With summer just around the corner, are your feet in need of some serious TLC? Take your tootsies out of winter hibernation and soothe away problems—dryness, calluses, ugly toes, and odor—with expert tips and natural remedies such as pumice, shea butter, peppermint, and sugar. Your feet will be sandal-ready in no time!
Replenish thirsty skin
If the cold, dry winter months left your feet parched and flaky, rich natural butters and oils can restore lost moisture. "Shea butter—based lotions provide some of the most effective moisturizing," says Tara Oolie, founder of Just Calm Down Spa in New York. For a natural moisture boost, she recommends grape seed, sunflower, and olive oils. Try smoothing on foot lotions rich in these ingredients every other day, right after a shower or bath. To prevent fungal infections, wait until feet have absorbed the lotion before putting on socks and shoes.
Extra pressure or friction on the foot creates these unattractive patches of thick, hardened skin, says podiatrist Mark Brenis, DPM, who practices in Capitola, California. "As long as this pressure continues, then calluses will grow back—even if you scrape or trim them." He suggests re-evaluating footwear and gradually softening tough spots with regular exfoliating treatments. Try Oolie's easy at-home exfoliating routine: Whip up a scrub by mixing 2 tablespoons granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Apply to calloused spots and gently rub in a circular motion with a pumice stone for a few minutes. Repeat every other day.
Buff toes and nails
Are your ten little piggies looking a little funky? If you let your toe and nail routine slip over the winter and want to eliminate excess dead skin around the cuticles, "moisturize the toenail beds, file the cuticle using a light file or a white buffer block, then gently push back the cuticles," says Oolie. Cutting cuticles isn't necessary and may even promote more dead-skin buildup, she warns. Next, buff down thick nail ridges with a white buffer block until smooth.
Finally, if your feet smell a little, um, stale after hibernating all winter, then it's time for minty essential oils and a lot of fresh air. "The bacteria and fungus in sweat actually break down dead skin cells on your feet and cause odor," says Brenis. To limit growth of these bad-smelling intruders, let shoes dry out completely before slipping into them again, and avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day, he suggests. Oolie recommends deodorizing your feet daily with natural products that contain refreshing antibacterial essential oils, such as peppermint, tea tree, and lavender.
Adina Licht writes (while pampering her feet) in Santa Cruz, California.