This is how those gross foot peeling kits really work

When it’s brutally hot out, the last thing we want is to put our feet into heavy shoes. Give us all the cute espadrilles, retro jelly sandals, and chic slides. But after colder months of stuffing our feet into socks and sneakers, our tootsies need a little TLC. When a pedicure just won’t cut it, beauty lovers are turning to foot peels.

Foot peels became a popular beauty trend years ago, and their popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In the beginning, everyone turned to Japanese brand BabyFoot for their foot peel needs (even Zendaya tried it), but now many other brands are offering alternatives.

We asked Dr. Rebecca Pruthi, a podiatrist at Foot Care of Manhattan, for her thoughts on foot peels. She told HelloGiggles,

"As far as foot peels go, they are essentially chemical peels for feet. For people with calluses and dry hard skin, it may be effective."

So how do they work, exactly?

First, you put your feet in little pockets that feel like slimy socks. These pockets are filled with some sort of chemical solution, which soaks into your feet for about an hour. Over the course of the next two weeks, the skin on your feet will peel off in huge flakes. It might seem gross, but it will reveal fresh, baby-soft feet.

But what is actually happening here? Are foot peels safe?

via giphy

The vast majority of popular foot peels claim to be made with gentle, botanical ingredients. Kocostar Foot Therapy claims to contain 33 botanical ingredients and no parabens. Baby Foot says it has 17 types of natural extracts, including lavender, for an ultra-gentle peel. Boscia Baby Soft Foot Peel is a natural exfoliating peel treatment made with fruit extracts.

But these products must contain stronger ingredients as well, in order to make your foot peel. After a deeper dive, it became clear that all of these popular foot peels mentioned above, and others like Tonymoly’s Super Peeling Liquid and Holika Holika Baby Silky Foot, all contain AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid.

Boscia Baby Soft FootBoscia Baby Soft Foot

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Yes, we put these types of acids on our faces for better skin. AHAs are considered safe in concentrations of less than 10%, but foot peeling kits don’t tell consumers what percentage of glycolic acid is in the solution. It’s likely the numbers are high. They do strip your dead skin within days, after all. It’s hard to say whether these treatments are doing more harm than good. If you can’t use this amount of AHAs on your face, you might not want to use it on your feet.

Dr. Pruthi also mentioned to HelloGiggles,

"Since they [foot peels] are not performed under a doctor's supervision, there are associated risks. People with diabetes, smokers, or those that are immunocompromised should not use these treatments. Also, people with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or anyone with cuts and open woulds should stay away."

Baby FootBaby Foot

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Along with the various acids, the peels also contain alcohol and artificial fragrances. These ingredients could be harmful to people with allergies, expectant mothers, athletes like runners who need their feet to be extra tough, or anyone with skin sensitivities.

According to Dr. Pruthi,

"Risks could include over-exfoliation and skin infections. Although these products may work, consumers just need to be aware when using such products that they are using them at their own risk."

Kocostar Neiman MarcusKocostar Neiman Marcus

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The reviews of the most popular foot peeling products are almost all positive, and most evidence suggests that these peels are probably okay for the majority of people. You also want to be cautious if you have skin sensitivities, allergies, are pregnant, or are an athlete.

Instead of a cure-all, we should see these products as a supplement to more natural, chemical-free foot care alternatives like pumice stones, foot scrubs, and pedicures. But if you’ve always wanted to try foot peels, you’re now armed with all the info you need.

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