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Dry, cracked skin and how to beat it this Winter

With Winter fast approaching many people will start to notice their skin becoming dry. Many parts of the body can be affected, such as with dandruff, chapped lips, eczema and dry patches. To a podiatrist the most common complaints are callouses and dry, cracked skin on the feet – namely the heels.

Before we discuss why it is important to treat this, let’s visit the main factors that promote the development of dry, cracked skin on the feet.

  • Heating: Because of the cold, many of us turn to heating, which is usually a dry heat. This will remove the amount of moisture in the skin and promote cracking, similar to dirt in a desert.
  • Cold, dry weather: The lack of humidity in winter dries the skin out in a similar manner to above.
  • Hot baths and showers: We have all turned to a nice hot shower at the start or end of the day to warm us up. Although it warms the body it can reduce the moisture in the skin, particularly if you are prone to dry skin already.
  • Lack of Moisturiser/Cream: As the weather changes we change some of our habits (think- dressing warmer, eating more soups less salads etc.) and we should be doing the same with our skin preparation.
  • Disease: Eczema, circulation problems, diabetes, thyroid disease
  • Overweight: Being overweight or obese places stress on the tissues on the sole of the foot, such as the heel fat pad. This is a thick, springy pad directly under the heel that helps us to absorb shock. If it is under too much pressure, the skin will become thick, calloused and cracked.

What will I notice?

  • Skin will become rough, thick and can be flaky
  • Pain may or may not occur
  • Heels can feel bruised if the callous (hard skin) is excessive
  • Skin can form cracks that can split open and bleed. This can be extremely painful and can become infected.
  • Skin cracks can fill with dirt and debris and become more apparent or unsightly

What do I do if I notice dry cracked skin on my feet?

  • The first stop for dry cracked skin is a good emollient with urea in it. Most heel balms from the pharmacy will have urea. Some heel balms are quite sticky and leave a residue on your socks, sheets etc. so it is worth investigating the creams that will be more comfortable for you. At Performance Podiatry Sydney we use a Callusan mousse that has 15% urea content. It feels powdery smooth once applied and is by far one of the most popular products sold in our clinic.
  • If the cracks have opened it is essential that you see a podiatrist to have the crack debrided. This is a process where we painlessly remove the hard skin around the crack using a blade. It will help to immediately allow the area to heal. They will also be able to assess you and diagnose if there is an underlying condition. They will also differentiate between tinea and cracked skin, which can easily be confused.
  • Invest in a pumice stone, foot file, sand paper or some other abrasive. Before or during your shower scrub against the hard skin to remove any excess. This will not likely resolve your skin condition but it will keep it at bay until your next podiatrist appointment.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. It is recommended for adults to drink 2-3 litres of water per day depending on size and activity level. Cutting back on caffeinated drinks is also recommended as they are diuretics.
  • Never attempt to cut hard skin using or a razor or scalpel. Leave this to the professionals to avoid any unnecessary injuries.
  • Avoid soaps where possible or use soap-free cleansers that dry the skin less
  • Avoid standing on hard floors for long periods of time

The skin on your feet needs TLC all year round – not just in winter. Try to incorporate foot care into your ordinary daily or weekly care routine, like brushing your teeth. If in doubt about the state of your foot skin, consult a podiatrist or your doctor to have a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan created.


Laura RabjohnsDry, cracked skin and how to beat it this Winter