Dry cracked heels are a common problem that I see frequently in my practice. They can occur anytime of the year but are especially common in the summer when we start wearing sandals and our feet are exposed to the elements every day. Living in Miami, this is a year-round problem so I have some great solutions. There are a few steps to soften dry cracked heels. First of all, especially for more severe cases, daily use of a moisturizer that contains urea or lactic acid will help to exfoliate rough, dry skin. Amlactin or Lachydrin are two brands that contain lactic acid (up to 12%) and can be bought over the counter. Eucerin Plus has urea and really works well at softening the skin. Prescription lotions that contain 6% salicylic acid are also extremely effective. You can also mechanically exfoliate the dead skin cells with a pumice stone which is especially useful you have a thick or stubborn area. To maintain, these new smooth heels, I would recommend continued use of a heavy moisturizer to heels daily after showering. It is important to apply occlusive type moisturizers like Vaseline or Aquaphor to moist skin because this locks in the moisture. The key is to keep up with this regimen. Daily exfoliation and hydration with these types of products are essential to maintain results.
Dry skin can be a frustrating problem. Many times patients complain that no matter what lotion, cream or ointment they put on their skin, 10 minutes later their skin still feels dry. There are some simple things that you can do to overcome this problem. First, you need to look at the soap you are using. Soaps with harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate can strip the skin of its natural oils and exacerbate dry skin. Choose gentle cleansers like Cerave, Cetaphil, or Vanicream which do not contain these harsh ingredients. Also avoid very long, hot showers because this can also contribute to dry skin. Second, any moisturizer should be applied to skin right after you shower. This locks in the moisture and makes the moisturizer much more effective. If you have very dry skin, you may need an ointment like Aquaphor. This is one of my favorite products, especially in the winter.
Some people also complain of ashy skin. This gray scaly appearance of the skin is most obvious in darker skin types. If this is severe, I sometimes recommend a moisturizer that contains lactic acid (Amlactin) which is over the counter to exfoliate the scale while at the same time hydrating and improving the skin texture. Prescription strength lotions with salicylic acid also work well to smooth dry scaly skin on the body. With these tips you should finally be able to overcome dry skin and achieve what we all want-smooth, soft, and radiant skin.