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WebMD health-e head2toe: skin care today

6 Tips for Foot and Nail Care

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By Karen Bruno
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Your feet move you through the world, help you stand up to your day, and ground you. They also need TLC to keep them soft, strong, and free of problems.

These 6 steps will help your feet stay fabulous.

1. Smooth It Out.

Make it a habit to use a pumice stone or foot file on damp heels and calluses. Doing so will keep your feet looking good in open-back shoes.

First, soak your feet in water or a foot bath for 10 to 15 minutes to help soften the skin. Then gently remove the thickened skin with a pumice stone. New York podiatrist Isaac Tabari, DPM, recommends a warm foot bath made of black tea (tannic acid). Tannic acid, he says, is a natural antibacterial agent that may reduce the chance of getting athlete’s foot.

Moisturizing foot scrubs made from botanicals such as crushed fruit pits, sugar, or chemical exfoliators also help remove dead skin. After you scrub, apply a rich foot cream or balm containing shea butter or cocoa butter.

  • Look for balms or heel creams containing salicylic acid or urea to soften tough calluses.

2. Moisturize.

If your heels are very dry and cracked, see a podiatrist or dermatologist for a prescription treatment. If they’re not that bad, there are plenty of moisturizing products from which to choose.

First, you might try some medicated heel pads, which don't need a prescription, to soften calluses while you walk. After you’ve exfoliated the calluses, use a heavy cream to moisturize tough skin on your heel.

  • Look for creams containing petrolatum, an emollient, or a humectant such as lactic acid, which draws moisture into the skin.

 

3. Fight Fungus.

Over-the-counter antifungal treatments come in many forms -- lacquers, creams, lotions, liquids, spray powders, and spray liquids. These products work best on mild cases of athlete’s foot, and probably not at all with toenail fungus, which is difficult to treat.  

No matter the form, they have one of the following active ingredients, which are all equally effective:  terbinafine, tolnaftate, miconazole, ciclopirox, or clotrimazole. Tabari says tea tree oil, sometimes called melaleuca oil, also works well on mild cases of athlete’s foot.

  • Look for a medicated powder or spray if you have sweaty feet. Powders usually contain aluminum chloride hexahydrate to help keep feet dry.
  • If you have dry feet, look for an antifungal lotion.

Dry your feet thoroughly before you apply antifungal powder or lotion.

Dark and damp conditions let the funguses that cause athlete’s foot flourish. Basic good foot hygiene is the best way to prevent fungal infections. Wash your feet frequently and dry them thoroughly, especially between your toes. Wear fresh socks or other hosiery daily.

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