Foot peels! SPF adjustments! Product reassessments!

With apologies to those of you who, due to your location on this spherical planet, are not entering springtime just now, I will now blab about seasonally appropriate skincare changes.

There are 3 skincare things I do when spring rolls around, which here in my city tends not to really happen until late April (if we luck into an early thaw, anyway) but I try to always start thinking about it when we move the clocks forward and/or the spring equinox happens. So here we are, and those three things are:

  1. Adjust my SPF philosophy

  2. Pare down the routine

  3. Foot peel

I will spend most of my time on the foot peel, since I get a lot of questions about them.

SPF Crackdown

So because I (1) work from home and often don’t leave the house at all in a day, and (2) live in a place where, during the winter months, the sun sets by 5pm (or earlier) and the UV index rarely hits anything above 1, I will admit that I get pretty relaxed about my SPF usage. Don’t get me wrong, I still put it on every day - but I generally don’t measure it out generously or reapply throughout a long day outdoors.

During the winter months I DO check the UV Index (I use this site) every few days to make sure some meteorological event hasn’t happened that would mean increased UV in my neighborhood. That’s how I knew about a week ago that we’d start regularly seeing more “moderate” UV days. And that’s when I returned to slathering on the full amount and checking the index before heading outside to see what’s what.

If you too have relaxed your standards a smidge as the situation allows, this is your reminder to return to full-on preventative measures. And if you want a refresher on what those are, here’s my dissertation on sunscreen usage.

Product adjustment

Every year I either forget this or calculate wrongly, and every year my skin has a freakout in about April. And obviously we all have different skin which means our freakouts will look different and our seasonal product adjustment will vary, BUT it’s highly likely that we all need to make some changes as the days gets warmer.

I said in some other post (I don’t know which? Maybe moisturizer? Who cares) I tend to think of skincare layers like clothing. I just need more in the winter, less in the summer. Soon I will use my SPF as moisturizer in the daytime - not in addition to moisturizer. I’ll cut some extraneous products from the routine, and that’s always hard because the extraneous ones tend to be things I got on sale at the holidays and am trying out for fun. (Summer = less fun. The cruel demands of my pettish epidermis.)

And this year, I’ll add back in washing my face in the morning which OH MY GOD you guys, I actually stopped the full a.m. face-wash a few months ago in an effort to combat the winter dry-flakey. AND IT WORKED. But with warmer weather, my oil glands tend to come out of hibernation with a vengeance - plus I’ll start sweating at night again - so it’s back to the morning wash for me.

If I fail to make these changes early enough, I get like a month of break-outs. If I pare back too early, my skin gets sensitive and dry. Such is the joy of combo skin. I have never, not once, managed to time it right. I’m either (skincare-metaphorically) wearing sandals in the snow or a parka in a heat wave, so please know that if you too have this problem you are not alone.

Foot Peel

If you’ve already done one of these, you probably don’t need this info but maybe there are some helpful tips in it. If you’ve never done one - wow, it’s the most disgusting fun you’ll ever have! Okay - not fun, exactly. But it is deeply satisfying. And deeply, deeply grody.

Because of the resulting (temporary) hideousness of your feet, it is essential to do it before sandal weather hits. If you do this like 3 days before heading to the beach, I… can’t think of how to finish that sentence, I’m too busy literally gagging at the idea of seeing peeling foot skin on the adjacent beach towel.

Right so most people here in the U.S. think of Baby Foot peel, since it’s the one that somehow stormed our shores and got onto the Target shelves. But I’m here to let you know that you don’t have to spend $25 (at that point, just go get a pro pedicure, sheesh) because the cheap-ass ones from Asian drugstore brands work just as well. This is the one I just used a couple days ago:

I chose it at random from the “foot peel” search results on YesStyle, so go on and get whichever you want - get a buncha them and do a comparison, if you feel like it. I will say that I like the PureDerm one because it’s designed with that fold-flappy bit that allows you to easily avoid getting the product on the tops of your feet, and for some people that’s key. (see point 3, below)

Okay so I will ask you to read the instructions on the packet first but then mostly disregard them in favor of what I’m going to tell you now. That’s right, it’s Going Rogue With Husk Weekly: It’s Only Feet!

Here’s my prescription for How To Use A Foot Peel:

Before you get started
So like ideally you’d patch test these mofos and make sure your skin doesn’t hate it. But honestly, the skin on your feet tends to be the least sensitive of your body AND the whole reason you’re doing this is because you have a half-inch thick callous of dead skin which, while unattractive, is highly protective. So I have never patch-tested, but you go on and make that choice for yourself.

