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WebMD health-e head2toe: skin care today

Steps to Take for Pretty Feet

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By Karen Bruno
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

You moisturize and exfoliate the skin on your face so it looks and feels good. Are you doing the same for your feet?

Body creams and rich moisturizers that are used for elbows and legs work well on heels and foot calluses. But if your heels are dry or cracked, you may want to try a cream designed specifically for the heels.

These creams may use alpha or beta hydroxy acids or urea to exfoliate. For cracked heels, look for creams that have dimethicone for a protective layer that seals in moisture.

Smelly Feet?

Scented foot sprays and powders mask foot odor, but they won't get at what's causing it. The main culprit is sweat.

The foot has more than 250,000 sweat glands. Over-the-counter antiperspirants may not work very well on the soles of your feet or between your toes. But there are antiperspirants and foot powders that will.

There are also moisture control pads that contain aluminum chloride to control moisture and odor. These can be used several times a week at bedtime.

You can also look for powders that absorb moisture and help prevent foot sweat. They use ingredients that include:

  • Dimethicone, which forms a protective barrier that keeps air from coming in contact with moisture and sweat
  • Triclosan, which kills odor-causing bacteria
  • Chlorhexidine digluconate, another antibacterial ingredient that kills odor-causing germs
  • Grillocin, an odor neutralizer
  • Menthol, which cools and helps mask odor

You can also take simple steps to prevent foot odor. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommends:

  • Changing your shoes daily so each pair has a chance to air out
  • Changing your socks even more often
  • Using foot powders and antiperspirants
  • Soaking your feet regularly in vinegar and water

Toenail Fungus

A lot of people get toenail fungus.  The fungus thrives in warm or moist environments, such as showers and athletic shoes. Toenail infections are most common in people who sweat a lot or swim often. They're also common in people with diabetes.

Toenail fungus causes your toenails to thicken and turn yellow. The best defense is prevention. Always wear dry, clean socks. Don't wear the same footwear every day, especially in warm weather.

If you get pedicures, choose a place that practices good hygiene or do your own pedicures at home. Dirty pedicure tools spread toenail fungus infection.

Most over-the-counter treatments for toenail fungus don't work well. Prescription medications can be very effective, but they need to be taken for a long time in order to work. These drugs may also cause side effects and interfere with other medications.

There are also laser treatments. Laser treatments are expensive, costing about $1,000, and are not covered by most health insurance.

2 Steps to Defeat Athlete's Foot

You don't have to be an athlete to get athlete's foot. It's caused by a common fungus.

Just coming in contact with the fungus doesn't mean you'll get it. The fungus needs a warm, moist, dark environment before it can grow and infect you.

One way to keep from getting it is to use cotton socks and "breathable" shoes so that your feet can stay dry.

If you already have athlete's foot, keep the infected area clean and dry. Change your shoes regularly and wear socks that wick away moisture. Dusting with a medicated powder such as miconazole or tolnaftate daily will also help keep your feet dry.

The next step is to use an over-the-counter antifungal medication such as Lamisil, Terbinex (terbinafine) or clotrimazole. When you're treating athlete's foot, it's important to treat all areas where the fungus is growing, including your toenails. If you treat just your skin, the infection can come back. If the fungus lasts for more than four to five weeks of treatment, see your doctor.

Reviewed on November 09, 2012
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