With the arrival of winter days, dry skin issues like dandruff, chapped lips, eczema, and cracked heels become a common complaint. Fortunately, you can heal cracked heels, and other dry skin issues by following a few simple steps.
Most people think that cracked heels are the result of over-exposure or lack of moisturizing, but what it really comes down to is lack of attention to foot care itself. Medically, cracked heels are known as heel fissures. Some fissures can tear down deep into the dermis and become painful and worse, infected if they get to the point of bleeding.
Cracked heels are common among senior citizens or people who are constantly on their feet. In the case of older individuals, sebum production decreases with age, and so dry, cracked heels is a common occurrence.
The most common causes that lead to cracked heels include:
– naturally dry skin or thick dry skin around the heel is more likely to crack
– excessive feet activity (prolonged standing at work or home)
– being overweight causes increased pressure on the padding under the heel, causing it to expand sideways and crack on the edges
– athlete’s foot, psoriasis, eczema, thyroid disease, diabetes and other skin conditions can cause cracked heels
– continuous water exposure robs the skin of its natural oils and leaves the skin dry and rough.
– change in walking posture or poorly fitted shoes
– zinc deficiency or omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
So what is the best thing to do if you have dry, cracked heels?
If you want healthy skin (yes, even on your heels), then you need to start from the inside out. Ensure you are drinking plenty of water (at least 2-3 litres per day) and eating lots of vitamin and mineral-dense fruit and vegetables. This was a game-changer for my own skin. I used to scratch my legs until they would bleed they got so itchy. When I stopped eating junk food and wheat, got rid of high-sodium foods and animal-based products and began incorporating fresh produce in my diet, my skin dramatically changed. My heels never cracked, but the same thing used to happen on my hands all the time (right near the nail bed).
2. Skin Products
Almost all moisturizing creams contain chemical products. What does this mean for your skin? More cracking and less healing. Ingredients like Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40) is a very drying, irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips away all moisture from your skin and gets rid of the natural immune barrier. FD&C Colour pigments contain heavy metal salts that cause skin sensitivity and irritation, and polyethylene glycol (PEG) reduces the skin’s natural moisture factor. There are so many more ingredients that contribute to the chronic drying and cracking of ones heels, so stay away from anything that isn’t organic. Your best bet is to use jojoba oil, my favourite natural moisturizing oil that contains wax esters that are most similar to sebum (human skin oil).
3. Foot Soaks
Soaking your feet in an natural acid like apple cider vinegar (ACV) or lemon is incredibly beneficial. They both help to dissolve dead and dry skin so that it can be easily buffed away with a pumice stone once dry. Soak your feet in a 50/50 solution of lemon to water (or ACV to water) for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lightly scrub with a loofa or soft foot brush to gently exfoliate the top layers of dead skin that cause the dry, cracked heels. Pat dry, and rub thoroughly with jojoba oil, or coconut oil (or any other natural oil of your choice. Shea butter is also nice). Repeat this process at least 1-2 times per week.
4. Foot Masks
There are a variety of different foot masks that you can apply 1-2 times per week to help ease dryness and even get rid of the cracked heel issue. Here are a few that have been tried and tested with great results:
– Ripe banana and avocado: take one ripe banana and one ripe avocado and mash together. Apply this paste onto clean feet and leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse feet with lukewarm water, pat dry, and apply jojoba oil as the moisturizer.
– Papaya and lemon juice: mix papaya and lemon juice to form a thick paste, and apply onto the affected area. Wash off after 30 minutes, pat dry, and moisturize with jojoba oil.
– Papaya and pineapple: blend papaya and pineapple together, until a thick smoothie-like paste is formed. Rub into your heels, and cover you feet with socks. You can leave this on overnight and wash and moisturize with jojoba oil in the morning. (ps. you can drink whatever is left of the smoothie!)
– Oatmeal and jojoba oil: combine oatmeal and jojoba oil to create a rub, and rub into your heels (in a basin to keep from getting messy). Let soak for 30 minutes, and rinse in cool water. Pat dry, and moisturize with jojoba oil.
5. Foot Massages and Exfoliation
Massaging the feet to encourage blood circulation is a great remedy to help prevent dry, cracked heels. You can either massage your feet yourself with coconut oil or jojoba oil, or get a foot massage done professionally. Exfoliating your feet with sea salt and sugar is another great way to help reduce dry, cracked heels. You can also use some baking soda and lukewarm water to create a paste that you can rub into your heels to help soften hard heels.
6. Essential Oils
When you decide to moisturize your feet, add in some essential oils to the mixture for extra protective benefits. Peppermint oil has omega-3 fatty acids, which nourish the skin. It also contains menthol, which cools and soothes irritated skin. Other essential oils that are beneficial for cracked heels include eucalyptus oil (kills bacteria and viruses), lemon oil (increases circulation), and lavender oil (anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and regenerative).