You should, however, definitely check to make sure you don’t have any actual wounds. No broken skin. Unless you’re really into agony.

1. Start early
We already covered this. But if for some reason you find yourself doing it in like July, just be prepared to wear socks for like a full week.

2. Pre-Soak
Before ripping open the package, let your feet get good and wet. Saturated. Like, take a good long shower at the very least, or just plunk your bare feet into a tub of water for a good 10 minutes. Then pat dry and move on.

3. Wear Booties (for a lonnnng time)
First, if you worry about the tops of your feet - where the skin is not calloused and doesn’t really need all that peeling and maybe will get irritated by the chemicals - then try to protect them from the jelly-like stuff inside the bootie. You can cut off the tops of the booties (if you can keep your feet totally non-mobile for the duration) so that only the bottoms of your feet are submerged in the exfoliating goo. Or you can fold the tops down, as pictured (after you scroll past several images of dead peeling foot skin, you’ve been warned) here. You can also just coat the tops of your feet with a layer of Vaseline topped with plastic wrap and see how that works.

Most package instructions will give you a 30-45 minute wear time for the booties. My standard is to double it. I never wear them for less than 90 minutes, and have worn them for as long as 3 hours (um, accidentally.) (I fell asleep.) But really, 90 minutes should do it. Less than 90 might give you lackluster results.

Now, no one wants to spend 90 minutes just sitting in the bathroom. Or maybe you do, I don’t know your life, but my guess is that you don’t have a comfy couch in there so you’re more likely to hang out in the living room or wherever. So, look: You DO NOT want to walk in the booties. They are slippy plastic on the outside, squishy and slippery on the inside. So you really have to plan this out. Have a beverage next to you and a good movie queued up. Best practice is to have a bucket (or whatever) of water and a towel next to you so that when you finish, you can rinse right there and dry off your feet. You can put on some slippers over the booties and shuffle your way to the bathroom if needed, but then walking in them is really not easy or fun - though I have no doubt it’s hilarious to watch.

4. Post-Peel
Nothing at all happens for a few days at least. You might even forget you did it - lord knows I’ve completely forgotten and wondered (a week later) wtf was happening to my feet. But it WILL happen, and it’s basically just hanks of dead skin falling from your feet. Sheets of the stuff, and wee snowy flakes and crumbling feta-like bits. Real beauty pageant material.

The key to moving the process along is moisture. So if, like me, you tend to take very quick showers (unless I’m washing my hair which is only a twice-per-week thing) it might take longer to get through the shedding process. And you might get impatient with these stubborn bits of dead skin that won’t fall off but you’re not supposed to pick at or peel off yourself. The best thing to do to motivate the shedding is to get your feet good and saturated every day. So I spend about 5 minutes every day with my feet in an inch of water. Just plain water - maybe some soap if you feel the need.

Then when you dry off your feet (note: you may want to have a dedicated old towel for this as it will become laden with the aforementioned flakes of skin), moisturize and immediately put on a pair of socks. Ones you don’t love too much. Have a lineup of socks ready for the week, and wear them night and day. Your feet will moult like a damn lizard, so be prepared when you take those socks off. (Also easy to forget, and woe betide.) I tend to remove the socks with my feet over a trash can. You have to account for the avalanche of dead skin that will be in there and hanging off your feet. It’s so gross. But at least you’ve kept it contained.

5. Maintenance
It takes about 5-ish days until the skin stops sloughing off. And you really should not pull/pick at the skin, no matter how tempting. Once it’s done shedding, you’ll have soft and gorgeous feet, it’s fantastic.

To keep them soft, run a pumice sponge over them (with a squirt of soap) every time you’re in the shower. Use a lotion with 10% urea or more at least a few times a week. If you do these things regularly, it’ll be a while until you have major callouses built up on your feet again, and you can enjoy baby-like feet all summer.

Post Script
Foot peels can be addictive because the results are SO dramatic. But it’s just the first time - or the first one in a very long time - that is so spectacular. If you want to do one every few months, adjust your expectations and go ahead. Personally, I prefer one annual shedding, at this time of year. It’s my seasonal moult, and then I switch to regular pedicures once summer is in full swing.

All right, now you’re ready for daffodils and baby bunnies and fresh berries and all the other wonders of Spring (she says, as the snow and ice spits against her windowpane.) I wish you many great days of carefree sunshine and wide-brimmed sun hats and open-toed shoes.

Socially Distant Hugs,