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I’ve been a beauty editor for over 20 years, so I've been able to try tons of skin care products. In all that time, if you asked me if there was one product I’m constantly in search of, there’d be no hesitation on my part: a product that removes the dry, scaly skin on the bottom of my feet.
I’m the girl who goes to put on a pair of leggings only to feel the fabric snag on the rough skin on her feet. I’m the girl who gets the “you need to come in more often” eye roll from the nail technician during a pedicure as she rubs a pumice stone over my heels — again and again. I’m the girl who can lean down and pick pieces of skin off her heels while watching Netflix. I’m the girl … OK, you get the picture.
A doctor once ruled out any underlying medical conditions and informed me that some people are simply more predisposed to dry, flaky skin on their heels. She also shared that the skin in that area looks worse after a winter spent in closed shoes, where trapped heat can result in water loss and a thickening of the skin on the bottoms of our feet. I’ve tried everything from prescription-strength urea creams to moisturizing balms, but the only thing that makes any difference on my feet is the mechanical exfoliation that takes place during a pedicure.
With flip-flop season just around the corner and the bottoms of my feet feeling and looking like jagged sandpaper, I knew I needed to figure out an at-home solution. I researched the bestselling foot files on Amazon and zeroed in on an extremely affordable file that had over 7,000 verified five-star reviews.
After reading the rave reviews, I quickly added the Rikans Colossal Foot File and Callus Remover to my cart and soon a product that cost me less than my lunch that day — and looked like a giant cheese grater — arrived in the mail.
It's promoted as “the perfect solution for dry, calloused and cracked heels,” but quite frankly, this 11-inch paddle-shaped file with metal-like teeth scared me at first. So before attempting to use it on my feet, I reached out to a top podiatrist for some insight.
She confirmed what I already knew — that foot creams and scrubs don’t always move the needle and that stubborn skin sometimes only responds to mechanical exfoliation. “The key is to find the right tool and use it correctly,” podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal told me.
Although the instructions suggest using it on either wet or dry feet, Splichal recommends soaking your feet for at least 10 minutes prior to scraping. “You’ll get better results on softened skin while minimizing the risk of injury, including nicks and cuts,” she said. The tool has little metal edges that create a mechanical debridement of the skin. “They’re not actually blades, but they can cut if you’re too aggressive,” Splichal said. “Be conservative when exfoliating, especially the first time — you don’t want to end up shaving your skin.”
I soaked my feet while showering, patted them dry, then picked up the tool and gently scraped the bottoms of my feet, filing in an up-and-down and back-and-forth direction. Light yellow-tinged flakes started piling up on a piece of black paper I had placed on the floor, and I have to say, it was somewhat satisfying to see the dead skin fly off my feet. I had to force myself to stop and put the file down.
I spent a few minutes on each heel and then had a feel — they were baby smooth, just like after a professional pedicure.
I followed up the evening with a moisturizing balm containing petrolatum — Aquaphor Healing Ointment — and by the next morning, the skin on my feet not only looked smoother but felt softer, too.
The tool comes in a little satin pouch but be sure to rinse it under hot water and dry before putting it back or risk flaky skin cells spilling out of the bag when you go to use it next. “If you have any fungus in your skin, make sure you also clean it with rubbing alcohol or tea tree oil,” adds Splichal. “Since it’s made of stainless steel, it shouldn’t rust. But if it does, stop using it.”
I reach for my file pretty much once a week, to the chagrin of my husband, who has banished it from our house.
“Take that outside!” he insists. “I don’t need to see your foot flakes all over the place!”
This story was originally published on May 26, 2020.
For more stories like this, check out:
- This $8 cream will soothe your dry, cracked feet in no time
- How to achieve a salon-worthy pedicure at home
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- These $18 shoe inserts can help with foot pain — and podiatrists agree