Maintaining Healthy Feet

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During the holidays, you may be on your feet a good bit, whether you are rushing to finish your seasonal shopping or dancing at a holiday party. Your feet are most likely already experiencing winter stress, which is accompanied by dry skin and nails. Here are a few ideas to keep your feet healthy and attractive all winter long.

Smooth your skin and moisturize well

Before using a pumice stone or a foot file, you should soak your feet in water for ten to fifteen minutes. This will allow you to remove thickened skin and calluses more readily. You can use black tea as a footbath, as it is rich in tannic acid, a natural antibacterial. When using a foot file to remove dead or thickened skin, be cautious. It’s easy to file to vigorously, which can result in pain or irritation. There is a variety of moisturizing foot scrubs with exfoliating ingredients available commercially. These may include sugar scrubs, crushed fruit pits, or chemical exfoliants. After scrubbing your feet and removing thickened skin, be certain to moisturize with a rich cream – usually one that contains cocoa butter or shea butter is adequately moisturizing. Choose a moisturizer that is specifically designed for feet. They usually contain richer emollients, like petrolatum. Humectants like lactic acid also help your skin absorb moisture more readily. Creams that contain salicylic acid are useful to soften the thick skin and tough calluses that can dry out and crack in winter. Medicated heel pads are also available over the counter, if your heels are exceptionally dry or cracked.

Toenail tips

If you are planning on a pedicure, pay attention to details like cuticles. You should moisturize both toenails and cuticles with a cuticle cream, vitamin E oil, or petroleum jelly. Rub it gently over your entire nail and cuticle.

Unfortunately, some nail technicians unwisely cut the cuticle instead of pushing it back gently. This can lead to infection. If you are caring for your own toenails, use a curved nail “nipper” for more natural results. When cutting toenails, cut straight across. Ingrown toenails can develop if you cut your nail too short or injure the nail. Tight shoes may also contribute to ingrown toenails. If you develop an ingrown toenail, your doctor can remove the portion of nail that is growing into your skin.

Nail polish that contains formaldehyde, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate should be avoided, as it’s harsh. Alcohol free nail polish remover is the healthiest choice, since harsh ingredients can dry your nails and make them brittle.

Athlete’s feet and toenail fungus

Athlete’s foot is a skin condition that is caused by fungus. Shoes create a warm, humid environment, which makes fungus more likely thrive. You can treat athlete’s foot with an over the counter antifungal treatment, if it’s a mild case. The active ingredients include miconazole, terbinafine, and clotrimazole. Tea tree oil can also be effective for treatment of mild cases of athlete’s foot. If your feet are frequently moist, you should use a medicated powder or spray with aluminum chloride hexahydrate, which will help keep your feet dry.

Toenail fungus (onchomycosis) is difficult to treat and will require a prescription medication for the best chance of eradication. It can leave your nails thick and discolored. Even with an oral medication, only 50% of toenail fungus infections are cured successfully. To prevent nail fungus, keep your socks and shoes dry. Cotton socks are usually the best choice, since cotton is a natural fiber that can wick moisture from your skin. Avoid wearing tight shoes and use an absorbent powder. Don’t walk around barefoot in a public area, if possible, and be certain that your nail technician disinfects equipment between clients.

With a little effort, your feet can remain healthy all winter and you’ll have a head start on spring sandal weather!

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