minutes for it to get absorbed, and then put on socks.
- Do this at bedtime so that the remedy stays on your feet overnight.
4. Soak your feet in warm water
Soaking your feet in warm water softens the dead skin flakes on the surface so that they can easily be scrubbed off. (4) This helps smoothen the texture of the skin and prevents the formation of calluses.
How to use:
- Fill a foot tub with warm water and add ½ cup of Epsom salt to it. You can add some honey for an added layer of moisturization and some lavender oil to keep the soak smelling wonderful.
- Soak your feet in this preparation for about 15 minutes or until the water turns cold.
- You can use a soft foot brush to scrub your feet lightly when the skin is soft enough from the soak. This will help the other remedies and products to be absorbed better into the skin.
- Dry your feet after the soak, and put on a thick foot cream or an oil-based lotion to seal in the moisture.
5. Apply paraffin wax
The thick skin on the soles of your feet needs to be softened for any remedy to penetrate properly. Applying slightly warm paraffin wax helps do just that.
Paraffin wax acts as a natural emollient that lubricates your dry and cracked heels. (1) The gentle heat helps open up the pores in the skin so that the wax can seep in, providing deep moisturization. Plus, topical heat also stimulates blood circulation under the skin to relieve any swelling and pain.
How to use:
- Heat a block of paraffin wax in pan. Keep stirring until the wax melts completely.
- Let it cool down to the extent that it is still warm but your skin can bear it.
- Dip your feet in the mixture and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat the process at least 4–5 times with each foot until they get covered with multiple layers of wax.
- Wrap your feet in plastic and let them be for at least half an hour. After that, you can remove the wrap and peel the layers of wax to reveal visibly softer skin.
Note: Always test the temperature of the mixture before dipping your feet in to avoid burns. Avoid this treatment if you have poor blood circulation or if you are suffering from diabetes.
6. Use rice flour scrub
Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and preps the feet to better absorb skin treatments.
Rice flour is a wonderful exfoliator that also repairs cracked heels and rough skin on the feet. (5) It is a naturally coarse powder that softens when mixed with water and can be used to exfoliate your skin deeply without agitating it.
How to use:
- Combine 2 tablespoons of ground rice flour, ½ tablespoons of honey, and 4–5 drops of lemon juice to make a thick paste.
- Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salt to soften the skin, apply a layer of the paste, and massage for 4–5 minutes to scrub the outer layer of skin. You can keep the paste on your feet for another 15 minutes to deep clean your skin.
- Wash the paste off with lukewarm water, and apply a thick lotion to seal the moisture.
7. Try chemical peels
Exfoliation is meant to remove dead skin cells from the outer layer of the skin. However, feet calluses are sometimes too thick to be removed by regular exfoliation. (6)
A chemical foot peel removes this stubborn buildup of dead skin and preps the feet for the hydrating treatments to follow. Talk to your dermatologist about getting this treatment.
8. Proper hydration
Dehydration is the leading cause of dry skin and can lead to skin damage. It also prevents healthy cell metabolism, which is needed to help repair the skin.
If you do not take enough water, your skin will lose moisture and become stiff. (7) It happens faster to your feet because the skin in this area does not have additional oil glands. As a result, the skin becomes rough, dry, and more susceptible to cracking.
Drinking enough water is your first line of defense in your fight against dry skin (8) as topical moisturizers can only go so far. Drink at least 3–4 liters of water every day to hydrate your skin from within.
9. Use salt scrubs
Salt scrubs are a natural way to exfoliate your feet and repair skin damage faster. (9) These scrubs can be used anytime in the year, but if you follow a scrubbing routine throughout the winter, you will naturally have sandal-ready feet as spring arrives.
How to use:
- Combine ½ cup of sea salt, up to 3 tablespoons of coffee grounds, and 3–4 tablespoons of coconut oil to make a paste. The oil will be an added moisturizer for the skin.
- Apply the scrub gradually in small amounts as you keep scrubbing your feet in circular motions for 15 minutes. Pay special attention to the heel area.
- Rinse your feet with regular water and then dry them well.
10. Hydrating foot cream with socks
Excessive use of room heaters saps the moisture from the already-dry winter air, and this has a dehydrating effect on the skin. So, while moisturizing should be a part of your daily skin care routine throughout the year, it is all the more necessary during winters.
You will find your feet to be more susceptible to cracked heels, painful corns, and thick calluses if you do not keep them hydrated properly with high-quality foot creams and lotions.
Put on a pair of socks after applying a foot cream so that the product does not transfer, get wiped off, or make your feet slippery. Socks also help protect your feet from dirt and germs. (10)
Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care Measures for Healthy Feet
You can altogether prevent a few issues with your feet if you just make some lifestyle changes. Some self-care measures can be observed throughout the year to avoid excessively dry or cracked feet.
Here are a few things you can do to improve the condition of not just your feet but also your overall skin.
1. Moisturize your feet
Moisturizers work better if you apply them within a few minutes of a bath or warm shower, when the skin is still damp and your pores are open, allowing better product absorption. Plus, the moisturizer seals the moisture on the surface of the skin.
However, the lack of humidity during winters can make your skin, especially the skin on your feet, dry out rather quickly even after post-shower moisturizing. So, you need to reapply the moisturizer several times to keep your feet soft and smooth.
2. Keep your feet clean and dry
The health of your feet also depends on your hygiene. Always use a mild, pH-balanced cleanser to wash your feet and make sure to dry them properly thereafter, especially in tricky spots such as between the toes. (11)
You can either leave them to air-dry or use a clean foot towel to soak in the extra moisture. Never wear socks or shoes on damp feet as this can breed infection-causing microbes.
ALSO READ: Know the Correct Way to Clean Your Feet
3. Wear proper footwear
Your shoes should be well-fitted to keep them from squeezing your feet (if they are too tight) or rubbing against your skin to cause injuries (if they are too loose).
Besides getting the correct shoe size, you should also look for proper arch support in your footwear for maximum comfort and balance while walking.
4. Avoid using hot water for bathing
Hot water strips the natural moisture from your skin, rendering it drier than before. (12) Given that the skin of your feet is already quite dry, washing them with hot water can make the problem worse.
Plus, there is always the risk of burns, especially in children, the elderly, and people with sensitive skin.
5. Apply urea-based creams
Some ingredients are just better than others in helping to retain moisture within the skin. Urea is one such ingredient that can enhance the moisturizing property of skin care products so that they provide prolonged hydration. (1)
Look for foot care products that contain urea to help heal severely dry, flaky, and cracked skin.
Winters can make you feel lazy and want to just wrap yourself in a blanket with a warm drink in hand, often neglecting skin care, especially that of your feet.
But if you take good care of the skin on your feet year-round, you will not need to worry about extra foot care during winter. However, if you suspect anything unusual with your feet, do not hesitate to consult a doctor for a thorough evaluation.