This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Continue if you are OK with this or find out more in our Privacy Policy.


Foot peels and exfoliating socks: the secret to smooth hooves?

June 13th 2018 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment


Getty Images

You’ve heard tell of the alarming snake-like skin layers left behind (do NOT Google), but are at-home foot peels worth the hype? We weigh up the pros and cons of exfoliating foot masks

Put the cheesegrater down. There’s another way to achieve soft, silky, descaled feet, and it simply involves putting your feet in a bag for a bit. It sounds modern and miraculous, but actually, exfoliating socks have been kicking around for a while, with the now cult BabyFoot launching in Japan in 1997. Many imitators have followed in its flaky footsteps, but are the dramatic effects of at-home foot peels a good thing for skin, and why are you shedding bits of your sole as you about your day? We’ve got answers.

The foot peel pros

They’re low effort

Soak your toots in warm water for ten minutes or so, put them into the gel filled socks, strap them on and chill. There’s no sloughing, filing or elbow grease to speak of- instead, an exfoliating acid blend begins to nibble at your dead, dry and hard skin. Aesthetic doctor and founder of Clinicbe® Dr Barbara Kubicka explains how exfoliating socks work:

“They break down the outer layers of hard dead skin, kick-starting a peeling process which then encourages new skin cells to form.”

Most at-home foot peels contain an alpha hydroxy acid solution that typically includes glycolic and lactic acid and very often beta hydroxy salicylic acid too. Most manufacturers include hydrating agents such as glycerin, vitamin E and nourishing plant oils to maximise the socks’ softening potential, with no sweat on your part.

They’re very effective

The skin on our feet can be the toughest, thickest and most calloused on our body, and for good reason- we needed hardy soles to get us about safely pre-shoes in caveman times (this is my own vague reasoning but it seems logical). As such, thorough foot exfoliation can seem like a mammoth task when embarked upon physically with a scrub or file, and often we need to go in again two days later, but a chemical peel breaks down the top layers of your skin with an efficiency than other methods rarely match. As consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk explains, exfoliating acids such as those found in the AHA gel of a foot peel ‘work to loosen the ‘cement’ between dead skin cells to smooth and brighten dull skin’. Your body will gradually do away with surface dead skin cells naturally, but given that feet in particular are so prone to hard skin buildup, a leg-up by way of a foot peel can have dramatic effects where softening, smoothing and dead skin shedding is concerned. Which brings us to...

They’re incredibly satisfying

Are you the type of person who relishes plucking out your chin hairs or squeezing a spot? Exfoliating socks were made for you. Watching your old, grey skin peel off in sheets is gross but oh so glorious, and you just know that velvety, good as new hooves are lying beneath. Look up the #footner hashtag on Instagram to see what I’m talking about. If you’re eating, or simply not one of these morbidly curious people, don’t go there. Otherwise, scroll and peel to your heart’s delight.

They make your feet feel like clouds

Once the peeling process is complete (we’ll come onto that), you’re feet will be so buff you won’t recognise them. Those cheesy heels, flaky toes and rough soles will be a thing of the past. Your feet will be reincarnated as soft, bright, light feeling things, and it will be wonderful. You’ll parade them in sandals for days, point your feet in the direction of onlookers at every opportunity and relish getting them out on the yoga mat/ dance floor/ all over the house the minute you get home. You’ll paint them, stroke them and just generally marvel at how polished they’re looking. You might also stick them in people’s faces if you’re me, but there’s really no need for that kind of behaviour.

The effects are lasting

That smugly soft sensation will endure for weeks, nay, months if you’re lucky. Most experts recommend using chemical foot peels once every month max, but you’ll likely get away silky footed for around two to three months, depending on your rate of skin cell turnover. In that vein, given that all you did was put your foot in a sock and sit tight for an episode of your favourite box set, possibly with wine, this is as low maintenance as grooming gets. That said, it’s not all smooth sailing...

