I first learned about the Baby Foot peel when two editors came up to me on completely separate occasions to explain their crazy experience with this supposedly amazing foot exfoliant. They said watching their feet peel into what felt and looked like completely new feet was insane and fascinating. So I had to explore for myself. Does it really work like they say? And if so, is it safe?
For those who haven’t heard of Baby Foot ($25, target.com), it’s a foot exfoliating peel that comes in the form of plastic booties. Inside the booties is a gel that claims to soothe hard, dry, and cracked feet, as well as improve foot odor and fungus. After hearing all the hype both online and in person, I had to test it out for myself. And I enlisted other editors to try the product out with me to see if the results are just as mindblowing on everyone.
So, how does this stuff work?
Before we get to all the (very different) results, it’s important to understand how and why Baby Foot works. So, I talked to Lifestyle Podiatry podiatrist Dennis Shavelson, D.P.M. to find out why this product has such a dramatic outcome. He explained that the gel inside the bootie contains salicylic acid and alpha hydroxyl acids (like citric, glycolic, and lactic). These two forms of mild-to-moderate peeling agents work together to penetrate the different layers of the skin.
First salicylic acid, which is oil soluble, penetrates the oily surface that coats the skin—a.k.a the epidermis. Once this vital tissue is penetrated, the fruit acids can work on the next layer which is the water-soluble dermis. These AHAs eat away and separate what are called desmosomes. Desmosomes are the fibers that bind the dead skin cells together. So while the salicylic acid just focuses on penetrating the initial layer—the tissue—AHAs work past the thick layer deeper within to break up these dead skin cells, so the skin can easily peel away to the surface.
There are a few things you want to be aware of health-wise before diving into this peel treatment. As the label warns, babies (because they already have “baby feet”) and women who are pregnant should not use this. “There are parts of the developing fetus and uterus combination that might have desmosomes in them, and you don’t want to break that up if it should enter the blood stream,” Shavelson explains.
Also, if you have any deep heel issues, wounds, or infections on the foot you shouldn’t use this. Shavelson also recommends that those who are diabetic or have poor circulation should see a doctor before using. You should also be aware of allergies before using. An allergic reaction could result in soreness, itching, redness, and blistering. Shavelson compared it to a reaction to poison ivy. If you do have a reaction, you should consult a professional or go to the ER.
Now, here’s how you put it on.
Before you slip your feet into the booties, the package recommends soaking your feet. I soaked the bottoms of my feet for about 10 minutes. Then, you cut open the boots, slip both your feet in, and tape them up. To be honest, the tape didn’t really hold the plastic bootie together, but you can apply the tape to your ankles to get a better hold. And the best way to keep them in place is to wear socks over the booties. While the socks do keep it secure, your foot still slips around on the gel within the bootie. So, you have to walk carefully during the 60-minute treatment to ensure you don’t slip and fall.
Now that you know the Baby Foot basics, here’s how it turned out for each editor.
Emily Rekstis, Freelance Beauty Assistant
The expectations: I had gotten a pedicure only a month before the experiment. Since summer’s start, I had been getting them regularly, once every three weeks or so. So I figured that during those, I would have exfoliated away most of my dead skin from the bottom of my feet. But when I turned my feet over to shoot before pictures I noticed they were really dry and cracked in certain areas, especially (like most people) the heel and ball.
The results: At first, nothing was happening. Like seriously nothing. My feet maybe felt a little drier than usual and more sensitive. But when nothing significant was happening by morning of day three, I was starting to get nervous I did it wrong. But when I was watching Stranger Things that night, I pulled my foot up to my thigh on the couch and WHOA! I started seeing major pieces of skin start to peel on the balls of my feet and heels. The next day, I was walking around in my loafers all day. By the end of the day, I thought there was something in my shoes. But when I got home, I realized it was just pieces of balled up dead skin.
Once it hit the one-week mark, I expected it to be pretty much finished. However, while I was visiting family in Maryland they were confused and disgusted when they found flakes of skin on the red couch. Then they all wanted to know where they could purchase this drastic treatment. (I should start collecting commission!) By day nine, the bottom of my feet were pretty much all finished, but the peeling moved from the bottom of my feet up around the sides to the tops of my feet. Then the tops of my feet shed in smaller, drier pieces. This continued until day 12! Who knew the tops of my feet had so much dead skin? From my toes up to around my ankles was peel-central. After they finally stopped peeling, my feet did feel incredibly soft. There were no rough patches or any dry areas. Is it as dramatic as they say? Yes! And two weeks later my soles are still baby soft.
