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How to get rid of calluses: Your guide to softer, smoother skin

Your go-to guide for easy callus removal and prevention

Man holding up callused palms of his hands

No matter what type of lifestyle you lead, chances are you’ve encountered calluses on your hands or feet. And while hand calluses can certainly benefit guitar players and weightlifters, rough patches on the soles will have just about anyone running to find a good callus remover. However, advanced calluses of any sort can be hard to treat, and a humble pumice stone may not be able to erase them singlehandedly.

Whether you’ve just identified calluses as a concern or you’ve been struggling with cracked soles for years, you probably want to know how to get rid of calluses on your feet for good. It may take a little footwork to remove them, but we’re here to help you get started. Nipping foot calluses in the bud requires equal parts prevention and treatment, from simple lifestyle changes to updating your skincare routine. So without further ado, let’s explore how to get rid of calluses on your feet without spending an arm and a leg.

Man lifting barbell weight at the gym
Pexels/Victor Freitas

How calluses form

In order to get rid of calluses, it’s crucial to understand how they form. Knowing what to look out for is half the battle, and once you identify the causes behind pesky calluses, you can work to eliminate them.

Both the palms of our hands and soles of our feet are made up of tissue known as stratum lucidum, a type of skin that’s more prone to thickening and dead cell buildup than other areas of the body. A callus is simply old tissue that’s accumulated over time and hardened, making it feel rough and scaly to the touch. Friction can worsen them, and routine movements or elements can exacerbate the condition. For many, calluses can be a blessing, whether playing guitar or working with your hands in industrial settings. Left unchecked, however, they can get too large and tear, causing pain, bleeding, and potential infection. 

Now that we know how calluses happen, let’s take a closer look at how to crush their very existence. Since friction is the driving force behind any sort of callus, it only makes sense that calluses are caused by everyday motions – many of which can be easily addressed.

Man shopping for dress shoes at store
Pexels/Antoni Shkraba

First-line defenses to prevent calluses

If you’ve spent your life tromping along hot pavement without sandals and waltzing around barefoot indoors, we have an idea of where those foot calluses came from. The same can be said for hands, as lifting weights or working with abrasive materials can cause calluses to build up rapidly.

Though it’s a primal urge to touch grass with your feet, constant exposure to the elements is a major factor in callus formation. We’re not saying to skip your nature walks altogether, but you’ll want to protect your feet wherever possible to keep them feeling their softest. Obviously, the easiest way to do this is by wearing slippers indoors and something resembling footwear, even Crocs, when you’re outside. For hands, you can use protective gloves when lifting weights or performing other repetitive activities.

With that in mind, it’s important to know that the wrong footwear can do more harm than good. If you’ve ever had a pair of sneakers or sandals that wouldn’t stop giving you blisters, you understand this principle. Ill-fitting shoes can rub you the wrong way, leading to blisters, calluses, and even ingrown toenails. Moreover, you could even be wearing the wrong shoe size. If you’re not sure whether your shoes are the problem, try speaking to your doctor or podiatrist for their expert assessment.

Pumice stone on edge of bathtub
Pexels/Castorly Stock

Remove calluses with exfoliation

You’ve probably heard of using a pumice stone as a callus remover. However, this old-fashioned exfoliation method is only one of many approaches to keep rough feet at bay. True, a pumice stone can be a helpful tool in your skincare arsenal, but it might not be powerful enough to address years of dead skin buildup.

Physical exfoliation

For some, a foot razor or grater may be necessary to physically remove keratinized (or hardened) skin on the soles of their feet. Some podiatrists and spas offer services to professionally address foot calluses, though you can try physical exfoliating products at home designed to mimic their techniques. If you’re interested in acquiring a tool to remove advanced calluses, look for a pedicure or callus shaver – but be cautious while using it, as its blade can be extremely sharp. Furthermore, you should always speak to your doctor before using any type of exfoliating method if you have a medical condition that affects your feet or wound healing, such as diabetes.

Chemical exfoliation

Secondly, you can try chemical exfoliation, but you’ll want to take a break between treatments if you already use physical exfoliators. Chemical exfoliation can help eliminate calluses by breaking down dead skin using sloughing ingredients like salicylic or glycolic acid. There are numerous products on the market to restore the skin to its former glory. One such treatment is Baby Foot Peel Mask, a foot-peeling mask that can work wonders on tough, resistant tissue. The process of chemical exfoliation can get a little gory, so don’t say we didn’t warn you – but after seeing the results, you’ll be hooked on this callus elimination tactic. Try it out for yourself, but make sure to schedule your treatment dates carefully to avoid embarrassing flaky feet in intimate settings.

Man applying moisturizer to hands

Moisturize often to keep your skin feeling soft

Perhaps the least painful step in the process, moisturization is an essential part of your callus-fighting skincare routine. If you’ve been slapping body moisturizer on your hands and feet and calling it a day, you may be surprised to learn that this method isn’t the most effective. General-purpose moisturizers often use lightweight ingredients, which aren’t a great fit for the palms of your hands or bottoms of your feet. To ward off calluses, you’ll want to use a thick, occlusive moisturizer, which “locks in” hydration to treat scaly skin.

Best moisturizers to use

Many moisturizing products target callused hands and feet, but a few products stand out among the rest. Thousands swear by pure lanolin, which is a natural occlusive moisturizer derived from sheep’s wool. If you aren’t a fan of animal-derived skincare, you may find that petroleum jelly is a better fit. Another beneficial moisturizer for rough skin is urea cream, which has the added bonus of providing gentle exfoliation.

Consider gloves and socks

For even softer palms and soles, there’s another trick you can try in conjunction with your moisturizer. You may have heard of slugging for your face, a skincare technique that layers lotions to keep skin feeling plump. To ‘slug’ your hands and feet, you can use a generous amount of your favorite moisturizer and seal it in with gloves or socks. While regular gloves or socks are an option, some prefer the feeling of lightweight cotton spa gloves or socks designed specifically for this purpose. Whichever you choose, you can rest easy knowing your dogs will wake up feeling moisturized and unbothered as a result of your efforts.

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Robyn is a writer, artist, and content creator from Schenectady, New York. To say she has varied interests would be putting…
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