Skin Deep

Give common foot issues the boot

Beautiful feet are one thing, and healthy feet are another—but these two can be closely related. There’s more to pretty peds than a fresh coat of nail polish.

Rough skin: Although dry spots, cracked heels and calluses can be difficult to avoid, they are relatively easy to improve with powerful exfoliating ingredients like urea, lactic acid and alpha hydroxy acids. Skin on the feet has a thicker layer of stratum corneum that helps protect it from trauma. However, this thick upper layer makes it harder to get ingredients to penetrate, so you need much stronger products than what you would use on your body and your face.

Fungal infection: Gym locker rooms, public pools, and basically any hot, humid place can be home to fungi that can lead to an infection on your feet. (So wear flip-flops!) If you notice scaliness on your feet that doesn't diminish after using the exfoliating ingredients mentioned above for a couple of weeks, you may have a foot fungus. Your dermatologist can prescribe medication to address the issue.

In addition to the skin, toenails can become infected with fungus as well, and the visible symptoms include cracking and discoloration. In the past, the treatment options for nail fungus have been somewhat limited. The previous generation of oral medications can potentially cause liver damage, and therefore required monthly blood work. Laser treatments, though effective, are expensive and not covered by insurance.

Now I prescribe a topical prescription-based medication called Jublia, and my patients are seeing great results. Painted on the nails like polish, it can be used as a preventative measure as well. I have my manicurist apply it before polish every time I get my nails and toes done in order to prevent catching an infection from improperly sterilized tools or a dirty foot spa. Once dry, Jublia doesn’t interfere with the polish application or its staying power, and I also apply it to my cuticles between appointments to prevent catching a fungal infection from patients.

Discolored toenails: Yellow discoloration without cracking is generally caused by nail polish, and the best way to prevent it is by using base coat. Green discoloration can be a pseudomonas infection, and you can treat this yourself by soaking toes in a solution of one part vinegar and one part water until the color returns to normal. If you have brown discoloration, see a dermatologist because this could be melanoma. In most cases it’s caused by trauma, but your dermatologist can tell for sure by using a handheld dermatoscope.

In addition to all of the above steps you can take to beautify your feet, you can also give them a special treat every few nights. Simply slather your feet with olive oil and slip on cotton socks. Sleep with them on overnight, and you’ll improve dry, cracked heels and wake up to smooth, soft soles come morning.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.