The internet is a great tool for sharing information — and hawking dangerous misinformation. We’ll be taking a look (on a weekly-ish basis) at the products favored by celebrity shills and lifestyle bloggers to separate the good from the bad and asking a simple question: Does this viral trend actually work?
There are many excellent genres of Weird YouTube, like the Quiznos sandwich review. One of these genres is the face-mask-peel-off. This features people peeling skin-care masks off their faces. Nothin’ more, nothin’ less. It’s gross, but I guess I find conventionally attractive vloggers fixing imaginary dermatological problems soothing.
It was through the portal of DIY beauty videos that I found out about the world of the Baby Foot Peel, a treatment that sounds like pediatric torture. On YouTube and Instagram, there are thousands of videos and images documenting the aftermath of the treatment, which promises to make your feet feel like they were just born. Baby Foot Peel, like many beauty crazes, was born in Japan.
I was late to the game: Baby Foot Peel isn’t a true cult product anymore. It has already been written up by the likes of Vogue. Most reviews describe it as effective, if gross, but I figured maybe the positive reviewers were in the pocket of Big Peel. So I purchased my own box from Amazon, imported from Japan for $20. The main ingredient is a “fruit”-based alpha hydroxy acid, but it also includes alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid.
It sat unopened on the counter for a week, because it occurred to me that buying acid-based foot treatments online might be the beauty-industrial complex’s version of “The Dip” in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I didn’t want to disintegrate like Christopher Lloyd. I decided to ask a doctor.
Khurram Khan, an associate professor at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, is skeptical of Baby Foot Peel. “When used as directed in young healthy patients with no cuts or bruises and no open wounds it may help remove superficial layers of dead skin,” he wrote me via email. “But this opens up the possibility of causing skin breakdown and injury without sufficient time to allow the skin to regenerate before doing activity (specifically rigorous activity like going to the gym).”
Khan emphasized that the “fruit” acids are, in fact, likely industrially mixed chemicals.
What’s more, he noted that these peels may be especially dangerous for people with a variety of health conditions. “Diabetic patients or those with immune deficiency should stay away from any of these products. Diabetics may have Neuropathy (loss of sensation) and using a product like this may actually cause more harm, such as ulcerations which can lead to amputations,” he wrote. “Diabetics are prone to dry skin due to the loss of sweating mechanism[s] but these patients should be seen by a Podiatrist on a regular basis for care and expert advice on what’s best to use on their feet.”
Apart from posing health hazards, Baby Foot Peel just plain doesn’t solve the root of callus problems. “The problem with any product that says it removes calluses, is that it is temporary in nature and will always return until the true etiology is resolved,” Khan wrote.
At this point I should’ve just gone with what Khan suggested for superficial callus removal (an old-fashioned pumice stone and warm water), but the unopened Baby Foot package beckoned. I had to know!
I will give Baby Foot Peel this: It peels off your foot skin. The directions are straightforward; you soak your feet in water and then slip them into plastic booties filled with a slime made from fruit acids, wait for an hour, and wash off the acid-slime. Then, a few days later, your feet start to shed. Then they keep shedding. My feet did not become like those of a baby; they flaked like the most disgusting croissant of all time.
I refused to take photos of my feet, sorry, but you’ll get the idea from looking at these haggard Instagrams:
Along with half-finished cups of coffee, my dead skin became another thing I left discarded around my apartment. I was compulsive; the ragged strips of skin came off so thick and opaque they looked sort of like chicken jerky. I made two separate trips to the laundromat in one week because I couldn’t bear sleeping in a bed full of so many dead skin cells.
It was weird to see so much of my body literally dying. I started getting philosophical. “I think I understand mortality better now,” I told my roommate as I shucked a strip of pale foot skin. “These pieces that were once part of me are dead, but it’s not sad — it’s just natural. You don’t feel things when you’re dead.”
“It’s better if you do that in your room,” Anna said.
The Baby Foot Peel website claims it may give people “better balance, increased blood circulation, decrease in foot odor as well as improving Athlete’s Foot.” I don’t think anyone should listen to this website. Somehow I developed a deep heel callus almost immediately after using the peel, so my feet never actually improved in overall softness, plus I spent a lot of money on laundry.
Baby Foot Peel is an effective body-horror and social alienation aid. Do not use it. Just watch the YouTube videos.
Instagram-worthy photos: 0 — Do not use Instagram for terror.
How well it worked (on a scale of 1–10, 10 being totally perfect and legitimate): 4 — Peeled, but did not turn feet into baby feet.
Cost: $16.99 on Amazon
Difficulty (on a scale of 1–10, 10 being way, way too hard): 10 — For mental anguish
Worth it? No