A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.
My feet have never been so dry as they have been the past couple of weeks. This is not the first time I’ve dealt with cracked, chapped heels, but during quarantine they’ve reached unprecedented levels of dehydration — the other day they were so flaky, it actually hurt when I did a downward-facing dog during yoga.
I assumed this was due to my absence of biweekly pedicures, but according to podiatrist Johanna Youner, insanely dry feet have become a common issue among quarantiners. She explained that our general lack of day-to-day movement is preventing us from shedding our natural daily buildup of dead skin, and that walking barefoot — or in open shoe gear like slippers — dries the feet out quickly. “Wearing shoes and socks,” she says, “actually keeps feet moist and supple.” To control the situation, Youner suggested exfoliating every now and then to help buff away the excess dead skin and moisturizing daily.
Here’s where Rio recommends using Baby Foot to exfoliate, you may now be thinking. Wrong. Baby Foot, the cult-favorite, super-intense, skin-shedding foot exfoliant terrifies me — a few years ago I tried it and it was so powerful my feet bled for days. And just when I began to think about giving it another try, my friend Julie Schott (the founder of pimple-patch company Starface) posted a photo on her Instagram of her traumatized feet post–Baby Foot.
So as I often do, I took to the internet — reading Top Shelfs, Reddit forums, and watching YouTube videos, in an effort to find an effective but less scary Baby Foot alternative. After much sleuthing, I stumbled upon an exfoliant from Patchology — a cruelty-free skin-care and body brand — that had excellent reviews (one read: This foot mask is perfect! Nonirritating but you will shed like a snake!). I quickly purchased it off Dermstore and anxiously awaited its arrival.
The instructions say to first soak your feet for 30 minutes in a bowl of hot water to soften your skin, but I decided just to give the socks a go after a long, hot shower. Here’s how you do it: Take out one foot-mask sock, pour one of the two packets of AHA rich “activating essence” into it, and slip your foot in. Repeat this on your other foot and then sit and watch TV for 60 minutes (or 90 minutes if you’re feeling really crazy). When your 60 minutes are up, wash and dry your feet.
For the first few days after I used the Patchology socks, I thought they must be really mild — I noticed a little bit of flaking here and there but nothing groundbreaking. Then, on about day eight, my feet began to undergo what can only be described as a metamorphosis — they were shedding and peeling constantly. While this is pretty disgusting to recount to you all, I have to admit that it was insanely satisfying — at one point, I peeled off a five-inch piece of dead skin. After two weeks, my feet were absurdly, silkily smooth, with no cracks or dry patches at all. And I began diligently (once a day) applying some of my Renew body lotion to the bottoms of my feet so they’ll stay that way.
One note: After you use this exfoliant, wear socks around the house as often as possible — otherwise, you’ll likely start finding pieces of dead skin everywhere.
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.