As the weeks and months give way to colder weather, I have to remind my client population to take care of the moisture balance during the winter. As the temperature goes down outside, we crank up the furnace indoors. Regardless of having a humidifier attached to the furnace or if you have a stand-alone unit, the air indoors stays relatively drier than in the humid summer months. As a result, the air wicks away the moisture out of our skin as moisture (as a basic rule of science) travels from an area of high concentration (our skin) to an area of low concentration (the air).
This dries out our skin and we are left at risk for more calluses, cracks in our heels (fissures) as well as hard spots called “seborheic keratosis” or “barnacles of life”. Now before you get down on yourself about feeling like an old whale, please remember that these are preventable conditions that can improve with moisturization.
One of the most common things I’m asked when it comes to moisturization is “what kind of moisturizer should I use?” or “what’s the best out there?”. The best moisturizer is the one that you use and use often. Most of the time, in my experience, I’ve found that people simply have a lot of different types of moisturizers from perfumed ones, to lotioned ones to medicated ones but if you ask how often they apply it to their feet, or even their hands, it’s not enough. For the winter months, I’d say that for maintenance, twice a day is ideal. For the more humid months, once a day is sufficient. Bare in mind that this is for MAINTENANCE. If you already have a skin problem like cracked heels, you will require several treatments a day just to catch up! I will not limit you but know that twice a day is the minimum you should do. Of course, people find difficulty to take time out of their already busy lives to treat this but like most things, if you make the effort and time to put into this, you will see results. Use your favourite fragranced or non-fragranced foot cream and apply often!
Alternatives To Lotions
This leads me to the next topic on what to look for. Now once you have been using your favourite moisturizer often and see no results, then we can talk about what to use. As I always say at first, it’s not what you use but how often you use it. Once this fails, we look at what you’re using. Firstly, know that lotions are usually more water based and therefore do not stay on or penetrate the skin as deep as an oil based product like a cream, salve or stick. Good old fashioned petroleum jelly like Vaseline or any local brand will suffice. The problem is the most common complaint is that it is too greasy and oily. Bag Balm is a product that farmers have used for years to moisturize the udders of dairy cows. This is a very greasy and lanolin based product that works really well to super moisturize cracked heels and dry feet. Be aware of your allergies however, as lanolin is an animal based product derived from sheep. You can purchase non-greasy formulas out there that are hypo-allergenic and work just as good.
If you walk into your local pharmacy and go to the foot care section of the store, you will find (along with the over the counter insoles), a section of different foot creams and emollients. Bearing in mind that you are going to use it often, find something that you can actually use often.
Once you have your moisturizer, I will ask you to use it often as mentioned before. Next week, I will talk about what do to at home to help the moisturizer work better so you can jump start yourself into a maintenance program without having to apply your moisturizer too many times a day. Stay tuned, folks!