One of the many joys of summer is wearing sandals and feeling the warm sun on your toes…especially if you live in a place with cold winters.
Over those winters, however, the skin on the heels of your feet often becomes very thick, dry, and cracked.
Oils, lotions, and a pumice stone can only do so much to soften your soles and it can take a long time to get through all those layers of rough skin.
There is a shortcut to soft, smooth heels and it may surprise you: lemon peel.
How it Works
Citric acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that gives lemons their sour flavor. This acid can be used to gently exfoliate and moisturize skin as well as stimulate new skin cell growth (1).
Skin cells naturally go through cycles of life and death; on average, these cells live for about 2-3 weeks. New cells are produced at the bottom of your epidermis, the top layer of your skin. As they age, cells are pushed upwards. By the time they reach the top 18 to 23 layers of your skin, the cells that you can see and touch are essentially dead (2).
As a self-regulating protective measure, the skin on your feet will thicken if you walk or run for long distances or if your feet are exposed to dry, cold air.
Applying a lemon to your heels will speed up the process of getting rid of the thick dead layers of your skin quicker, uncovering the softer new skin underneath.
Alpha hydroxy acids are used in many skin products and cosmetics. They work by weakening the bonds between skin cells, allowing new cells to emerge (3). While lemon is gentle, using too much too often can actually harm your skin and make it more susceptible to damage—especially from the sun.
The Process is Simple
This method for removing old skin and stimulating new growth on dry, cracked heels is supremely easy: before you go to bed, cut a fresh lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a glass container for future use. If you drink lemon water every morning, refrigerate the leftover peel and use it at night.
Place one half of the lemon on the heel of each foot, cover them with clean, old socks and go to sleep. Your heels will be softer and smoother in the morning. Repeat every 2-3 days for best results.
The same lemon peel can be re-used until it begins to dry out.
If You Have Leftover Peels…
Lemon peels are known to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Put the peels in a jar and cover with organic extra virgin olive oil and let the mixture sit in a cool, dark, dry place for two weeks.
The infused oil can be rubbed onto sore spots and covered in gauze to help the skin absorb its vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Lemon peels are beneficial to your skin in other ways as well. In addition to its ability to stimulate new skin cell growth, when ingested, lemon peels have been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer. A study published in 2000 found:
“This is the first study to explore the relationship between citrus peel consumption and human cancers. Our results show that peel consumption, the major source of dietary d-limonene, is not uncommon and may have a potential protective effect in relation to skin SCC [squamous cell carcinoma].”(4).
Limonene is the phytochemical that gives citrus its lovely scent (5). Found most concentrated in the peel, it belongs to a class of pigment known as flavones that are abundant in citrus but rare in other plants.
With many healthful applications, lemon juice can be used to clean the skin, prevent acne, and even shrink pores.
Additionally, “…citrus peel oils show strong antimicrobial activity” and can be used to make your own antibiotic lotion at home (6).