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5 Easy Steps to Solve Peeling Skin on Feet

Have you recently looked down and noticed peeling skin on your feet? Give your feet extra loving care with these remedies.

Close-up of the sole of a woman's right foot sitting on a brown leather couch.

Peeling skin on the feet can be an unsightly and uncomfortable sight. But when layers of skin come off, it may indicate something about your health. For example, your skin may be healing from the damage wrought by an underlying condition. 

Knowing the cause of peeling skin on feet is essential to determine if you need a topical or systemic remedy. 

Causes of Peeling Skin on Feet

Close-up of a woman's lower legs in business wear removing black high-heel shoes and putting on white sneakers.
Peeling skin on the feet could be caused by trapped moisture due to ill-fitting shoes.

One of the common causes of skin peeling is dry and cracked skin. This can be due to dehydration, irritation from chemicals, or even sunburn. But things like sweat can also be bad for the skin. 

Excessive moisture 

Sweat makes the skin soggy and more prone to blistering and peeling. Your feet can sweat if you’re wearing ill-fitting shoes with poor ventilation. Children who experience excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) may have juvenile plantar dermatosis (sweaty-sock syndrome). 

Infection 

Peeling skin on the feet can be a symptom of an infection, like tinea pedis or athlete’s foot. As your skin tries to heal from the inflammation, it dries and peels. 

Systemic diseases 

Skin disorders related to auto-immune conditions like eczema or psoriasis are also possible causes of skin peeling. There is also a rare genetic mutation, acral skin peeling syndrome, that causes painless peeling of the skin on the hands and feet.

5 Steps to Healthy, Happy Feet 

Healthy Happy Feet
Give your feet some TLC to prevent dry skin from forming.

Give your feet the same attention as your hands and make it a daily habit. Here are five ways to take care of the peeling skin on your feet. 

1. Keep your feet clean and dry 

Soothe peeling skin by soaking your feet in warm water with a mild fragrance-free soap. Rinse off and then dry your feet with a clean towel. 

2. Treat infections, if any 

Consult your physician to check for fungal, bacterial, viral, or parasitic skin infections. You can treat athlete’s foot (fungal) and warts (viral) with over-the-counter or prescribed topical antimicrobial creams.

3. Wear proper protection 

Rest your feet and avoid wearing covered shoes or strappy sandals. If dryness is an issue, moisturise with lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly to protect your skin barrier.

If too much moisture is the culprit, keep your feet well-ventilated. Apply sunscreen on your bare feet when at the beach or if you’re playing outdoor sports.

4. Consider a foot peel (if suitable)  

The skin on your feet is thicker than the rest of your body and can be prone to callouses and peeling. You may only consider a foot skin peel if the thickened skin is unrelated to infections or diseases. Talk to your dermatologist before proceeding with this. 

5. Try Traditional Chinese Medicine

View of goji berries growing on a branch.
Treat peeling skin on the feet with goji berries, a TCM herb, to improve Qi Deficiency.

Try acupuncture and herbal medicine to address systemic imbalances and improve circulation. 

“Dry, cracked, and peeling skin could be caused by Yin (cool) Deficiency, Blood Deficiency or Blood Stasis in the body. Poor circulation to the feet could be caused by general Qi (vital life force) Deficiency.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Wong Si Xuan  

Dryness and peeling may mean the skin of the feet lacks fluids caused by Yin, Blood, and Qi Deficiency. Blood Stasis can also result in poor circulation of nutrients to your feet. 

These herbs can promote better circulation of qi and blood to the feet and nourish yin and blood: 

  • Ligusticum striatum (chuang xiong, 川芎) 
  • Salvia miltiorrhiza (dan shen, 丹参) 
  • Pseudostellariae radix (tai zi chan, 太子参)  

Herbs such as Saposhnikovia divaricate (fang feng, 防风) and Tribulus terrestris (chi ji li, 刺蒺藜) can also be beneficial to peeling skin accompanied by itchiness. 

Studies have suggested that many of these herbs can be effective remedies. For example, Lycium barbarum, also known as goji berry, has been shown to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, compounds in goji berries may positively stimulate the immune system and be neuroprotective and anti-diabetic.

A 2018 review shows acupuncture can potentially be a viable treatment for atopic dermatitis. Blood flow increases at the needle insertion points, assisting with healing lesions and restoring the skin to its normal thickness. 

“Acupuncture can help to improve qi and blood circulation in the body, ensuring better distribution of nutrients to the feet,” echoes Physician Wong. 

Specific acupoints that can boost yin, qi, and blood production include the following. 

To nourish yin production: 

  • San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交) 
  • Tai xi (KI3, 太溪) 
  • Yong quan (KI1, 湧泉) 

To improve blood and qi circulation: 

  • Xue hai (SP10, 血海) 
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里)  

It’s natural for our feet to get a little “beaten up”, and skin issues may resolve on their own. However, consult a physician and a licensed TCM practitioner if the peeling skin on your feet worsens or persists. It may be a sign that your soles need extra loving care.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Peeling skin. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17832-peeling-skin> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  2. National Health Service (NHS), United Kingdom. 2021. Athlete’s foot. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/athletes-foot/> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  3. National Health Service (NHS), United Kingdom. 2022. Pompholyx (dyshidrotic eczema). [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pompholyx/> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  4. DermNetNZ.org. 2020. Juvenile plantar dermatosis. [online] Available at: <https://dermnetnz.org/topics/juvenile-plantar-dermatosis> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  5. MedlinePlus.gov. Acral peeling skin syndrome. [online] Available at: <https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/acral-peeling-skin-syndrome/ – frequency> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  6. DermNetNZ.org. 2018. Keratolysis exfoliativa. [online] Available at: <https://dermnetnz.org/topics/keratolysis-exfoliativa> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 2022. How to Care for Dry Cracked Heels. [online] Available at: <https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/dry-heels> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  8. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Do Foot Peels Actually Work? [online] Available at: <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/are-foot-peels-safe-and-do-they-work/> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  9. Multi-Disciplinary Publishing Institute (MDPI) – Antioxidants. 2022. Health Benefits and Applications of Goji Berries in Functional Food Products Development: A Review. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8868247/> [Accessed 22 October 2022]
  10. International Journal of Allergy Medications. 2018. Positive Effects of Acupuncture on Atopic Dermatitis. [online] Available at: <https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijam/international-journal-of-allergy-medications-ijam-4-030.php> [Accessed 22 October 2022]

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