Sole food

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 2009, 12:00am

The new season dress is ready to go, bronzer has been applied and a beach party awaits - until cracked heels, chipped toenails and dried, peeling skin are revealed.

To avoid embarrassment as you don summery sandals or dare to bare on the beach, take guidance from some experts who know simple, effective and inexpensive ways to ensure softer, smoother feet this summer.

Four Seasons Hotel spa director Helen Greene offers a few tips if you don't have time to spend an hour getting a pedicure or are unable to do one yourself.

'When completing your body brushing or exfoliation, don't forget the essential area of skin around the heels and on the top of the feet. It takes a few seconds every day before you get into the shower,' says Greene, who echoes a general sentiment that feet are a neglected part of our beauty routine.

'Similarly, when you are applying [a body] moisturiser - especially at night - massage a little extra moisturiser into the heels. This will help prevent the build up of calluses, keeping the skin supple.'

If you suffer from hard skin or corns, she adds, massage vigorously with knuckles to boost blood circulation under the skin, bringing nutrients to the skin cells.

Greene also says a fine-grain, foam nail file can be used not only to file toenails (it is also flexible and can fit into your purse), but can also help to keep cuticles looking trimmed.

'Use the softest side [of the file] to smooth any build-up of skin on your cuticle. Remember this is a delicate area, so any harsh or lengthy movements can cause ridges to form on your nail by either causing trauma to the cuticle or by filing away some of the nail itself,' she says. 'Be gentle and brief and it should be sufficient - but you must remember to moisturise afterwards. Your lip balm can actually help if you don't have any great hand and nail cream.'

Refresh polish before the nail 'moves up' from the nail bed, or chips, Greene says. If you're not very good at painting yourself and have carried out the other tips, then treat yourself to a repolish in your favourite salon during lunchtime.

'You can also save not spending on a full pedicure,' she says.

Iyara spa and salon spokeswoman Adeline Ma agrees home care can make all the difference. For beautiful feet and to make your pedicure last longer, there are some cheap and easy tools to be found in personal care stores.

'Light Concept Nails has a callous softener called Calludone, for getting rid of rough skin on heels,' says Ma. 'Put a few drops of this on your foot file before using.'

You can buy Calludone at SaSa.

To keep a pedicure fresh and to prevent calluses, Ma suggests wearing Japanese brand 'toe covers' she discovered at several stalls in Central selling pantyhose and tights.

'These are half-foot nylon toe covers that are not visible when you have shoes on - it definitely makes a difference,' she says.

Sue Kent is the founder of Britain-based Enjoyfeet, which sells DVDs showing how to get beach-ready soles and toes.

'We typically neglect our feet when they are covered up in the winter,' says Kent. 'Unsightly nails and chipped polish are a real turn-off, but transforming your feet so that they look fantastic isn't a hard job. A few minutes every day to exfoliate and moisturise feet - as part of your overall beauty routine - can make all the difference.'

This is especially true if you're splashing out on expensive summer shoes or planning to draw attention to your feet. 'I'm ... a huge advocate of ankle and toe jewellery that fits perfectly with this season's Bohemian look,' says Kent.

Podiatrist Michael Leung says feet are generally ignored as they are most distant from our sight. 'Lots of people don't know how to take proper care [of feet],' he says.

Many don't know how to clean them properly or the correct way to cut nails. Leung says if you wear sandals in summer, pay attention to the sulci (grooves or furrows) of the nails where dirt is easily trapped.

'When there is a problem [with people's feet and toes], it is either because they are neglected or treated wrongly.'

To treat most foot woes, Leung says you need some basic tools, including a good-quality nail clipper, file, moisturiser, pumice stone and anti-fungal lotions.

'But above all, always maintain good hygiene,' he says. 'That is, wash and clean feet well, wear socks in shoes and seek professional advice if signs or symptoms [of foot pain or infections] arise.'

Some of the most common foot concerns he sees in adults are corns, calluses, nail problems, pains and aches from the heel to the spine, warts and fungus.

Another Hong Kong podiatrist, Karlyn Harfoot, says weekly care can do the world of good. File nails, use a pumice to prevent hard skin build-up and a good foot cream - once a week is fine, but it can be done daily if your feet are prone to dryness.

Don't use body creams on your feet, Harfoot says. 'The skin on the soles is [substantially thicker] than the skin on the rest of the body.'

In the meantime, if you simply have dry, cracked heels and peeling skin around the toes, there are some new products on the market that can help.

First up is Baby Foot. The product from Japan comes with two gel-filled booties that the user is required to wear for two hours. Over the next two weeks, the skin on your heels peels away completely, to reveal super-soft 'baby feet'. It costs HK$178 at SaSa and Mannings stores.

Elsewhere, Bliss Spa has a more upmarket version of booties, with its trademark blue 'softening socks' combined with a moisturiser designed to nourish toes and heels. Wear them to bed for optimal results. It costs HK$450 and is available from Lane Crawford stores.

REN skincare has a new ultra-hydrating balm called Mayday Mayday Rescue Balm (HK$380/50ml), which can be used sparingly on any very dry areas, including heels and toes. It contains lactic acid and omega 6 to target irritated skin.