My first post-winter pedicure of the year brings a unique kind of happiness. There's something about readying for a season of sandals and flip-flops that's as renewing as the feel of the sun on my skin. But this year, I ran into a dilemma—the weather was hot, my sandals were calling, but I wanted to delay my pedi rite of passage for a few weeks to coincide with an upcoming trip.
I decided to look for an at-home solution to get rid of the dry, cracked skin on my heels until I could get to the salon. Thankfully, I remembered that Theraderm NuPeel Natural Enzyme Peel ($40), one of my favorite facial peels, is also suitable for use on the feet, legs, elbows, or wherever dry skin is a problem. The peel uses a natural combination of papaya enzymes to exfoliate the skin and botanical extracts like aloe, pineapple, grape seed, green tea leaf, and cucumber to soothe. The formulation works to loosen glycosaminoglycans, chemicals that bond skin cells together like glue, says James Beckman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon, biochemist, and founder of Theraderm.
"If you think of a brick wall, when it's first built, the cement's good and solid, and the bricks stay in place through all kinds of weather. But after about 20 years, that cement has loosened, and a brick easily dislodges," says Dr. Beckman. "It's the same way with skin cells, only in a shorter time frame. The skin cell grows from the deeper layer, and the cell dies during the process of rising [to the surface]. So there's a thickness of six or eight dead skin cells, and their attachment, or glue, weakens as time goes on."
The Theraderm peel works by dislodging the bond that holds the dead skin cells together so they can be easily wiped away, which stimulates cellular turnover and renewal. This brings me to my favorite part of using the peel: its unique beading action. The product comes out of its tube as a clear gel, which you apply to dry skin. Then, after waiting 30 to 60 seconds, you rub in a circular motion, and tiny little beads full of dead skin cells begin to form. Once the beading is done, you just rinse the product—and dead skin—off, revealing a fresh, new layer of skin.
"NuPeel itself doesn't do anything but loosen the adhesion. In other words, it doesn't burn a cell off or destroy the cell that's coming off—it's only dead skin cells that become loosened and exfoliate," says Dr. Beckman. "The healthy living cells are very securely attached underneath, so are not damaged or interfered with."
With my sandals waiting, it was time to find out how well the peel could tackle the dry, cracked skin on my feet. I applied as directed, putting a little extra on my heels, which needed additional TLC. After waiting a minute, the bubbling beads began forming, letting me know the peel was working. I really like the tactile aspect of feeling my dry skin transform into easily rinseable beads. Once I was done, my feet looked as soft and new as they typically do post-pedicure. I liked the results so much, I tried the peel on my legs and experienced the same baby-soft skin afterwards.
There's a lot to like about this product—from its natural ingredients to the fact it works in under two minutes—but knowing it's gentle enough for my face and tough enough to tackle my heels is the most "a-peeling" benefit of all.
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