Like most women, my feet can get pretty gnarly. After all, they spend most of the day either squeezed into heels, or shoved into sweaty sneakers. But with summer (read: sandal season) in full swing, I’d rather not be showing off my cracked heels and callouses every day.
So when I heard my colleagues were looking for a guinea pig to try Peel Essentials ($28 for pack of 2, PeelEssentials.com), a cult-favorite foot exfoliant that claims to get rid of decades-old calluses and dead skin on your feet, I quickly volunteered as tribute. Well…to say I volunteered is putting it lightly—I actually forwarded them photos of the last time I did the peel and pretty much begged them to let me do it. Because, far from being a Baby Foot virgin, I’m obsessed with this beauty product. Here’s what happened when I put it to the test:
For the uninitiated: Baby Foot is a foot peel that’s supposed to help slough off dead skin and make your feet as soft and smooth as…well, a baby’s. The package comes with a pair of plastic booties that are filled with a gel made of up chemicals including salicylic acid and lactic acid that cause dead skin cells to peel.
“It’s essentially exfoliation on steroids,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D. Which is why, she tells me, people with eczema, psoriasis, or even just sensitive skin, should be wary of the product since it can cause major irritation. Ditto people who have any cuts or open wounds on their feet.
Watch a hot doc explain why your feet are peeling:
As with the other three or four other times I’d used it, I started by soaking my feet for about 15 minutes in a hot bath. After drying off, I cut the top off the gel-filled plastic booties and slipped my feet inside, securing the top with the enclosed tape strips. Then I put my feet up for an hour and spent some QT with my Netflix queue. After 60 minutes, I rinsed the gel off my feet.
Pro tip: Pee and gather up anything you’ll need in the next hour before popping the booties on; walking around in them is slippery business. If you absolutely must get up, pull a chunky pair of socks over the booties. But still, take it slow.
Then came the hard part—the waiting. The instructions say your feet will start to peel in five to seven days, which is pretty much an eternity. If you’re impatient, like me, it’s during this time that you’ll worry that the whole thing is a con, and that the photos you see online, where skin is falling, zombie-like off feet, are doctored.
Hang in there, because when I woke up on day five—right on schedule—and looked down, I saw IT HAD BEGUN. Two quarter-sized patches had begun to slough off my left heel, and the ball of my right foot sported a similar-sized strip of dangling skin. My fingers itched to peel the skin back further, but I remembered making this mistake as a Baby Foot noob. In trying to hurry things along I pulled up some skin that hadn’t been ready to come off yet—ouch. (Speaking of ouch, the peeling doesn’t hurt at all; its just like plucking off bits of skin post-sunburn).
The next morning (day six, if you’re counting), even more skin was fleeing my foot. It wasn’t until later that afternoon, after an hour-long run in 98 degree sun, that I hit the motherlode. The sweat and friction from the run had the skin separating from the rest of my body like a molting snake. Now that I was in full-peel mode I could help things along, tugging inches-long pieces of skin off my sole in a vaguely hypnotic trance. Afterwards, I needed to vacuum the floor around me (don’t judge).
The next few days weren’t as dramatic. The magic moved up to the tops of my foot, and even my toes peeled. There were a few patches on my heels that didn’t want to come off on their own, but they scrubbed off easily with a washcloth in the tub.
It’s been about 10 days now, and I’d say I’m 90 percent done shedding—for now. But my feet look and feel so much smoother than when I started this experiment. So long, calluses! I’m once again ready for strappy sandals—although I think another round of Baby Foot is in order once the summer is over.