Our feet take on a lot of stress throughout the day. Read more...
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Why is it important to use foot cream?
Our feet take on a lot of stress throughout the day. The changes our skin experiences as a result of repeat friction, trauma, ill-fitting shoes, exposure to fungus and other microbes, etc are part of the equation. Aside from external factors, some are surprised to learn that hormonal changes such as diabetes and menopause, sweat disorders such as dyshidrosis, and secondary changes to the skin from bony changes and fat redistribution can impact the skin of the feet as well. I tend to advise patients that the changes are skin experiences are often what I refer to as “reactive changes”. In other words, the skin of our feet is reacting to the factors it is exposed to usually by thickening to protect itself. These thickened areas of the skin can be unsightly or uncomfortable. Many people react to these changes by scrubbing or exfoliating the thickened areas. They realize that these measures are only transiently effective. By scrubbing or exfoliating these thickened areas, our skin senses the repetitive friction and responds by creating thicker plaques of skin too, again, protect itself. This is a losing battle.
The best approach is to understand the factors that lead to the changes in our skin. If there are identifiable factors that can be changed such as choosing shoes or products less likely to create these areas, this can be an important first step. If there are factors outside of your control, then this is where the use of a foot cream routinely can help. Think of daily use of a foot cream (or at least some level of routine such as after every shower or before bedtime) as an opportunity for your skin to recuperate, rehydrate and protect itself to minimize the effects of cumulative damage.
How to best apply foot cream (and when/how frequently to apply one)?
Routine is key to the best results. This does not necessarily mean every single day. The challenge with foot creams is that your feet can potentially feel greasy or slippery afterward. I find that the most effective times that we can set aside to focus on our feet tend to be either right after the shower or right before bedtime. After a shower can be very beneficial to your skin as the moisturizers can trap some hydration from the shower. Before bedtime is ideal for many simply because you will not be walking and it will not feel uncomfortable to have the product in place. Making time every other day or a few times a week is helpful. Choose a time that is simplest to keep up with.
What to look for in a foot cream?
The main ingredients I recommend in foot creams are urea and/or salicylic acid and dimethicone and/or petrolatum. Urea and/or salicylic acid can help chemically exfoliate the skin to avoid harsh or abrasive physical exfoliation that can rebound the thickening of the skin.
Dimethicone and/or petrolatum are nice barriers for the skin of the feet to form a layer of “protection” to reduce the chances of outside irritants, allergens, or microbes from affecting the skin.
For preventative measures, there are many foot creams on the market focused on diabetic patients. The risk of infection from cracks or fissures in the skin of the feet for diabetics makes them a vulnerable group of patients. There are a number of creams referenced as diabetic foot creams that, even if you do not have diabetes, can be very effective.
CeraVe Diabetics Dry Skin Relief Hand and Foot Cream contain urea and ceramics. The urea can help reduce the pre-existing thickened plaques not the skin and the ceramides can help form an effective barrier for the skin from outside insults. Amlactin Foot Repair cream uses lactic acid to help with mild exfoliation of dry skin and hydration. If you have really thickened plaques already and need something to help these thin out safely, Keralyt 5% cream or gel has salicylic acid which is a bit more aggressive to help thin out these thickened areas without leaving them feeling raw or painful.