My mother, being a decidedly well put-together woman, impressed upon me the importance of self-care from an early age. She was obsessed with skin maintenance and especially careful to instruct me in hand and foot care. I was given my first bottle of moisturizer at the age of fourteen (“I heard your skin starts losing its elasticity at that age”) and vividly recall sharing in an invigorating bi-weekly foot soak and pedicure. Later on, after developing severely fallen arches (aka “flat feet”) and enduring the pain associated with that condition, foot care became an especially important part of my self-care routine and I have since become somewhat of a foot care proselytizer.
As such, I was delighted to see an article entitled “Revitalize Aging Feet: The Importance of Proactive Foot Care” in the latest issue of Life Extension Magazine. This article, by Dr. Gary Goldfaden, begins with a spiel that I also frequently employ, alerting readers to the fact that the feet are the most overworked and undercared for part of the human body. For these reasons, our feet are particularly susceptible to injury, fatigue, infection, and skin aging –more so as we age and they lose their protective fat cushioning and have been exposed to a lifetime of ultraviolet radiation.
But, as with most things related to the body, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventative foot care can not only make your feet look better, it can also lessen pain and muscle fatigue, which ultimately makes your entire body feel better.
As Dr. Goldfaden points out, many commercial foot creams consist primarily of water, which only serves to “plump up” the skin, thus smoothing out wrinkles, for as long as the water remains. Additionally, many of these products also contain oils that can actually increase free-radical oxidation and accelerate skin aging! Fortunately, there are some natural products that can significantly improve the look and condition of the feet.
Essential oils such as eucalyptus and menthol are a great place to start. Eucalyptis oil contains a compound called 1,8-cineole, which helps facilitate the production of skin lipids (ceramides), an important factor in retaining moisture in the skin. Eucalyptus oil also serves to protect feet from microorganisms that cause odor and infection, and acts as a natural analgesic for soothing achy joints and muscles. Menthol is also an effective pain reliever, and has the added benefit of providing a cooling sensation which is very refreshing for tired feet. Both eucalyptus oil and menthol also have beneficial effects on foot circulation, increasing blood flow to the feet and promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the deepest layers of the skin.
Also discussed is tea extract, which is rich in anti-oxidants which can protect feet from oxidative stress and inflammation. Other properties of antioxidant tea blends, such as their vitamin C activity, are also believed to contribute to improved skin tone and structure by strengthening connective tissues. Squalene, found in olive oil, is a natural emollient that hydrates and nourishes tissue while also providing anti-oxidant effects and inhibiting the proliferation of microorganisms. Coconut oil has an abundance of medium chain triglycerides that are “almost identical to the medium chain fatty acids found in human sebum” and is also a proven antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agent. Last, but not least, shea butter is touted for its abundance of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is known for its ability to diminish wrinkles and smooth skin tone. I have personally found that buying vitamin E oil from a pharmacy is also very cost effective and works wonders to keep my feet looking and feeling soft and supple.
While the LEF article is timely and full of good advice, I was somewhat disappointed that it did not discuss other aspects of preventative and therapeutic foot care such as wearing appropriately supportive shoes, inserts and orthotics, visiting a specialist in case of foot disorders such as flat feet or neuromas, and the benefits of massage and reflexology. Expect to see a follow-up at this blog covering these topics in the near future.