Have you gotten ads on Facebook or Instagram for one of these peeling foot masks? Another wacky beauty goodie from our friends in Asia, the idea here is that you sit with this mask on your feet and then, a few days later, the top layer of dead skin peels off your feet all by itself.
Sounds gross, right? I had to try it.
There are quite a few of these peeling foot masks out there. I started by checking out Amazon, and I’ll warn you: I got overwhelmed by the options, and also there are a lot of grody photos of bare feet with skin peeling off.
And yes, I said grody. If ever that gem of the 1980s were merited, it’s now.
Fortunately, a Riley Rose store recently opened near me. Have you been to one of these? It’s amazing. Like 25 percent prestige beauty brands (Stila, Laura Geller, etc.), 25 percent brands I’ve only seen in Instagram ads (Beauty Bakerie, Lime Crime), 25 percent Asian beauty products and skincare, and 25 percent random fun stuff (candy, home decor, stationery). Like the love child of a Dylan’s Candy Bar, a Sephora and a Sanrio store.
Anyway, Riley Rose had a couple of peeling foot mask options, so I picked the one that looked least terrifying: Oh K! Peeling Foot Mask.
Inside the cute little package (covered with fresh green apples and featuring a tiny adorable panda bear, so there’s no way this was going to burn my feet off, right? Right?) was a dual packet of “Stimulating Foot Essence” and a pair of plastic socks with ties at the ankles.
The process was pretty straightforward: I filled each sock with a packet of alpha hydroxy acid solution (excuse me, “Stimulating Foot Essence”), stuck my foot in the VERY COLD AND WET sock, and tied the ties at my ankles. And then I waited.
Originally I’d had visions of putting my feet up for the hour they needed to soak (or stimulate in essence, whatever), but I quickly realized I would have essence everywhere if I didn’t keep my ankles pointing up. Shockingly, the flimsy plastic ties on my socks didn’t exactly create a seal I trusted to contain liquid. I improvised by putting on my bedroom slippers over the socks and sitting with my knees bent so my essence bags didn’t leak. After about an hour, I removed the socks, rinsed my feet clean of Stimulating Foot Essence, and began the long process of waiting for the skin to peel off my feet.
The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
So here’s how these foot peels work: Basically, you soak your feet in alpha hydroxy acids and then wait for the skin to peel off, which takes several days. According to the package, “Fruit extracts rich in AHAs gently exfoliate and polish away dead skin cells leaving the skin soft and smooth.”
For the first few days after I’d soaked my feet, I didn’t notice anything except that my feet felt a little slick right after I’d rinsed them off. Other than that, literally nothing happened.
I’d read a bunch of Amazon reviews from foot peel customers who said they’d given up waiting and assumed the product wasn’t going to work and then suddenly they started seeing skin peel. I totally understand that now, because even though I had already read those reviews, I started to think I’d picked a bum peel. I’m not kidding when I say I waited a week with no visible results. I was pretty sure I’d wasted an hour soaking my feet in Essence for no good reason.
And then… my feet started to peel.
Gross But Effective
Buckle up, foot fetishists, because I’m not going to hold back any details.
The peeling was subtle at first, and mostly limited to the tops of my feet, which was disappointing — like most non-circus performers, I don’t walk on the tops of my feet, so they don’t really get tough and calloused. Then when the bottoms of my feet started to peel, the peeling seemed sort of superficial, and I didn’t think it was really going to make much of an impact on the soles of my feet, which were in really rough shape. (I go barefoot a lot, and we have hardwood floors.)
Now, here’s an important note: I was pretty sick around this time, for quite a few days, so I wasn’t showering as frequently as usual. When I did finally feel human enough to get in the shower, suddenly the skin peeling started to take off in earnest.
The directions on the Oh K! package were pretty clear that you’re supposed to let the peel work on its own and resist the (OVERWHELMING) temptation to help it along. At first, when there was just a thin layer of skin peeling, this seemed like an abundance of caution. But after a couple of showers, the real peeling started — I’m talking thick curls of dead, calloused skin — and then I could see why they don’t want you to be forcing things along. I was really surprised at the thickness and toughness of the skin that was just flaking off my feet.
After a few days of very intense, constant flaking, one night I sat in the bath and let my feet soak for a long, long time. Then I was able to gently rub away the remaining spots of tough skin and callous.
And let me tell you… it was like I had a new pair of feet. I’m not even joking. They were soft and pink and completely free of rough skin, tough patches and callouses. I am still completely blown away by how effective the peel turned out to be.
Upkeep & Words Of Caution
OK, your first question probably is: Did it hurt?
The answer is no, nothing about the process was remotely painful. I did feel some slight tingling in my feet at times, but it’s also possible I was imagining that into being because I was feeling a little paranoid about having soaked my feet in bags of acid with the intent of forcing them to molt. And if you tried to force the process along by peeling off skin before it’s ready, I’m sure there’s a chance you could break some skin. But used as directed, I did not experience any discomfort at all.
It’s been about a week since I finished the peeling process, and my feet aren’t quite as soft as they were after that last bath, but that’s to be expected — after all, I do still walk on them all day every day. They’re significantly less hooflike than they were a couple of weeks ago, however, and I’m trying to remember to put lotion on them every day. I don’t usually wear socks (eh, what can I say? I don’t go to an office every day, so I’m an Uggs in the winter, Toms in the summer kind of gal these days), but I’ve been making an effort to remember to do lotion and clean socks in the morning so my feet keep some of their softness.
A word of caution: Be mindful of the timing of your peel and how it may impact your calendar. I say this as someone who accidentally ended up attending her aerial yoga class at peak foot peeling. I felt like I was flinging dead skin everywhere. It was all over my mat for sure, and while I’m not sure that my classmates noticed, I was mega self-conscious about it. If you can, plan to avoid public barefootedness (and even wearing ballet flats without socks, sandals, etc.) from about four to eight days after you start your peel.
Would I do another foot peel? Yes, yes, absolutely yes. I don’t recall that the Oh K! packaging contained any advisories about how far apart to space peels, but I don’t think I’d want to do one again until my feet have had some time to recover (I did, after all, soak them in bags of acid and force them to shed an entire layer of skin). I’ll definitely do another one before sandal season. I figure late April should give my feet enough time to recover and prepare for another soak in Stimulating Foot Essence.
Have you tried a peeling foot mask? What did you think?