Apple cider vinegar is the wellness world's Swiss army knife. There are 101 different ways to use it, whether that means taking a shot of it in the morning to help with digestion or scrubbing it onto your scalp to do away with dandruff. One you may not have tried yet? Using an apple cider vinegar foot soak to deal with the dry, chapped skin on your heels and toes.
When used correctly, ACV is a DIY (and less intense) version of the Internet's favorite Baby Foot Peel. Apple cider vinegar is a mixture of fermented apples, and the fermentation process uses yeast and bacteria to turn the natural sugars in the apples into alcohol. "The active and beneficial ingredient in ACV is acetic acid, which slowly breaks down thick skin," explains Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a podiatrist with the Vionic Innovation Lab. Because of this, the ingredient can be used for all kinds of different issues on your most highly-trafficked extremities.
- Jackie Sutera, DPM, podiatrist and member of the Vionic Innovation Lab
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital
- Miguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare
- Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University
Benefits of an apple cider vinegar foot soak
1. Softens calluses
In the same way that you exfoliate your face (and the rest of your body), you'll also want to regularly exfoliate your feet. “It is extremely important to make sure that the skin on your feet is exfoliated because they can get dry and cracked,” Mona Gohara, MD, a New Haven, Connecticut board-certified dermatologist, previously told Well+Good. And the acetic acid in ACV can help get the job done.
2. Diminishes foot odor
Bye-bye, stinky boots. "Apple cider vinegar is antibacterial, and can balance the skin's pH levels by killing the bacteria that causes foot odor," says Dr. Sutera. Foot odor is caused when the moisture (read: sweat) on your feet interacts with bacteria, and since bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments, the inside of your socks can be a petri dish, of sorts. By using ACV to clear away some of that bacteria, you can subtly lessen foot odor.
3. Gets rid of fungus
You may have heard of using ACV to get rid of dandruff on your scalp (which is caused by an overgrowth of yeast and fungus), and the same principle can apply to using it on your feet. According to Dr. Sutera, it's got anti-fungal properties that can help to treat skin and nail infections. “Apple cider vinegar has both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and is reported to effectively kill both bacteria and fungi on the skin,” board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, previously told Well+Good. “It’s also been proven that ACV kills yeast." So really, an apple cider vinegar foot soak is one of the best at-home self-care treatments you likely haven't tried yet.
How to do an apple cider vinegar foot soak at home
"The best way to remove dead skin from the bottom of your feet is to exfoliate frequently to avoid buildup," says Miguel Cunha, DPM, a podiatrist and the founder of Gotham Foot Care, which is where ACV comes in. To prepare an apple cider vinegar foot soak for yourself, simply follow the steps below.
- Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water with a tablespoon of either baking soda or Epsom salt.
- Soak your feet in the bath for 20 minutes.
- After your soak, apply castor oil, tea tree oil, or eucalyptus oil, which Dr. Cunha says, "are natural antifungals," directly to dead skin and calluses, and let it sit for five to 10 minutes.
- Exfoliate the dead skin away using a pumice stone.
- Coat your feet in a hydrating cream, pop on a pair of socks, and let the lotion sit on them overnight.
Generally, it's safe to do an apple cider vinegar foot soak every day, but as Dr. Sutera puts it, "even too much of a good thing can be bad," so be sure to practice moderation and caution and keep an eye out for any signs of irritation. "Overdoing it can cause some stinging and possible redness, burning on delicate, sensitive or broken skin," she says.
Alternatives to an apple cider vinegar foot soak
If the idea of soaking your feet in a salad dressing-scented solution isn't quite your thing, there are some over-the-counter products that can get the job done of ridding your feet of calluses just as effectively. If you want the same type of chemical exfoliation that an apple cider vinegar foot soak offers, look for products that include urea, which is a humectant and a kerolytic.
This means that it hydrates and softens skin while also getting rid of thickened areas. You can also use an alpha-hydroxy acid, like lactic acid, which will slough away the dead skin cells off of your feet by breaking their bonds with the surface of your skin, allowing healthy new ones to replace them. If physical exfoliation is more your style, you can make your own scrub using coarse sugar, sea salt, or Epsom salt and lemon juice, and going to town on any spots where your skin feels thick and rough.
Curious about the other ways you can use ACV in your routine? Check out the video below.
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