As I write this blog post, I’m sitting in my office with a pair of Starskin Magic Hour Exfoliating Foot Mask Socks on my feet. This is the third or fourth time I’ve used a peeling foot mask. They are amazingly effective — if you use them the right way.
What is a foot peeling mask?
The original foot peel, Baby Foot, launched in Japan in 1997 and became available in the U.S. in 2012, but it’s just been within the past couple of years that peeling foot masks have started to become more popular and more widely available here. Although there are some variations in formula and application process, the basic principle is the same from brand to brand: You soak your feet in a liquid that usually contains high levels of alpha hydroxy acids, and then in about two weeks your feet shed a tremendous amount of dead skin and callouses, leaving them soft and smooth.
Maybe you got a Starskin mask in your most recent Allure Beauty Box (like I did), or you’ve got a peeling foot mask packet sitting unopened on your dresser because you’re afraid to use it, or you’re just curious about foot peels. I’m a fan of this gross but effective pedicure trend, and I’d like to share some tips to help you get the most out of your foot peel experience.
Make sure you read and follow the directions.
This seems obvious, but it’s worth saying. There are slight differences between some of the different masks out there, so even if you’ve used one before, make sure you read all the directions for your specific mask before you get started.
Remove your toenail polish.
If you’re at all uneasy about the prospect of soaking your feet in acid*, you won’t be reassured by the sight of your discolored pedicure after you remove the booties.
* It really is not at all uncomfortable. I promise.
Put your foot in the right spot.
Your mask will come with two plastic booties that are either pre-filled or ready to be filled with the liquid in which your feet will soak. These booties probably have an inner double layer of very thin felt-like material. Make sure you put your feet inside the pocket formed by the cloth-like inner layers, not in between the felt and the plastic. Put your feet in the wrong spot and you could tear your slipper — and even if you don’t tear it, you won’t be getting the full effect of the mask.
Once you get those booties on, you’re going to have to be prepared to wear them for up to 90 minutes. You can walk around with them on, but it’s not ideal, so grab a book or fire up Netflix before you get started. I like to put slippers over the top to help keep everything contained in case I need to get up.
That’s just the initial wait. After you’ve finished your initial soak, you’re going to have to bide your time waiting for the action to start. Like, a really long time. In fact, you might give up hope and think it’s not going to work for you.
Don’t lose faith! These peels work really slowly. Somewhere between 3 and 14 days after you soak your feet, you’re going to see skin start to peel.
Soak your toes.
The first time I did a foot peel mask, the waiting period coincided with a cold that had me knocked out — and skipping showers — for a few days. I was convinced that my mask had been a dud. Then I started to feel better, I hopped in the shower… and as soon as I was done, my feet began peeling like magic.
Baby Foot, which invented the entire peeling foot mask craze, recommends soaking your feet every day to “activate the peeling process,” and I totally buy this because I’ve seen the difference. Think of it as an excuse to take more baths (and maybe finally try out a jewelry bath bomb).
Skip the lotion.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ONE. The first time I did a peeling foot mask, I had one awkward day mid-peel when I felt like I was just flinging dead skin everywhere — most specifically all over my mat at yoga. The second time I peeled, when it was time for my first mid-peel yoga class, I smoothed on some lotion to try to keep my flaking skin under control so I wouldn’t gross out my classmates.
The lotion kept me from snowing dead skin all over my yoga mat. It also brought my entire peel to a screeching halt. I had been seeing great, rapid process with Skin Food’s Mint Sparkling Foot Peeling Socks, and the second I turned to that body cream, the entire process came to a screeching halt.
Long story short: One application of lotion can terminate your entire peel, meaning all your waiting was for naught. Hold off on moisturizing until you are 100% confident that you’ve peeled as much as you’re going to peel. If that means you have to wear socks to yoga… well, that’s a decision I can’t make for you.
Be gentle with your feet.
Once your callouses start to peel, you’re going to be tempted to help those chunks of dead skin along. Don’t do it! If there’s one direction that’s consistent on every single peeling foot mask package, it’s a warning to not peel any skin yourself. (This post is getting grosser and grosser the more I type.) You can hurt your feet if you try to accelerate the process. Let the peel work on its own.
I have found that soaking in a bath really does soften up that peeling skin and help the process along, so if you’re struggling with the temptation to peel, consider hopping in the tub instead. I have even given my peeling feet a VERY GENTLE rub with a SOFT body scrub once they’ve been soaking for a while… but definitely skip the pumice and loofah treatment.
Also, your feet may be sensitive post-peel. At the very least, all the ugly-but-functional callouses that used to protect the soles of your feet are now gone — so go easy on your tootsies now that they’re baby-soft! (Feel free to lotion excessively once you’ve got your brand-new skin fully exposed.)