What is a foot peel mask?
If there’s one part of your body that’s most prone to dryness, it’s most likely your feet, which bear the brunt of your every physical movement.
In fact, an estimated 73 percent of Americans suffer from dry, rough, cracked, or irritated skin on their feet, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Luckily, there’s an easy, at-home solution for dry, cracked heels and feet: a foot peel mask.
Think of these masks like chemical peels for your feet. They break down the dead layer of skin on your feet to reveal new, healthy skin, explains podiatrist William Spielfogel, DPM, chief of podiatry in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital-Northwell Health in New York City.
“The feet are made up of several layers, and often these layers can get damaged, which is why we can end up with dry, cracked, or peeling skin as well as calluses,” says Dr. Spielfogel, who is also director of Lenox Hill Hospital-Northwell Health’s podiatric medicine and surgery residency program.
How does a foot peel mask work?
Most foot peel masks use a topical formulation that stimulates exfoliation of the skin, says dermatologist Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, clinical assistant professor at NY Presbyterian Hospital–Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.
“These peels work by destroying the proteins in the outermost layers of the skin, causing superficial exfoliation and increased cell turnover,” she says. “The most common peels contain one or more hydroxy acids that acidify the skin cells, making them subsequently slough off.”
Not all foot peel masks are the same. They come in various strengths that penetrate the skin to different depths depending on the desired result, explains Dr. Murphy-Rose.
That said, they’ll all be stronger than chemical peels you’d use on your face. “The epidermis of the soles of the feet is thick and can withstand a stronger peel than, say, the thinner skin of your face, so foot peels are more potent to get the desired effect,” she says.
What are the benefits of using a foot peel mask?
The main benefit of using a foot peel mask is to achieve smoother, less-cracked, and less-irritated skin on your feet.
“The stratum corneum, or outermost layer of the skin, is especially thick on the soles of the feet and tends to dry and harden,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “A foot peel mask helps to exfoliate the thick, hardened skin, and the masks usually contain ingredients to hydrate skin and lock in moisture.”
Who should use or avoid a foot peel mask?
While you can buy foot peel masks over the counter, Dr. Spielfogel warns that anyone with underlying medical issues, such as diabetes or poor circulation, should consult their podiatrist or primary care practitioner before attempting any type of peel.
Another reason to skip acid peels: you have foot problems like wounds or sores. “The acid can seep into those areas and not only cause pain but possible infection,” he says.
If you are prone to eczema or have sensitive skin, you might find foot peel masks too harsh for you.
“The acid can be very irritating on the skin, possibly causing swelling and inflammation,” says Dr. Spielfogel. “When choosing the appropriate treatment for your skin type, no matter if it’s at home or a doctor’s office, it is important to research the risks and benefits thoroughly prior to committing.”
What to look for in a foot peel mask
According to Pedram Hendizadeh, DPM, a podiatrist at Advanced Podiatry on Long Island, New York, an effective foot peel mask will have both exfoliating and moisturizing ingredients to slough and smooth skin.
Look for products that combine exfoliating acids, such as glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids, with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and aloe vera.
The goal: get healthy, pretty feet all summer. The solution: one of these foot peel masks. The experts named them among the top picks for treating dry, cracked feet.
Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel
Baby Foot is the product that launched a foot peel mask trend. And it’s widely recommended by dermatologists and foot specialists.
“It is a very effective foot peel for smoothing and softening, as it contains lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, and citric acid and induces a shedding of skin cells that usually occurs a few days to a week after treatment,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose.
She recommends moisturizing well during the shedding process. And resist the urge to pick at or pull off the skin as it peels.
Patchology PoshPeel Pedi Cure
Open the included single-use socks, squeeze in some activating essence, and step in.
Seal up each sock, and wear for 60 to 90 minutes before removing and tossing. You might not notice a huge difference after rinsing and drying your feet, but within a week you’ll start to peel.
The peel contains a potent blend of glycolic, salicylic, lactic, and citric acids, which work together to smooth and soothe rough, cracked skin.
Boscia Fruit Acid Smoothing Foot Peel
This intensely nourishing foot peel mask utilizes a potent blend of plant-based alcohol and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), including lactic and glycolic acids, to help dissolve dead skin cells and slough them right off your feet—no harsh scrubbing required.
It comes with a pair of single-use socks that can fit up to a men’s size 12.
Karuna Exfoliating Foot Mask
This creamy, nourishing foot peel mask combines glycolic acid with coconut oil for dual peeling and moisturizing.
It is a clean formula, free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and castor oil.
It is meant to be left on your feet for 20 minutes, but you can also wear it overnight for even more exfoliating and moisturizing. You can purchase a single set or a four- or a five-count pack.
Earth Therapeutics Soft & Smooth Gentle Peeling Foot Mask
This foot peel mask utilizes a blend of AHAs to rid the feet of dead skin cells that are causing calluses. You’ll apply by slipping into included mask-containing socks.
It’s also enriched with certified organic botanicals, including cogon grass, aloe, and rose hip oil. Its tea tree oil nourishes the skin’s barrier and protects it from further irritation.
Kocostar Foot Peeling Pack
This exfoliating peeling mask—like other products, it uses disposable booties for application—sheds the dead skin cells on your feet thanks to a blend of AHAs, including lactic and glycolic acids. It nourishes with a blend of 33 botanical extracts.
Although the product is a bit on the pricey side, your purchase comes with five pairs of foot exfoliator peeling masks, so the cost evens out in comparison to others on the market.
Tonymoly Shiny Foot Super Peeling Liquid
It’s no surprise that this common face mask brand also makes a foot peeling mask that’s worth recommending.
Like others, you’ll slip into some foot mask socks and let the acids and moisturizers do their thing.
A potent blend of alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), including salicylic and glycolic acids, work together to remove rough calluses on your feet. Nourishing ingredients like lavender extract and argan oil hydrate and protect the skin barrier from further damage.
Plantifique Foot Peel Mask
Although on the pricier side, considering this set only comes with two single-use pairs of sock-like masks, this foot peel has impressive reviews from customers around the world.
It was created by dermatologists and formulated without the use of harsh ingredients like parabens and lanolin.
It contains a rich blend of antioxidants, namely polyphenols, along with rejuvenating peach kernel oil to yield effective results.
(These are the skin care products our editors love.)
Aveeno Repairing Cica Foot Mask
This one is not necessarily a foot peel per se, but it is a richly moisturizing foot mask that Dr. Murphy-Rose likes to recommend to her patients with dry, cracked feet, especially ahead of the summer months.
“If you are hesitant to try a chemical peel but like most people need some deep ‘conditioning’ of your feet, this is a great nourishing and soothing option,” she says. It can be a good option for people with medical conditions who need to avoid acid-based masks.
It combines prebiotic oat and shea butter in two single-use slippers to rebalance the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
(These are the best slippers for your feet.)
Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
You got us. This isn’t a foot peel mask either. But it’s a fantastic way to lock in moisture and will lead to softer, smoother feet.
Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center names it his all-time-favorite foot treatment.
“Petroleum jelly forms a protective seal over the skin to soothe, hydrate, and soften the skin,” he says. “You can apply it to the feet before bed by placing plastic wrap over the Vaseline and then putting on your socks to occlude the Vaseline for a better effect.”