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How To Heal Deeply Cracked Heels

Dry and cracked heels are more common than you may think, especially for diabetic patients. Over time, poor circulation and sustained high blood sugar can contribute to a variety of skin conditions. Peripheral neuropathy, a common condition in diabetics, causes numbness and pain in the feet and hands due to nerve damage, which can make it difficult for the patient to identify the severity of their cracked or dry heels.

In addition to diabetes, dry and cracked skin on the feet can be a symptom of dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, or extremely dry weather. This is often exacerbated by excessive foot soaking, particularly in hot water, and the use of harsh soaps that dry out the skin. Read on to learn how to heal deeply cracked heels, remedies for dry feet, and ways to prevent dryness and cracks.

How to Treat Painful Cracked Heels

Moisture is the vital ingredient to repairing dry skin. However, not all moisture is created equal. As discussed in our Foot Soaking Information article, a regular foot soak actually counteracts the positive effects of moisture. Soaking causes the skin to be more susceptible to infection and dryness while also making proper skin debridement difficult. A quick cleanse or shower is recommended over bathing and soaking.

To clean the skin, use only gentle, non-drying cleansers, such as the Medline Remedy Foaming Body Cleanser that contains phospholipids. Phospholipids are composed of fatty acids that form a natural oily barrier around cells, which prevents TWEL (transepidermal water loss).

How Is Soap Different?

While soap is effective at removing dirt, it doesn’t differentiate between the good oils and bad oils on our skin. To understand the reason, we must look at this at a microscopic level. Soap consists of one hydrophobic end (hates water) and one hydrophilic end (loves water). As soap molecules combine, they form clusters to keep their hydrophobic tails away from water, sweeping up dirt and oils in the process. When soap is rinsed away, every bit of moisture goes with it, leaving the skin much drier than before.

What’s a phospholipid?

On the other hand, phospholipids are both hydrophobic and hydrophilic at the same time. Phospholipid molecules don’t organize into clusters like soap; rather, they form a layer similar to the body's natural cell structure. This layer is natural and protective, keeping valuable oils where you need them the most. Including a phospholipid in your dry feet treatment will help prevent cracked heels.

How are phospholipids different from Vaseline?

The protective layer of phospholipids is unlike the layer formed by an occlusive, such as Vaseline. Phospholipids occur naturally, making up the primary constituents of a cell.

Petroleum jellies are created as a byproduct of oil refinement and may contain carcinogens. While popular brands undergo a stringent refining process, we do not recommend occlusive for the treatment of severely dry or cracked skin, especially on the feet.
Here, bacteria and residues can become trapped against the skin to cause irritation and infection. Excess moisture held close to the skin can additionally lead to skin maceration similar to what we see in excessive foot soaking, ultimately breaking skin down and causing painful irritation and infection.

What moisturizers are appropriate?

To safely moisturize dry and cracked skin, we recommend using a humectant. While occlusives trap moisture, humectants attract moisture, making them a powerful treatment for dry feet. Ingredients like aloe vera, honey, hyaluronic acid, and urea are all common humectants that can be found in a variety of products, such as shampoos, lip balms, face washes, and more.

Urea is one of the strongest and most effective humectants. Urea is also a keratolytic, making it effective in removing dead tissue to promote better healing. Its anti-itch and antimicrobial properties offer relief from dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. The RevitaDERM 40 Percent Urea Cream can be used as a cracked heel cream to treat dry and rough skin, and it is also helpful for the care of corns and calluses.

Additional corn & callus care

Corns, calluses and thick nails should always be properly debrided by a professional to avoid ingrown nails, ulcerations and lesions. To make this process less difficult, we recommend a hyperkeratotic concentrate solution such as 3-WEA. 3-WEA is designed to soften thickened skin without compromising safety like soaking does. Unlike foot soaking, 3-WEA forms a protective antiseptic field designed to prevent infection. 3-WEA additionally does not affect normal tissue, providing complete control for proper foot care.