When I read the suggestion that a shaving cream treatment and mouthwash — specifically Listerine Original Aniseptic Mouthwash ($10.70, amazon.com) — soak could get the dead, dry skin off the bottoms of your feet, I was dumbfounded. It was such a bizarre combination that part of me felt like maybe, just maybe, this could actually sort of work. For the sake of this article, I’ll look into a few variations: shaving cream + mouthwash and just a mouthwash soak.
In the case of the shaving cream and mouthwash duo: You start by putting shaving cream on your feet and then take a towel dunked in equal parts Listerine and warm water and let your feel sit for 30 minutes no more than once a week. In the case of just mouthwash, you simply soak your feet in a solution of one part Listerine with two parts warm water once or twice a week. The latter soak, I was curious to find, was recommended by podiatrist Eric Reynolds, DPM, which is why I thought this one might actually work.
Shaving Cream and Your Feet
Shaving cream is surfactants, solvents, humectants, conditioning agents, lubricants, and aesthetic ingredients, according to the Cosmetic Chemists Corner. The surfactants are usually soap-based like Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, or other coconut fatty acids that have been neutralized. The lubricants, humectants, conditioning agents, or moisturizers are usually things like mineral oil, lanolin, glycerin, guar gums, or some sort of polyquaternium compounds. And the “aesthetics” are things like fragrance.
So, interestingly, you’ll notice there’s not a lot here that’s going to slough off dead skin on its own. But, as you might have noticed, hard, cracked skin on your feet is very dry. If you’ve ever taken a bath or shower and noticed that it flakes off more easily, then you understand that hydrating the dead skin will soften it enough for removal. Presumably, that’s the idea behind using shaving cream, which has plenty of moisturizers to make skin feel soft, will help to soften the dead skin on your feet, making it easy to remove.
Whether this step is actually necessary or superior to mouthwash seems dubious. After all, there’s nothing magical in shaving cream that other products don’t have.
Listerine and Your Feet
Since this home remedy seems pretty specific about the use of Listerine Original Antiseptic Mouthwash, I decided to look into the ingredients in that mouthwash in particular. Here’s a breakdown of the active and inactive ingredients:
Eucalyptol 0.092% (Antiplaque/antigingivitis)
Menthol 0.042% (Antiplaque/antigingivitis)
Methyl salicylate 0.060% (Antiplaque/antigingivitis)
Thymol 0.064% (Antiplaque/antigingivitis)
Water, alcohol (26.9%), benzoic acid, poloxamer 407, sodium benzoate, caramel
Here’s where things get interesting. You might recognize some of those active ingredients — i.e. thymol — from another home remedy (that actually has some truth to it): Vick’s VapoRub to treat toenail fungus. Somewhat dry feet are a pretty common issue since the skin on your feet isn’t naturally equipped with as much hydration in the form of oil glands, instead possessing a lot of sweat glands. But if your feet are really dry and cracked and flaking, it might be the sign of another condition, such as athlete’s foot (Dr. Marc Katz). There are several symptoms of athlete’s foot — including cracking and peeling toenails; burning, stinging, and itching between your toes; and itchy blisters — but one of the most common is having dry, itchy feet (Mayo Clinic).
If athlete’s foot is the case (and it very well might be), then mouthwash can help to kill or prevent some of the fungi that causes it, according to medical and cosmetic dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD. He says the alcohol helps prevent the fungi, but that might not be the only ingredient that helps. Thymol is well known for its antifungal properties (Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy), as is eucalyptol (Food Microbiology).
But just because you can use a home remedy, doesn’t mean you should. The methyl salicylate and menthol can be irritating to skin and the menthol is contraindicated for use on broken skin (U.S. Pharmacist). Be careful if you decide to try this out and stop immediately if you have pain. Also, remember, if you have a definite case of athlete’s foot, a podiatrist will be able to send you in the directions of products formulated specifically to treat it (which should save you some unpleasantness in waiting for relief).
Verdict: Treat — Sort of
I’m hesitantly labeling this as a “treat,” because the antifungal ingredients and alcohol in Listerine might be able to combat some of the fungi that cause athlete’s foot (though not as well as specifically formulated treatments!). The shaving cream seems to be in the mix just to help further soften the skin, but it really doesn’t so much in the way of actually getting rid of dead skin. Really, soaking and a good round of exfoliation with something like the PedEgg Pedicure Foot File ($9.99, amazon.com) should take care of dryness. If you want to throw in some Listerine, feel free (unless you have broken skin).
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