Retinol on Your feet? We Try the TikTok Trick for Smoother Heels

Step by Step

We’ve officially reached the point of summer where the heat has peaked, and our feet are at their driest. And thanks to all the sandal wearing we’ve been doing lately, our heels now resemble a cracked phone screen. So when we heard that people were putting retinol on their feet and praising how effective it was for smoothing over scratchy soles, it didn't take much convincing for us to try it ourselves.

But First, What Are the Benefits of Putting Retinol on Your Feet?

Ah, we’re so glad you asked. As Dr. Ramya Garlapati, a board-certified dermatologist in California shares above, most people only use retinol on their faces and necks, but it can actually be used all over to treat everything from keratosis pilaris (aka “chicken skin,” which are those tiny bumps that are often found on the backs of arms) to addressing uneven tone and texture, while also softening the skin, as it does with flaky heels.

This is because retinol increases cell turnover, encouraging old dead skin to shed faster and prompting new skin cells to come to the surface. It also ramps up collagen production, which is what makes your skin feel softer and bouncier.

It’s no wonder there’s a whole crop of body moisturizers on the market that have retinol built into their formulas, which you can shop below if you need any recommendations. But if you already have a retinol that you’re using (or perhaps a retinol that you stopped using because it didn’t quite work for your face), you can apply it on your feet as well. Just make sure to top it off with moisturizer and sunscreen whenever you're wearing open-toed shoes. If you're currently pregnant or breastfeeding, please skip the retinol altogether until you get the all clear from your doc.

How Do I Use Retinol on My Feet?

Step 1: Always start with clean, dry feet.
Step 2: Apply a pea-sized amount of retinol (if it’s a prescription strength) or a little more if it’s an over-the-counter lotion onto the soles of your feet and anywhere else that feels dry.
Step 3: Slather some moisturizer on top. If you really want to go the extra mile, seal everything in with a pair of cotton socks.

Try doing this twice a week to start and applying just moisturizer on the other days to help keep your feet smooth in-between. Note: Depending on the state of your heels, you may need to follow this routine a few times to see results.

Are There Alternatives to Using Retinol on Your Feet?

Why yes, you could also use anything with glycolic, salicylic or lactic acid, as well as urea. These are all types of exfoliants that can help shed excess dry skin from the surface.

Again, when using any type of exfoliator, always follow up with a moisturizer that has ingredients like glycerin, ceramides and hyaluronic acid in it, which help restore your skin barrier and lock in moisture.

Any Last Advice?

The palms of our hands and soles of our feet are the only places where we don’t have sebaceous (oil) glands, which explains why they dry out so easily. That’s why it’s important to keep up with your new footcare regimen at least a couple times per week or the dryness will gradually come back. Remember: Whether you’re using retinol on your face or your feet, consistency is key.

Don't Make This Rookie Retinol Mistake Like I Did

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...