Your body naturally thickens areas of skin – creating callouses and corns – to protect injured or irritated layers of skin underneath. Left unchecked, rough and tough skin can crack and become infected.
In the case of feet, callouses form from the friction of walking, running or footwear.
A foot “corn” is like its vegetable namesake: a small hard particle or kernel. The skin around a white-ish corn is typically red and inflamed.
- Often larger than corns, in shapes other than round
- Common on the soles of the feet (heel or ball), palms of the hands, and knees
- Usually painless, even insensitive
- Distinctly small, round lumps or nodules
- Very sensitive or painful when pressed
- Occur often in skin that is not under pressure or bearing weight
I hope we can agree that both callouses and corns are ugly and unwanted, like certain house guests we know. (Just kidding!)
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to treat your feet with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Removing skin is called exfoliation. This process removes the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s epidermus (outermost surface). All facial treatments, whether microdermabrasion or chemical peels, aim to exfoliate without damaging the deeper skin tissues.
Exfoliation can be achieved through mechanical or chemical means.
By “mechanical” we’re not talking about getting out the power sander. Reach for a pumice stone instead. Actually a light-weight volcanic rock, skin-smoothing pumice is sold in the beauty aisles of many stores.
Begin all foot treatments with a minimum 5-10 minute warm water soak to soften the skin. This feels soooooo good!
Then, wet the pumice stone in the warm water before rubbing it gently over the hardened callous or corn. It doesn’t matter if you use circular or side-to-side motions.
Just be careful not to overdo “sanding smooth” with the pumice stone – it is a rock, after all, and rock-hard. Before you know it, you can remove too much skin – and literally rub your feet raw, to the point of bleeding. Don’t even go there. It will probably take a few sessions to remove callouses and corns that have built up over time, so be patient.
Rinse and dry your feet. Follow with moisturizer, especially a lotion or cream with salicylic acid, ammonium lactate, or urea, which help soften hard skin over time.
Before you put those irritating shoes or boots on again, get some pharmacy moleskin or other soft padding. For callouses, cut the moleskin into two crescents to fit around the raised area. For corns, get the donut-shaped pads in the foot care section of most drug stores.
Speaking of that irritating footwear, consider replacing the uncomfortable shoes with a better size and/or shape for your foot. When in doubt, ask an expert, and get your feet measured in the shoe department.
Believe it or not, keeping your toenails trimmed also helps prevent corns since the toe has nowhere to go but up against the shoe leather when a long toenail pushes against the front of your shoe.
You can enhance the foot soaking experience – and effectiveness – by adding 3 tablespoons of baking soda, some epsom salts or steeped chamomile tea to a 30-minute soak.
Some folks swear by this home remedy: soak a slice of bread in apple cider vinegar for 10 hours to form a paste. Before you get into bed, smear the paste on your calloused areas and cover the entire foot with a sock, bandage, or plastic bag. Leave this on overnight before rinsing off the paste the following morning.
Other substances that effectively treat thickened skin are pineapple peel and aloe vera leaves. You can substitute the vinegar/bread paste described above with flaxseed oil or chest rub, wrapped or covered to hold moisture and protect the bed sheets.
Did you know you can actually prevent callouses and corns from forming? In addition to footwear that isn’t too big, small, wide or narrow, keep your feet clean and dry. Apply petroleum jelly to reduce friction before taking a long walk or run. Finally, give your feet a break from the same old rub by switching shoes.
Enjoy a softer you.