I felt like a lizard for a week and I left skin everywhere.
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Every summer, without fail, we all face the same inevitable problem when it comes to our feet. At some point, we look down at them, cringe, and think: How did my feet get so disgusting?
From big, ravine-like cracks in your heels to patches of dry, flaky skin all over the balls of your feet, the telltale signs of damaged feet are easy to spot. But more importantly, it’s frustrating—especially when you want to show off a pair of cute sandals or go barefoot at the beach.
Enter Baby Foot—the legendary foot exfoliating peel with a cult-like following on Amazon. This peel, which touts an impressive 11.5k reviews on Amazon alone, claims it can make skin feel as soft as a baby’s by removing all those layers of built-up dead skin on your feet that are causing calluses and dryness to begin with. This peel also has a reputation for delivering insane results and for being one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do to your feet.
But does Baby Foot actually deliver? I offered to put this buzzy beauty product to the test and see whether or not it’s really as effective—or as safe—as everyone claims.
The peel is designed to slough away dead skin cells on your feet. Each package comes with two plastic booties, which are meant for single use only and are coated inside with a sticky, gel-like mush made up of 16 natural botanical extracts, including grapefruit, sage, chamomile, and more.
Baby Foot does contain chemicals though—specifically, the gel is a blend of salicylic acid and alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) like citric, glycolic, and lactic acids, which according to Dr. Dennis Shavelson, DPM, DAPS, an NYC-based podiatrist, are the “gold standard of skin-line rejuvenators and chemical peels.”
According to Shavelson, since those outer layers of skin on our feet serve as protection against everyday friction and trauma, they can get callused and hardened easily. Unlike foot masks, which are moisturizing and tend to have a deeply restorative effect on skin, Baby Foot triggers a response that causes all that thick, cracked, hardened, and/or otherwise damaged skin to shed like a snake’s, so it comes off in flakes or strips. Gross, but in theory, also highly satisfying.
According to Dr. Mitchell Kline, an NYC-based dermatologist, while the peeling itself is usually painless, it’s important to remember that you’re still exposing your skin to acids.
“A peel treatment [like Baby Foot] generally results in ‘a massive shed’ but the user is left with smooth feet that are almost like brand-new,” Kline said.
A product that causes your skin to completely shed off? For some people, that probably sounds like a horror flick waiting to happen, but personally, I thought it sounded kind of fun. Since I’m not particularly squeamish or sensitive about my feet, it seemed like a good opportunity to mix things up in terms of my self-care.
To apply the peel, you tape your feet into each bootie and leave them on your feet for an hour. Baby Foot recommends soaking your feet before putting them on, so I let mine sit in hot water for about 15 minutes, then dried them off and slipped the booties on. Instantly, I was struck by how weird and vaguely unsettling the sensation felt—it was like I’d just slipped both my feet into some half-cut watermelons or something.
You’re not supposed to move around while you’ve got these sludge-filled bags taped on, but I couldn’t sit still. Suddenly, everything around the house seemed to go wrong—dog needed to go outside, phone was about to die, etc.—and I needed to move, and risked nearly falling in the process.
Once you hit the 60-minute mark, you can take both booties off and wash the gel off your feet. The gel gave off a strong, almost astringent-like smell that I wasn’t a fan of, but once I’d thoroughly washed the gel off it went away.
According to the package, you should start shedding within a week or two—but it varies by person. I was sitting on the couch about a week later binging on Big Little Lies when I pulled my feet up and noticed patches of flakes forming on both feet.
Perfect, I thought to myself, Finally, I can start peeling. But turns out, I never got to do much of it. While I expected my skin to be easy to tug off—like when I’d pull dried Elmer’s glue off my fingers as a kid—all it ever did was flake up.
I left skin dustings everywhere: in my sheets, on my couch, and most of all, in my shoes. It was like having dandruff, only on my feet. Not to mention, it looked really nasty. Every time I tried to just peel the dead skin off so the flaking would stop, I couldn’t get a good enough grip or the skin itself wouldn’t pull away unless I really picked at it, which was aggravating.
My skin was shiny and pinkish in the areas where I did manage to pick away at those patches, though, and felt sensitive, but not soft. In a clearly very scientific (and not at all silly or biased) test, I had my sister touch and compare my freshly picked-at feet to my five-month-old nephew’s and she laid down her verdict. Compared to the baby, there was nothing baby-soft about my feet.
For most people, Baby Foot should be pretty harmless. But there are some notable exceptions, which are important to keep in mind.
“If the person has any warts, calluses, open sores, or skin sensitivity, it’s best to skip it,” Kline said.
Both lactic and glycolic acid can irritate sensitive skin, say both experts, so anyone with eczema, open cuts, or psoriasis—as well as those with a history of smoking, diabetes, circulation issues, and/or those who may be pregnant and have a history of major health problems—should probably avoid using foot peels in general.
In addition, Kline recommends that those with sensitive skin do a spot test on their ankles one to three days before the treatment, just to see how their skin reacts. Contact dermatitis—a red, itchy rash that can cause discomfort but isn’t life-threatening—is a sign that your skin is too sensitive for a peel.
Since I did my treatment during sandal season, I also wondered if it was actually safe to walk around with my feet all exposed while the skin on them essentially molted away, but I was assured I’d be fine.
“In general, sandals and other shoes such as peep-toe and open-toed shoes should serve little problem when it comes to friction and microtrauma,” said Shavelson. “[Since Baby Foot] contains mostly mild exfoliants, it never removes too much skin to cause problems in my experience.”
But Shavelson did recommend applying sunscreen every two hours for a few days post-peel, especially if you plan on going barefoot or wearing flip-flops.
I can see how some people would love Baby Foot, especially if they’re closeted skin pickers. But for me, it wasn’t enough of a difference to justify how irritating the post-treatment process ended up being.
Once the flakes cleared up, I noticed that my feet did feel less scratchy, especially around my heels, since that’s the spot I picked at the most, but I didn’t experience any of the intense strip-like shedding that some beauty bloggers describe.
I don’t think it’s because I moved around during the treatment phase, either. The bottoms of my feet still got really scale-like at one point, enough to show that something was happening. Mostly, I believe my skin just reacted differently, as other reviewers on Amazon reported similar experiences to mine, and so did other Reviewed.com staffers who have tried the peel before.
For some skin types, the peel may have better results. If you hate the thought of picking at skin period, Baby Foot probably isn’t the treatment for you (just stick to pedicures). But if you feel neutral about foot stuff like I did, it's worth it to try the peel at least once—just be careful not to overdo it.
“I recommend my patients use Baby Foot once and then depending on the level of skin damage and continuing cosmetic problems, every two to four months,” Shavelson said.
And remember that it’s important to use plenty of moisturizer after the treatment. (I used Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion and it helped a lot.) Both Kline and Shavelson said it’s crucial to moisturize your skin following any kind of treatment like this, especially during the summer as skin loses a lot of hydration during the whole peel-and-pick process.
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