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Hard skin describes an area of skin that is thick and tough. It usually presents in the form of corns and calluses. Home remedies may help manage it.
People most commonly get hard skin on the hands or feet due to frequent use, but hard skin may develop anywhere on the body.
There is usually no need to see a doctor about hard skin. Instead, a person may use home remedies to soften the skin.
A person can stop the skin from hardening further by minimizing the friction and pressure that they exert on the area.
The first step is to identify tasks and movements that aggravate the skin and either avoid them or use protection to reduce the effects. For example, a person may use gloves to protect the hands or cushioned socks to protect the feet. For more specific affected areas, they can try applying corn plasters or pads.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommend that people manage hard skin by regularly:
- soaking the area in warm water for 5–10 minutes or until the skin softens
- using a pumice stone, foot file, or sandpaper dipped in warm water to file down the dead skin
- moisturizing the area with a product that contains salicylic acid, ammonium lactate, or urea
- trimming the toenails, as long toenails can put pressure on the toes when wearing shoes
It is important to avoid removing too much skin, as this could cause bleeding and increase the risk of contracting an infection.
If the hard skin is on a person’s feet, they should try to avoid taking long walks or standing for extended periods.
If the skin cracks, a person may:
- apply petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to lubricate the area
- use nail glue or a liquid bandage to seal the crack
- protect the area with a thick Band-Aid
People can try various traditional remedies to soften hardened areas of skin.
The authors of a study in Italy suggest using the following natural remedies:
- Applying fig latex, the milky substance in the stalk of a fig, may help heal corns or calluses.
- The sap from the flowering plant Chelidonium majus L., commonly known as greater celandine or nipplewort, may have healing properties when people apply it topically to calluses.
- Beeswax may be effective in softening areas of hard skin and protecting the skin against external pressure. Beeswax contains properties that may offer protection against infection in areas of cracked skin.
- People can apply vinegar to the affected area of skin each day for a week. As overusing vinegar may dry the skin out, people should stop using it after a week.
- To treat dry skin, a person can crush a raw garlic bulb into a paste and apply it to the area. Researchers believe that this will make garlic’s antiseptic properties available, allowing it to protect against infection if the skin becomes cracked. Adding olive oil to the garlic paste may be beneficial.
- To treat a corn, people can apply sliced garlic instead of a paste.
Other research has shown that apple cider vinegar may have antimicrobial properties. Therefore, it might protect cracked areas of skin against bacterial infections.
There is a lack of scientific evidence to confirm the effectiveness and safety of these traditional remedies. A person should not attempt to treat a medical condition with natural remedies without speaking to a doctor first.
If an area of hard skin cracks and becomes infected, a doctor might suggest taking antibiotics.
The doctor may refer a person to a dermatologist or foot specialist if they require specialized treatment, such as removing the hard skin.
To lower the chances of getting hard skin, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommend:
- wearing cushioned socks
- wearing flat, wide, soft soled shoes and avoiding high heeled, pointed, tight shoes
- using heel pads or insoles
- moisturizing regularly
- avoiding walking barefoot
In most cases, hard skin will disappear when a person reduces the friction or pressure that they exert on the area and follows the recommended procedures above.
However, if a person wishes to remove an area of hard skin, they should see a healthcare expert rather than attempt to do it themselves.
A person should see a dermatologist if the skin is particularly painful or there is an underlying cause, such as diabetes or circulatory problems, that may have other implications.
When a person regularly exposes the skin to friction and pressure, they may develop a corn or callus, creating an area of hard skin. The way the skin toughens is a protective mechanism, but the skin can be painful if it hardens and cracks.
Hard skin will usually go away if a person identifies and removes the cause or uses protection, such as corn plasters or pads. If a person uses home remedies, they can speed up the process of softening the skin.
A person should seek medical help if they wish to remove the hard skin or believe that an underlying condition is causing this symptom.