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How to fix dry, cracked heels according to a dermatologist

It’s not sexy, but it’s time to kick your dry, dehydrated feet to the kerb.

The world of beauty can often feel like it’s contained to fancy facials, treatments you have to take a loan out for, what the next big skincare ingredient is and some kind of trend taking over everything from your social feeds to your local day spa.

But it shouldn’t be. That’s exactly why we’re bringing you this new series we’re calling Practical Beauty, because the unglamorous reality of cracked heels, ingrown hairs and bacne is something that’s all too real.

Let’s kick off with cracked heels, since it is sandal season. Not only does it conjure up some dark thoughts, it’s actually more common (and more painful) than you think. Dermatologist Dr. Adam Sheridan explains that there’s many reasons for feet to become dry, dehydrated and damaged. “There’s multiple causes for dry, cracked heels, including environmental irritants, repeated ‘wear and tear’ from footwear and physical activity, hormonal factors, and diseases including dermatitis and psoriasis,” he says.

Every time we walk, we’re creating a little damage through friction to our feet. Pair that with too-tight or too-loose shoes, hot showers or blisters and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. “The drivers towards development of dry and cracked heels are often multifactorial and include a combination of underlying skin susceptibility, hormonal and age related skin changes, repeated testing of the skin’s resilience through friction from footwear, and suboptimal skin care. When is the last time you really cared for your heels at the level you do your hands and face,?” says Dr. Sheridan.

When is the last time you showed your feet some TLC? Sure, a monthly pedicure is something, but since some of us don’t shed keratin (the protein that forms a protective layer outside the skin) as quickly as others, it can leave us with a hardened build-up. A file and foot scrub will help soften skin and calluses and prime the skin for chemical exfoliants and hydrating lotions. “Work to increase the baseline resilience of your skin through soap-free cleansing, regular moisturising and adequate hydration,” says Dr. Sheridan. “Keep paring and exfoliation to a gentle minimum as it may exacerbate conditions including dermatitis and psoriasis, and be sure to keep any instruments used for exfoliation clean to minimise infection risk. Seek medical advice to exclude underlying medical factors.”

If a trip to the pedicurist and some at-home sloughing of dead skin doesn’t do the trick, head to a podiatrist. They can help remove skin and prescribe proper medicinal treatment options.

Add these lotions and potions to your smooth-feet arsenal

DU’IT Roll-On Heel Balm ($10.39, at Priceline)

Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure ($54, at Mecca)

Scholl Velvet Smooth Electronic Care System ($29.99, at Chemist Warehouse)

The Body Shop Peppermint Reviving Pumice Foot Scrub ($19, at The Body Shop)

Scholl Eulactol Heel Balm Gold ($19.99, at Chemist Warehouse)

Dr. Adam T Sheridan MBBS FACD FACMS Specialist Dermatology Surgery & Laser and a Fellow of the Australasian College of Dermatologists.