Myth #3: Homemade remedies for cracked heels
Dry feet and cracked heels can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and even painful.
So what causes dry cracked heels? There are several factors that cause this epidemic such as: soaps that dry out your skin, plain old drying of the skin—which is made worse if you don’t wear socks on cement or hard wood floors, cold weather, too much exposure to the sun, and the unavoidable element of aging. In addition, some sufferers of this condition have medical reasons such as diabetes and thyroid disease that create this unwanted side effect of dry feet and cracked heels.
In fact, so many people battle this condition, there are literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of creams and home remedies that have come forth alleging they can help with the treatment, prevention and cure of this discomfort. With so many options out there, is it even possible to cure cracked heels? So which treatment will work best for you?
I researched the top 10 simple home remedies for cracked heels and composed a list of questions that I believed needed further clarification from someone with medical expertise. Explore which, if any, of these home remedies are facts, myths or plausible to try.
First of all, when you are looking for a cure for cracked heels, I recommend you look very closely at any before and after photos. If you can see the thickened skin is gone, the cracks are gone and the skin lines are present in the after photo, then you have a good product. If you can see thickened skin but the skin still has fewer cracks and is just a little more smooth, than you do not have a solution. White petrolatum is really great at preventing water from leaving the skin and it is quite hypoallergenic.
1. Vaseline & Bag Balm Remedy
The problem with plain old petrolatum for cracked heels is that it really doesn’t add any moisture to the skin. It doesn’t supply any of the lipids that are deficient from abnormal skin and it really doesn’t get absorbed into the skin—it just sits there, and is very greasy. When combined with essential skin lipids like cholesterol esters and ceramides, you will see that the skin becomes much more hydrated and normal feeling. Plain old petrolatum doesn’t do this.
As for Bag Balm, I can’t recommend it from a toxicity/skin irritant standpoint. I advise against the use of this product for two reasons: 8-Hydroxyquinoline Sulfate—this chemical seems to be the “secret sauce” in this product and is a toxin with unknown safety profiles. Additionally, it is a sulfate; sulfates are salts of sulfuric acids—obvious skin irritants. Bag Balm also has a high concentration of lanolin. Lanolin is a very common allergen and should not be used on people who have eczema or a disrupted skin barrier. The wool alcohol component of lanolin is what is so allergenic. It can cause great confusion when someone with eczema is using an emollient that contains lanolin in it because sometimes the lanolin worsens the eczema a little bit while the emollient calms it a little bit… but the skin never gets all the way better. For this reason, I advise against the use of lanolin or wool alcohols on the skin.
2. Paraffin Wax Remedy
I really like paraffin wax for cracked heels and that is why I have included it in several of my products. The use of this wax alone is not going to be the greatest thing on earth; it is a lot of work to melt the wax, peel it off and clean it up. You would need to do this several times over several days or weeks and wait for hours with it on to get really effective results. With a single treatment, your skin will be softer, but your deep cracks will remain and will need more work.
3. Homemade Foot Soaks Remedy
Soaking the feet in warm water, salt water or in Epsom salts will indeed hydrate the skin and make it softer for pumice treatment; however the biggest problem then becomes hyper-hydration of the thick, cracked skin. Hyper-hydration is not good for this skin and can lead to a wicked cycle of wet skin that then becomes thickened and then dries and then cracks and peels. It is a good idea to pumice the skin when it is wet however, and I love Epsom salts or vinegar soaks if you have a super-deep crack that may be infected. I think the Epsom salts or vinegar are quite effective at drawing out infection.
4. Honey Remedy
I am afraid you are looking at a sticky situation here. Honey is indeed an effective antibacterial agent and I have personally used it for chronic wounds for this reason. The effectiveness of honey for wound infections is likely due to its very high osmolality compared to the fluid inside of bacteria. This high osmolality probably destroys bacterial cell walls. As a treatment for cracked heels however, I don’t think you would note much improvement unless you are trying to treat infection that may be associated with a very, very deep crack.
5. Papaya or Bananas Remedy
Papayas has a protease enzyme called papain that may be effective in treating cracked heels because it is a protease—this means that it breaks down certain proteins. I do not know if papain breaks down the particular proteins that need to be broken down in the skin of cracked heels, however I have used papain-containing products to treat chronic wounds because it was effective at debriding dead tissue in the non-healing wounds. I have not tried papain for cracked heels, nor have I tried papaya. The skin of the papaya has the highest concentration of the papain; however the skin is also the most allergenic part of the papaya and I would not recommend applying it to your skin as you could possibly make yourself allergic to it by doing so. It is funny, but the immune system in our skin is very different than the immune system in our gut. There are many chemicals that cause an allergic reaction when they are applied to the skin, but do not do so when they are eaten or injected into the body.
