Stop Cheese-Grating Your Feet, Folks

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 

In my early 20s, I spent years as a nail technician at a high-end spa. The number one reason a new client would come to me instead of going somewhere less expensive was dry heels that they hadn’t been able to remedy on their own or elsewhere. After they soaked in my pedicure chair, I would trim and shape their nails, push back and trim their cuticles, and then set to work on their calluses. At the sight of my emory foot file, most would stop me.

This wasn’t going to be enough for them. I needed to get out the metal file.

Pretty quickly, I knew at least part of the source of their problem. No one should be shaving down their feet like a block of parmesan. These clients were trying to remove the calluses and dry skin from their feet, instead of smoothing and treating them.

Our bodies do a lot of crazy, regulatory things that we don’t even realize. If our body is producing something and we try to strip it away, our bodies make more. If you have oily skin and you use harsh soaps and astringents to strip it of oil without applying a moisturizer to replenish what you took away, your body thinks it didn’t make enough oil the first time and makes even more to compensate. Take this from someone who knew nothing about skincare as an adolescent and did everything on the planet to make my teenage acne a million times worse.

When a part of your skin is getting a lot of use and could be prone to blisters, it develops a callus to better protect itself. Removing that callus only causes it to come back thicker, harder, and dryer. Using a metal foot file does way more damage than good. Your feet might feel baby-butt smooth for a few days, but that is going to be short-lived.

Worse, while using a metal foot file, the only indication that you have as a stopping point is pain. Many people feel their feet are more tender after removing calluses, and it’s very easy to take off enough skin to draw blood. This opens you up to a whole host of other issues, including infection. Not to mention the damage you can do if you’re using a metal file on dry skin and not even a callused area.

With dry or callused feet, the best thing you can do is to carefully smooth them and then moisturize the hell out of them.

Assess the situation. If your feet are in a bad state, consider spending some quality time giving them the needed attention. An electric smoother will help take care of most of the required elbow grease.

Smooth down any calluses, use a gritty scrub to remove dry skin, then thoroughly moisturize. Try to make foot lotion a regular part of your daily routine.

Keeping a pumice stone in your shower is an easy way to keep your feet in check. Make giving your heels a quick rub part of your showering routine. One that can hang to dry rather than sit is more sanitary and will last longer.

I wouldn’t suggest using a foot scrub while showering because no one likes sliding around in a panic-stricken version of the Running Man to keep themselves from falling on their ass. That stuff is slippery. Sitting on the edge of your tub after you’ve finished showering, giving your feet a quick scrub, and rinsing them off under the faucet would be a safer alternative.

Before you put on socks and shoes, slather your feet in a heavy foot cream. The heat from your footwear will help the cream penetrate deeper, giving you similar results to a paraffin wax dip. By the end of the day, it will be fully absorbed, and your dry skin won’t snag your sheets when you get in bed (that’s a fun feeling I think we’d all like to avoid).

None of this is meant to be a cure for dry skin and calluses because these are issues that require maintenance and upkeep. As you notice your callus coming back, use an emory foot file on dry feet to smooth everything down. Remember to clean your file with soap and warm water after every use.

Follow up with a thick, heavy foot cream. This one is on the pricier side, but it is what I always used in the spa and what I continue to use today.

My clients who put in the time and effort at home (and stayed away from those damn cheese graters) saw vast improvements before long. Our feet take a beating from us. We might as well try to soften the blow.

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