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Plantar Xerosis or Dry, Rough Feet

Causes of Plantar Xerosis

The causes of plantar xerosis include:

1. Taking long, hot baths

2. Using soaps and other skin care products that dry the skin

3. Aging since the skin tends to get drier as one ages due to hormonal and metabolic changes.

4. Suffering from skin diseases that dry the skin like eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis. Athlete’s foot is another condition associated with dry skin on the feet.

5. Medical conditions like diabetes and hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) can also cause dry skin on the feet.

6. Wearing open shoes also contributes to the development of dry and even cracked feet on the skin.

dry, rough feet

Symptoms of Plantar Xerosis

Symptoms of plantar xerosis include skin on the feet which is dry, rough, flaky and peeling.

The most commonly affected areas are the heels, sides of the feet and the balls of the feet.

Treatment of Plantar Xerosis

The treatment for plantar xerosis can be divided into non-prescription remedies and prescription treatment.

Non-Prescription Home Remedies for Dry, Rough Feet

A. Non-prescription remedies for dry, rough feet can be simplified into the following 3 step regimen:

1. Soak

Soak your feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes to help soften the hard skin so that it is easier to remove.

You can soak your feet in warm, soapy water or use Tea Tree Oil Foot Soak which contains the natural antiseptic tea tree essential oil and mineral salts.

2. Exfoliate

Exfoliation is the process of removing the dead cells on the surface of the skin. This is an important step since regular moisturizers cannot penetrate the tough skin to soften the feet effectively. The process of exfoliation can be done physically or chemically.

Exfoliate your feet to remove the dead cells on the skin’s surface. You can exfoliate in the following ways:

a. Physical exfoliation involves the use of:

(i) Scrubs which contain sugar or salt or tiny pumice granules like The Body Shop Peppermint Smoothing Pumice Foot Scrub. You can also make your own sugar scrub at home by mixing 1 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of olive oil.


(ii) Pedicure implements like Pumice Stones and files like the Microplane Colossal Pedicure Foot Rasp can be used to rub the rough spots on the soles of the feet and remove the thickened, crusted skin. When using these implements, file the feet in only one direction. Loofah Sponges should be used to exfoliate the tops of the feet.


b. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of keratolytics which are substances which soften, loosen, and enhance removal of dead skin cells. Keratolytics that can be used on dry, rough feet include:

(i) Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid (from sugar cane), mandelic acid, pyruvic acid and lactic acid (from milk) are used to loosen and enhance the removal of dead cells on the skin’s surface. Examples of AHA containing products include Podiatrist’s Secret Total Foot Recovery Cream which contains lactic acid. Amlactin Foot Cream also contains AHAs.

Caveat: If you have diabetes or any other disease which results in reduced sensation in the feet, consult a podiatrist or dermatologist. Do not follow attempt to exfoliate your own feet.

3. Moisturize

After exfoliating, the feet should be rinsed, patted dry, and massaged with a good moisturizer to prevent the skin drying out. For maximum effect, moisturizers should be applied while the skin is still moist and for the quickest results they should be applied twice a day.

This moisturizer can be as simple as Organic Olive Oil or Organic Coconut Oil.

100% pure petroleum jelly which is also known as petrolatum or soft paraffin (like Vaseline) can also be used.

The moisturizer can also contain other beneficial ingredients like:

a. Urea which is both a keratolytic and a humectant. This means that it helps remove the dead skin cells and increases the water binding capacity of the healthy skin cells. It therefore exfoliates and hydrates the skin. Examples of urea containing products include Carmol 20.

b. Ammonium lactate is also both a keratolytic and a humectant and thus it exfoliates and hydrates the skin. Products to soften dry, rough feet which contain ammonium lactate include AmLactin Cream.

c. Propylene glycol can also be used to remove the rough skin. Products which contain propylene glycol include AmLactin Cream.

d. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) which exfoliate and thus help the moisturizers penetrate the skin more effectively are other beneficial ingredients. Products which contain AHAs include Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Foot Crème.


After applying the moisturizer, wear cotton socks to help the moisturizers soak into the skin. You can also wear lotion socks like the Terry Gel-lined Moisturizing Socks which are infused with jojoba and olive oil. Wearing socks is especially beneficial when it is done in the evening before going to bed. Socks can also be worn during the day after moisturizing to protect the feet.

These measures should be combined with using a non-drying moisturizing soap on a regular basis. In addition,  you should use lukewarm water to bathe or shower and limit the time you spend in the water. Finally do not bathe or shower more than twice a day.

dry, rough feet

Prescription Treatment for Dry Rough Feet

Prescription treatment involves the use of products that contain higher concentrations of ingredients that exfoliate and moisturize the skin. Examples of prescription medications for dry, rough feet include:

1. Kerol

Kerol is a keratolytic (product which loosens hard, scaly skin to help its removal). It contains:

a. Urea

b. Lactic acid which is an alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

c. Salicylic acid which is a beta hydroxy acid that is especially beneficial for managing scaling on the skin. Salicylic acid can irritate the skin in some patients and it should generally be avoided in children due to the risk of systemic intoxication from local absorption.


Prescription treatment for dry, rough feet also involves treating any underlying cause if present.

For example patients with eczema, psoriasis, ichthyosis, diabetes and hypothyroidism would need to have medications prescribed to treat these conditions.

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