Have you seen those internet adds with a picture of belly fat and bananas and a caption that says something like “10 foods you should never eat?” Well, I have never clicked on those ads. But I bet they are trying to convince you not to eat bananas for the very same reason that they would be ineffective for treating cracked skin on the heels. Bananas have a very high concentration of protease inhibitors. This is the exact opposite thing that you need to get the skin on your heels to slough. In your gut you have proteases called trypsin and chymotrypsin that are used by your body to break down proteins so they can be digested—bananas and especially very ripe bananas inhibit these enzymes and make it more difficult to digest proteins (which may actually be a good thing in the excessive animal-protein eating diet of America, but that is another discussion). At any rate, I do not think bananas are going to do anything when applied to your skin, except for possibly make you allergic to them too. As a matter of fact, if you are allergic to latex or rubber as many people are, approximately 30-70% of those people have a food allergy to bananas, avocados, kiwi and chestnuts. Again, applying banana to your skin could possibly make you allergic to it and any of these other foods and that would be a sad day.
6. Drinking Water Remedy
The dehydration part of the problem in cracked heels likely does not come from the inside out as much as it comes from the outside in. If you have ever moved from a home that has carpet to one that has hardwood floors, then you know that the relative humidity and hydration of the skin on the heel itself is affected by this change in what your feet come in contact with. You would note that you drank the same amount of water in both situations and that your heels became more cracked in the home with hardwood floors. A better solution may be to wear socks, but this is not realistic for all of use bare-foot loving people.
7. Exfoliating Homemade Scrubs Remedy
I do not think so. This doesn’t even sound convincing enough to me to even try it. The thick skin of cracked heels is so adherent that a superficial scrub is not going to take off all those dead cells. I could see an exfoliating scrub like this possibly helping for a very superficial facial exfoliation, but the depth and thickness of the skin on some people’s heels is unbelievable and would likely not be touched by rice flour or oatmeal.
8. Lemons Remedy
The citric acid found in lemons does have some exfoliating properties. If you have ever gotten a concentrated acid on your skin, then you know that it is pretty caustic and can actually break down the proteins that hold skin together. The citric acid in lemon juice may work the same way, but be careful not to get it onto your normal skin because it will likely irritate it quite a bit.
First of all, I think these products are quite expensive for a single treatment, though I have seen good results from these products. The problem with these products, is from a chemical toxicity standpoint. The number of plant extracts and oils in these products is staggering. So, if you are concerned about chemical allergens and toxins, it is best not to use these products for this reason. If you don’t care about carcinogenesis, allergenicity and toxicity, then these products are pretty effective. I personally prefer to use products that are as hypoallergenic and non-toxic with the fewest ingredients possible.
9. Glycerin & Rosewater Remedy
I have never personally tried this as I , like most people, do not have time to do a foot soak every day for two weeks. Glycerin is a very effective humectant. That means that it efficiently pulls water from the environment into itself. I do know that if glycerin is present at over 3% on the skin, then the glycerin can no longer get enough water from the air and will begin pulling water from the skin that it is sitting on. You end up with this weird goodish-looking, but really tight-feeling skin that is prone to cracking because it is so desiccated. I would steer clear of this one too.
10. Cooking Oils Remedy
While developing my own products for cracked heels I experimented on my own heels with numerous different oils including olive, coconut, safflower and sesame oils to name a few. One thing that I learned is that a plain oil without an effective way to keep moisture in (waxes and petrolatum) and without including the skin lipids that are actually missing or deficient from dry or abnormal skin (ceramide 3, phystosphingosin, cholesterol esters, very long chain fatty acids) was quite ineffective. I call these lipids: Essential Skin Lipids, because they are not the same as the essential fatty acids and they are not only fatty acids.
Many products promote that they have “essential fatty acids”—meaning the fatty acids that the body must get from the diet. These essential fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid). Unfortunately, these fatty acids are NOT the ones that have been scientifically proven to be deficient from dry, aged and eczema prone skin. It is important to determine what lipids are actually missing from the skin in particular and then supplement those. This is the technology upon which my products are based.
The Effective Remedy: TrueLipids Sensitive Skin Care Products
The TrueLipids line of products are based upon a patent-pending technology that I developed for all forms of abnormal skin. In a nutshell, the technology is designed to help the skin to heal itself.
Our products are the only ones in the world to address all five problems of an abnormal skin barrier all in one product line:
- Specific lipid deficiencies
- Abnormally high pH
- Susceptibility to infection
- Likelihood to develop allergies to chemicals