Your feet are on display this time of year, but it's hard to keep them looking their best when the weather's warm: Exposure to the sun and hot surfaces like sand and concrete can leave your poor dogs dry and rough. Here's how to protect them from the elements so they stay picture-perfect for the entire season (because you never know when you'll want to Instagram your pedi).
Exfoliate At Least Once A Week
"This will help you get rid of surface dry skin cells, making them look and feel smoother," says Kristen Murphy, Spa Manager at the Woodmark Hotel's Still Spa. Plus, your moisturizer will be more effective when you slough off flaky skin first. Some great budget foot scrubs to try include Tree Hut's Peppermint & Sugar Exfoliating Foot Scrub or Kiss My Face Peppermint Foot Scrub. For dryer skin, opt for a sugar scrub instead of a salt-based scrub; although salt detoxifies and draws out impurities, it can also be dehydrating.
Avoid Soaking Feet
Contrary to what you might think, soaking can further dehydrate already-dry feet, says Murphy. So instead of soaking your tootsies, apply a sugar scrub directly onto dry skin, and wipe it off with a moistened towel.
Keep a Pumice Stone in Your Shower
Celebrity manicurist Jin Soon Choi, founder of the JINsoon Nail Lacquer line and Jin Soon Hand & Foot Spas in New York City, grew up in a small village in South Korea where foot-care products weren't available. "We would go to the river and find a textured stone, and we would scrub our callouses and feet with the stone," she says. "This really worked." Of course, you don't have to search for your own stone since commercially available pumice stones are available. Use one daily or once every other day; just make sure to apply less pressure to soft skin and more to callouses when giving your feet a scrub-down.
Do Some Heavy-Duty Moisturizing
Your heels are prone to over-use—and as a result, they tend to dry out more easily than the rest of your foot, says Choi. The heel is also protected by thicker skin, which means that it's less penetrable and it'll take a little more effort to lock moisture in. Apply a lotion or oil immediately after you shower to retain the moisture your feet have already soaked up. For even better results, reapply a moisturizer right before bed.
Don't Forget to Apply Sunscreen
Lots of people neglect to apply a good SPF to their feet, but don't make this big mistake. Not only does the skin on your tootsies need protection, but nails are made of protein and are therefore as vulnerable as your skin. "Cuticles serve a purpose," says Barbara Hershfelt, director of sales and marketing for Cutex. "They seal in moisture and protect new nail growth as it emerges from the base of the nail." Sun, wind, and sand can dry cuticles and nail folds (the areas of skin that frame your nails), which is bad for nail growth. You can avoid these issues by being diligent with your sunscreen routine.
Eat Foot-Friendly Foods
Believe it or not, some foods can cause your feet to swell and become bloated. Foods high in salt are the most likely culprits, says Carolyn Dean, M.D., a member of the medical advisory board for the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association. To keep your feet looking great, avoid packaged foods, which are heavily salted. Sugars can also cause foot puffiness, so you'll want to minimize your intake of that, too, says Dean.
Let Toes Breathe
Since nails are a living part of your anatomy, they need a break to "breathe" from time to time so they can continue healthy growth patterns and rid themselves of chemical residue, says Choi, who recommends a break from nail polish about once a month for a few days to a week. This can help prevent discoloration—particularly if you like to use dark-colored nail polishes—and keep your pedi looking pretty.