London: Temperatures are dropping and winter can make the skin on your feet, especially your heels, super dry enough to crack like a fault line. Even though sock season gives them a place to hide in plain sight, cracks in your heels can fracture into deep cuts or fissures, that can be pretty painful and even get infected.
How heels crack: “Cracked heels occur when you have a disruption of your skin barrier,” explains Jaber. “It can be from a medical condition, like psoriasis or eczema, or can occur when your skin is very dry.”
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Other variables that can dry out your heel skin enough to crack are age (your skin gets thinner, less elastic and some common medications can contribute) and, of course, winter itself is quite the culprit. “Heels are at their worst in winter,” says Solomon. “Indoors and outdoors there is less humidity in the air, and a lack of humidity causes the skin to become drier. Drier skin means more cracking and peeling.”
This kind of cracking can cause wounds that can easily get infected if not treated, and if you happen to have a compromised immune system or diabetes, an infection can become a serious health risk, Solomon says.
1. Keep your feet clean and moisturized
Solomon says diligence in keeping your feet clean and moisturized will keep you on the good foot. “Wash feet with non-foaming hydrating cleanser (typically in a cream or milk form), to keep foot skin from drying further and moisturize to still-damp feet after every bath or shower,” she recommends. “That’s when it’s time for to apply products with petrolatum, glycerin, shea butter, vitamin E or jojoba. These ingredients are very effective at preventing moisture loss.”
She also recommends a kitchen cabinet remedy to try — honey. “Honey is full of antimicrobial and antibacterial properties great for cleansing and healing wounds, particularly Manuka honey,” she says, saying you can create your own honey foot mask by combining it with a drop of almond oil and slathering it on your heels.
2. Slough off dead skin
To prevent cracks, exfoliation is key. Both experts extol the virtues of moisturizers with exfoliants like urea (not the urine, but a similar compound that has been shown to help moisture seep into the skin), and salicylic acid, to help prevent heel cracks with regular use. Solomon also recommends using a “safe foot file that doesn’t look like a cheese grater” to remove dead skin.
“Using a foot file on your feet after a shower or bath can be a great way to avoid thick calluses or cracks,” she says. “However, if the file has sharp teeth, it is putting you at risk for cuts or scrapes. The goal is to remove the old, dead skin but leave the healthy layer intact to protect infection.”
3. Seal up deep cracks
Cracked heels that have reached the point where they’ve started to bleed can be extremely painful, warns Solomon. Both experts say liquid bandages are an extremely effective way of sealing up cracks to ease the pain of walking on torn skin while keeping the wounds clean. (nbcnews.com)