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How to care for dry, cracked heels

Tips from board-certified dermatologists

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Feb. 1, 2022) — With the winter in full swing and the cold nipping at your skin, it’s easy for your feet to become dry and cracked. While this may seem like something you have to live with until spring, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say there are steps you can take to prevent and treat dry, cracked heels at home.

“Cold, dry weather; walking barefoot; and long, hot showers are just some of the reasons why you may have dry, cracked heels this winter,” says board-certified dermatologist Patrick Blake, MD, FAAD. “Understanding what causes dry, cracked heels and taking steps to prevent them can relieve the itch and pain that they can cause and leave you with softer, healthier skin this winter.”

To care for dry, cracked heels at home, Dr. Blake recommends the following tips:

  • Limit baths and showers to 5-10 minutes. Bathing for too long can dry out the skin, making dry, cracked heels worse. Be gentle when blotting your skin dry with a towel.

  • Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser. This will help your feet retain their natural oils.

  • Moisturize within 5 minutes of bathing. Look for a moisturizing cream that contains 10-25% urea, alpha hydroxy acid, or salicylic acid, and apply it to your heels immediately after bathing while your skin is still damp and whenever your heels feel dry to lock in moisture.

  • Before bed, apply plain petroleum jelly. Consider wearing socks at night to avoid getting grease on your bedding.

  • Protect your heels. During the day, apply a liquid bandage over the cracks in your heels to create a protective barrier, which can help reduce pain, speed up healing, and stop germs from entering your skin.

  • Wear the proper shoes. If you have dry, cracked heels, avoid open-heeled shoes, such as flip flops or slingbacks, shoes that are worn down, or shoes that don’t fit properly.

“Sometimes, cracked heels are caused by a medical condition, such as diabetes,” says Dr. Blake. “If your dry, cracked heels are severe or do not improve after following these tips, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.”

These tips are demonstrated in “How to Care for Dry, Cracked Heels,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Video of the Month” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Angela Panateri, (847) 240-1714, Apanateri@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

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About the AAD Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.