Nina Bahadur, Deputy Editor, Culture
The expectations: Full disclosure: I’ve done this before, and I loved it so much that I insisted on doing it again for this article. Baby Foot is absolutely disgusting and also a load of fun. Last time I did this was during the winter, so it was easy to hide my gross, peeling feet in heavy socks. I was interested to see what the ~summer experience~ was like.
The results: It took about six days from application for my feet to start peeling, and then things got very gross very quickly. I tried not to help things along by peeling by hand, but I truly couldn’t help it. I also regularly soaked and exfoliated my feet to make sure I was getting the most out of Baby Foot!
I wore socks literally all the time to stop my vile feet from shedding all over my home, office, and gym. Luckily, no one seemed to question my sartorial choices. It took about nine days for the peeling to stop entirely, and my feet were left looking and feeling super-soft.
Emily Abbate, Fitness Editor
The expectations: I had never heard of Baby Foot before. But once I found out it could get rid of my calluses, I was in. I have rough spots on the outside of my big toe, the ball, and heels of my feet due to the rubbing that comes with running and working out. Average pedicures aren’t harsh enough to remove the thick skin in these areas, so I hoped this would help.
The results: At first, my skin hardened in the trouble areas, but it didn’t really peel. One day at the beach, I noticed some of my feet exfoliating and flaking off with the help of the sand. But other than that, I only saw light peeling throughout the sides of my feet and minimal flaking on the top—nothing drastic or alarming. It all happened over nine days and didn’t really diminish my calluses or trouble areas.
Jessica Cruel, Senior Editor, Beauty & Style
The expectations: As a beauty editor, I had heard about Baby Foot before but never tried it because it was never the right time. I was afraid that my feet would be peeling in the middle of summer, so I was trying to hold out until the winter when I could hide the peeling in my boots. But honestly my heels were in need of some serious TLC. Even after I got a pedicure, it seemed like my heels remained powdery white and thick.
The results: It took a full week for my feet to start flaking. I was on a phone call at the office, and I saw skin hanging from the bottom of my foot. For the next week, the bottoms of my feet were slowly coming off in small sections. So much so, I started wearing socks as often as possible to keep myself from picking at the skin. I couldn’t stop peeling it away piece by piece. And when I got in the shower, even more would rub off.
Then, once my soles were soft and new, the tops of my feet started to rub off as well. And while it was easy to hide the dead skin on the bottom of my feet, I got a lot of questions from co-workers about what looked like a skin infection on the top of my foot. After three weeks total, the process was finally over. Baby Foot really worked like everyone says, but I kind of miss my calluses. Walking in NYC without that extra layer of protection is hard on my feet!
Elyse Roth, Assistant Editor, Entertainment
The expectations: My beauty editor friend told me about it. She said you let your feet soak in these booties for an hour, and within a few days, your dead skin comes off in sheets. I’m looking forward to a really satisfying, post-pedicure result. I’m hoping it will leave my feet smooth, soft, and less beaten for a longer period of time than if I had just used a foot cream.
The results: Before the peeling started, my feet were dry and rough. They started to slightly peel on day three but with a lot of help on my end (I was pulling at the skin a bit—OK, a lot). It didn’t hurt, and I could hardly notice anything was happening unless I looked down and saw the pieces of skin everywhere. It wasn’t as visible and drastic as I was expecting, but it was very satisfying when big sheets of skin came off. It kind of felt like I let a lot of Elmer’s glue dry on my feet and then I peeled it off.
My roommate did notice the pieces on the floor, but she didn’t know what they were exactly. I was quick to vacuum them up before she could ask anymore questions. All in all, it took about two weeks for the whole process. It looks nasty at times but feels amazing. Most of the action happened around the thicker areas like the bottoms of my feet, heels, and the sides. As a whole, my feet are much softer and the calluses are all gone. I’d absolutely recommend this treatment to others.
For more from SELF:
-11 Dermatologists Share Their Best Advice for Gorgeous Skin
-Here’s Exactly What I Do to Get Super-White Teeth Without a Bleaching Treatment
-I Tried a 10-Step Korean Skincare Regimen for a Week, and Here Are the Results