Yesterday, Kristen Bell shared a relaxing trip to the salon on Instagram Stories. The only issue? During her pedicure, the dead skin and calluses on the bottom of her feet were removed with—wait for it—one of those cheese-grater-looking things. You know, the metal tool with super-sharp stainless steel blades. But before you use something that looks like it’s meant for hard blocks of Parmesan on your body, hold up: There’s an important reason they should only be used on your food.
The utensil is considered a banned item in salons in many states because it can not only injure you, but also spread infection. (And while some states allow look-alike metal files or rasps, others prohibit them along with any other sharp devices.) Whether they’re legal in your area or not, one thing’s for sure: It’s never a good idea to use them on the fragile skin of your feet. In fact, one expert says it’s the worst idea.
“The thickening of the skin on the feet is protective and can help keep out fungus and bacteria. Grating this thickened skin is basically opening up that area to bacteria, fungus, and yeast,” says Lana Pinchasov, a dermatology-certified physician’s assistant in New York City. “It may feel smooth for a few days, but once the skin grows back it can often grow back thicker and harder with some scar tissue.” If you’ve already used harsh tools a time or two, don’t freak out: your feet can eventually heal and get back to normal. “When you’re young and healthy, you’ll unlikely do too much damage that can’t be readily fixed, however we generally would recommend more gentle implements of callus destruction,” says New York City-based podiatrist Ernest L. Isaacson, DPM.
Instead of shredding your feet like a block of cheese (*cue the cringe*), there are much safer ways to get rid of dead skin and calluses. And Pinchasov’s favorites? Grabbing a much-gentler buffing tool and giving yourself a nice, relaxing soak. “I totally understand wanting baby-smooth feet and skin, so I’d recommend using a pumice stone or a nail file to gently buff the thickened areas and/or callouses,” she says. “Soaking your feet in Epsom salt is also very beneficial and helps soften the skin.”
If your feet need a little extra help like Bell’s did, reach for a derm-approved, foot-softening product that will get the job done without sharp blades: Uradin Gel Oil. “It’s an amazing hydrating foot gel. After a few days, the skin is already smoother,” Pinchasov says. “Any product that contains urea will also help you soften your skin before buffing.” And if at-home techniques aren’t working, you can also get professional help, too: “A well-trained and intentioned podiatrist or pedicurist can also gently remove the callused skin effectively and safely, although this may require more periodic maintenance,” Dr. Isaacson says. Basically, there’s no need for grating your precious feet.
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