Foot Q & A

Why do you get hard skin and how to treat it

As you spend yet more time dutifully filing your dry dead skin away, you may wonder why this happens to the body at all.  Hard skin might be annoying and sometimes unsightly, but it actually serves an important purpose. When repeated friction and pressure is applied to the skin, the body reacts to this stress by hardening the area and therefore protecting it from further damage.

It’s logical enough if you think of our caveman and cave-women ancestors running around with little to no protection on their feet, but none too helpful for summer season when we want to don our favorite strap sandals.

Other places you might commonly find dry skin is on the hands, particularly if you play an instrument like the guitar or do a job that demands manual labor. You may also find dry skin on the elbows and on the knees.

How does hard skin form?

Hardworking areas of the body, like the soles of our feet, have thicker skin for protection so can be prone to hardening. When these areas are exposed to repeated friction or pressure, the body responds by producing excess skin cells and over time, this causes the skin to become thick and hard. Sometimes it takes on an unhealthy-looking yellow color too.

On the feet there are two common types of dry skin: calluses, which are patches of dry hard skin normally found on the heels and toe pads, and corns which are smaller but can appear knobbly, usually appearing on the sides of toes.

They usually don’t do any harm, but in some cases severely dry skin can become cracked. Deep cracks can bleed, leading to the risk of infection, so you shouldn’t leave them untreated.

How should I treat it?

Luckily, treating hard skin is normally very straightforward. As dry skin is the culprit, the answer is to moisturize, moisturize and moisturize!

Choose a cream or balm with active ingredients such as urea, which works to draw moisture into the affected area. Start your day by applying a generous amount to the affected area and do this within a few minutes of showering so that you can trap precious moisture into the skin. You should then apply it at least 1 – 2 times more during the day.

If your hard skin persists or if you have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, obesity or psoriasis, you should speak to your doctor first.

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