The scaly sock cons

You’re feet are shut in a bag for at least an hour

This could be an enormous positive or a debilitating downside, depending on your P.O.V and responsibilities. If you’ve got toddlers on your tail, errands to run or simply can’t afford a sixty minute window on the sofa, you may want to save your personal foot peel appointment for another day.


Results aren’t immediate

If you’re expecting instant pedicure results, you may be disappointed. Your dead skin won’t start flaking off for at least three days, and our editor Victoria didn’t notice any peeling until day five post exfoliating foot sock session (she tried SVR Xérial Peel Exfoliating Foot Mask, £17). Once it begins, however, there’s no going back...

You’ll need a strong stomach

Not keen on moulting literal imprints of your feet wherever you tread? Don’t fancy hoovering up your skin flakes every day? Sock dandruff a sticking point for you? You may want to get cosy with your foot file again, because a foot peel is probably as literal as beauty treatments get- you’ll be an easy peeler for days. Socks, incidentally, are a must for meetings and social occasions, unless you want to see a giant foot flake floating your boss’/ bf’s/ boyf’s way. Socks and sandals will suddenly become a valid sartorial option (or your life will be lived in closed toe for at least a week) and you’ll be going to bedtime will coincide with nightly foot blizzards.


The foot shed can seem eternal

Foot snow is forecast for at least AT LEAST three days, while some peel testers were still washing away debris at the two week mark. Account for it with ‘sealed’ footwear, or carry around a little broom as you go about your business.

They can make feet more sensitive

In the same manner as a face peel, exfoliating acids aren’t for everyone, particularly if you’re suffering with a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis or have sensitive skin to start with. Don’t go there if you have a cut, blister or sore either. Even if you don’t have any skin prior skin issues, foot peels can make skin generally more vulnerable to rubbing and reactivity, so treat post-peel skin with extra care.

They’re a problem for the planet

Technically most exfoliating foot socks are single use plastic bags. Given that microbeads, wet wipes and cotton buns have all been subject to new legislation and regulation around reducing plastic waste, the likes of non-biodegradable sheet masks are starting to look dubious from an environmental point of view. They’re not everyday products, so using them every two months or so shouldn’t weigh heavily on your otherwise green conscience, but it’s certainly something to consider.

Six snakey skin peels

Footner Exfoliating Socks, £19.99


Probably the best known foot peel brand in the UK, these are relatively pricey but impressively peely- if these don’t prize away barnacle-like hard skin, you’ll need to call in the pros.

Buy online

Seoulista Rosy Toes Instant Pedicure™, £7.99


The dead skin detinator of choice for BeautyMart founders Millie Kendall and Anna-Marie Solowij, this K-beauty foot pack is infused with rose oil and works in 30 minutes, so it’s the perfect peel for busy feet.

Buy online

Oh K Peeling Foot Mask, £8.49


One of our testers was shedding out of her sliders for days after using this apple based AHA foot mask, but in a good way. Just give it time.

Buy online

Starskin Magic Hour™ Exfoliating Double-Layer Foot Mask Socks, £8.50


Quite the mouthful, these aloe, calendula and rosemary soaked boots go to town on tough calluses thanks to a glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid trio. Leave them on for the full 90 minutes if you can afford to for the most thorough results.

Buy online

Kocostar Foot Peeling Pack, £8


Put a film on- these foot vacuums take an hour and a half to gobble up your toe gunk, but your skin will be softer for it, and you can file it under ‘self-care’.

Buy online

Skin Republic Foot Peel Mask, £9.99


The fruit extracts squeezed into these are numerous, but it’s really just the acid you’re after, and these AHA boots offer a light peel. The effect isn’t quite lizard-like, but your feet will be left smooth and soft nonetheless.

Buy online

Beyond the polish: reasons to book in for a medi pedi

Follow Anna on Twitter and Instagram

Join the conversation

Agile web development by Byte9