The Foot-Off

I was going to be strictly constructive, and try to emulate the quick-fix products by putting my feet in a bag, after using the most powerful solutions I could think of. Then I considered using actual shaving soaps, and maybe some aftershave, but none of the soaps I love to hate are actually in my possession. Finally, I got real, and realized that an African schoolchild knows more about basic foot care than me, addressing it at the tub upon returning home, then putting away their sandals for next day.


With that frame of reference, I elected to keep things extra simple. Each evening, after my family is settled in bed, I will wash and treat each of my two feet differently; the time between each washing will be considered an experiment "day." For my left foot, an orange bar of glycerin soap -- or cleanser, I'm not sure of the brand. It's supposed to be for faces, oily skin... I'm sure you're familiar with it. It smells. For my right foot, Ivory. I don't have instantaneous control of the water temp, so I'm sticking with cold. Soap will be sparingly applied by bringing the dry bar into contact with a dripping wet foot on the sole, then spreading it around with bare hands. No exfoliating tools will be used throuhout the experiment. After rinsing and drying, the "moisturized" foot will receive one fingertip dab of Dermasil lotion. The "exfoliated" foot will receive pumpkin juice sufficient to wet, an ice pop applied to the damp-dry sole, then distributed.

No antimicrobial or cross-contamination precautions wlll be taken; I simply assigned the flakier, more fungus-prone right foot to Ivory and pumpkin juice. Nothing is "blind" about this, either. I expect to see more exfoliation from the supposedly "moisturized" foot than the one getting soap and juice. Notes will be accrued to this post until a conclusion is reached.


Day 1. Within the first hour, a tight and numb sensation was felt at the toe-tips of the left foot, which passed before the second hour. Hands were also significantly dried out, presumably by the glycerin bar. Noxzema was effective for the hands. Day 2. Right foot loses the first layer of skin, under the simple abrasion of the hand applying the next treatment. In retrospect, some was lost from between the toes this way on day 1, but I thought it was dirt I had missed. So, that was gross. Both feet are becoming less flaky. Day 3.  Pink areas around perimeter of heel suggest that the right foot is marching to baby smoothness. Skin continues to slough off during the application of pumpkin juice. It rolls off, to be swiped away with the damp cloth. Left foot is just perceptibly softened, as the hardened shells around the periphery of the heel become smaller. The contour of the right heel is rounder. Black socks indicate that both feet are shedding small flakes, though.

Day 4. The thick pad on the big toe of the right foot looked really grey and gross after the wash, macerated but not wrinkly, and received an insuppressible fingernail dig during the subsequent juice treatment, exfoliating a good chunk as dry paste. The heel looked similarly disgusting, and showed a fingernail trail, but was not as vulnerable. There was a sense that all the "loose" stuff was gone, as the slough rolling off was slightly diminished. The left foot is just as smooth on the toe, but still has a thick shell on the outside of the heel.

Day 5. Left foot is swollen -- ankle visibly round, but not pitted, toes sausage-like, everything reddish. In retrospect, had appeared "fat" or "older" since early in the experiment. Fish oil and acetaminophen took care of it overnight. "Missed dirt" type of slough detected between the toes. Right foot received more fingernail digging at the heel pad, where a termite-eaten texture appears at the rear periphery, lighter than the rest due to space inclusions. All sloughing has ceased. Despite a total lack of swelling, top of foot is smooth enough to shine with reflected light, while the left appears relatively masked and dark. This distinction disappears overnight, however.

Shows What I Know

Well, that's enough for me. I'm not willing to take a circulatory event for science, and I could feel the tingling of edema creeping up my calf! It's possible that a new pair of slippers presented an allergen to both feet, and interacted with enhanced permeability due to glycerin. ("Dearfoams" were on clearance, and since I was taking care of my feet now....) Or, I may have been sensitized to another ingredient. Glycerin itself is supposed to be "skin-identical," already present in the skin, and therefore not a potential allergen.

Clearly my prediction was wrong about the glycerin being the stronger exfoliator. The known exfoliator actually did exfoliate, while the known moisturizer merely changed the texture and preserved the stratum corneum. I detected a slight hint of the mechanism I had in mind, as edema may have started a slough. If so, however, I would have had to incur an injury in order for it to progress.

This result disappointingly precludes generalizing to an explanation of why glycerin shaving soaps flake me out. Apparently, the disparity in skin structure and thickness between the two body parts is a determining factor.



But I'm Not Wrong

The fact that slouging stopped, under continuing exfoliator treatment, does confirm the lamellar reorganization hypothesis. The skin was not digested to baby smoothness, merely adjusted to a healthy toughness. Even the pad maceration seen at the end could be taken as "natural," if we presume that wearing shoes is not the natural state of man. There would have been sufficient abrasion on a sandy beach to accomplish what my fingernails did, and better.

It would be difficult for a day spa to redirect to a more gradual process, but it is certainly within the reach of the consumer, with astro turf-like foot exfoliating rugs and pads. Just the slightest shift toward common sense is required... and a pumpkin.

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