Now that the weather is slowing getting warmer, now is the best time to slough off dead skin and pamper your toes with quality care. Here, Dr. Hadley King, Manhattan-based Board Certified Dermatologist, offers best practices for DIY foot maintenance.
ESSENCE.com: What natural products are great for foot care? Especially natural exfoliants?
Dr. Hadley King: For a home pedicure start by soaking the feet in a basin of warm water. Add 1/4 cup of epsom salts to the water, or a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Also add a few drops of an essential oil such as eucalyptus or rosemary, or thin lemon slices. Soak for 5-10 minutes. Use a foot file or pumice stone to smooth rough or callused areas. Dip a cotton swab in lemon or lime juice and apply to the skin, nails and cuticles. The citric acid helps to exfoliate. A foot scrub can also be made by combining salt or sugar with an oil for physical exfoliation. And finally moisturize the feet with natural oils: add a few drops of an essential oil such as peppermint oil or lavender oil to a carrier oil such as sunflower or sweet almond oil. Massage into the skin and nails. If you'd like to paint your nails look for polishes that don't contain toxic additives, formaldehyde, toluene or phthalates.
ESSENCE.com: Are there any natural products to avoid when caring for your feet?
Dr. Hadley King: Not that I can think of unless you have diabetes—in which case avoid all acids and other exfoliation and don't over-moisturize. A great product to use at-home is the Instrumental Beauty Portable Pedicure. This motorized spinning pedicure roller effortlessly smoothes feet without the inconvenience of harsh metal scrapers or blades.
ESSENCE.com: When trimming your toenails, how much is too much to trim?
Dr. Hadley King: Cut nails straight across or following the natural curve of the toe to avoid ingrown toenails. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons cautions against rounding the nail's corners or cutting the sides at an angle because this can lead the corners to grow toward your skin and become ingrown. As for length, MayoClinic.com recommends cutting the nail so the edge reaches the tip of your toe.
ESSENCE.com: Is it possible to over-soak your feet? Is it true too much soaking can lead to nail brittleness?
Dr. Hadley King: Yes, you should soak for 5-15 minutes. Soaking for too long can dry out both the skin and the nails.
ESSENCE.com: What's the best way to remedy toenail fungus?
Dr. Hadley King: We unfortunately do not have any treatments for toenail fungus that are guaranteed to be effective. The most effective treatment is prescription oral lamisil (terbinafine), but even this does not always work and it comes with risks including possible damage to the liver. Topical treatments are sometimes preferred in order to avoid these risks, but they are less likely to work. Two new prescription topical products have recently been released and hold promise of improved efficacy: Kerydin and Jublia. All treatments are more likely to work for infections that are less severe—affecting less nail area and of shorter duration. Prevention is key! Avoid communal pedicure basins and instruments that have not been completely sterilized and wear shower shoes in communal bath and shower areas and dry feet thoroughly.