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Sure, the massage and precise polish application are nice, but our favorite part of a pedicure is undoubtedly the part when they slough all the dead skin off your feet. Truly, is there anything more satisfying than having your calluses buffed off and feet and heels left feeling silky smooth? We think not. Enter the beauty of a great, at-home callus remover. “Calluses are thick layers of tough skin that serve to protect your feet—but don’t look good,” says celebrity nail artist and founder of Nails of LA, Brittney Boyce. She points out that while you can manually buff them off with things such as a pumice stone, others work by gently exfoliating and breaking apart the dead skin via ingredients such as acids and potassium hydroxide. While taking the DIY route may be slightly less enjoyable than having someone else do it for you, a callus remover is still a great option to reach for any time you need to get your tootsies into tip-top shape.
Here, the best callus removers that will do exactly that.
Best Drugstore: AmLactin Foot Repair Foot Cream Therapy
Easy to use
Takes time to work
“This formula contains a variety of different acids to help chemically exfoliate the skin while also moisturizing it,” says Boyce of one of her picks. Namely, it’s a combo of different AHAs that help leave your feet softer and smoother with continued use. (The affordable price and drugstore availability is a nice bonus.) We like to slather on a nice thick layer and then slip on a pair of socks for overnight use.
Best File: Rikans Foot File and Callus Remover
Thousands (and we mean thousands, at last count, there were over 58,000 ratings) of people have purchased this Amazon best-seller. It’s so simple yet so effective, quickly removing everything from flaky skin to calluses to corns. While yes, it does kind of look like a cheese grater, you’ll quickly get over that mental block one you see just how well it works, no matter whether you use it on wet or dry feet.
We like using it in the shower since the process can be a little messy.
Best Cream: PurSources PurOrganica Urea 40% Foot Cream + Pumice Stone
Easy to use
Can be used elsewhere on the body
Takes time to work
Urea is a standout exfoliant; you’ll typically find it in body products, where it’s ideal for softening and smoothing dead, dry patches on areas such as elbows, knees, and yes, feet. It gives you extra bang for your buck by not only breaking down the dead skin but also imparting extra moisture, too. Another Amazon standout, reviewers note that it’s great for softening and decreasing calluses with continued use, and yes, you can even use it on other dry spots.
Best Pumice Stone: Pumice Valley Natural Earth Lava Pumice Stone
Easy to hold
Requires some elbow grease
A pumice stone is the most classic callus remover of all time, and this is one great option. It’s made of pure volcanic lava (as you can tell by the pure black color); when rubbed onto feet, it buffs away dead skin and helps stimulate circulation, a nice treat for tired feet. Follow Boyce’s lead and try using it after applying one of the other chemical-based callus removers, a super effective two-step process.
Type: Manual, stone
Best Professional Strength: Orly Callus Eraser
Works very quickly
You need to wear gloves
Must use a pumice stone/file after
This pro-level formula earns Boyce’s vote: “Because it was formulated for in-salon use, it works really fast and is very effective, yet still gentle,” she says. (Credit the addition of clove and aloe vera oil, respectively.) Apply onto any affected areas, let sit for three to five minutes, then rinse off and use a pumice stone to buff away any dead skin.
Best Peel: Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel
Results of one use last for months
Messy when peeling starts
If you think that the whole foot sloughing process at the nail salon is satisfying, wait until you try this peel. (Let’s just say there's a good reason why it’s a cult classic.) Pop on the single-use peel for one hour; it comes in plastic booties that are filled with a gel that contains a blend of botanical extracts and exfoliating acids. Wash your feet after... and then wait. The effects start to show up about a week after, namely when you’ll see your feet peel and shed layer after layer of skin. “You have to be patient, but it really does give you super soft, baby feet,” says Boyce, who says this is one of her top picks for at-home use.
Best Scrub: The Body Shop Peppermint Reviving Pumice Foot Scrub
Better for preventing calluses
Again, scrubbing your own feet may not be as enjoyable as when someone else does it, but it is a good way to start to break down dead skin—and it works especially well to help prevent new calluses from building up. This particular scrub is a great choice, with tiny, volcanic rock granules that do the buffing (not unlike a pumice stone, as the name suggests). But what’s especially nice is the addition of peppermint oil, which makes it feel supercooling, soothing, and refreshing—we reach for it time and time again after long runs.
Best Electric: Amope Pedi Perfect Extra Coarse Electric Foot File
Easy to use
Only use on rough areas
All you have to do is switch on this handy-dandy, battery-operated device and let it go to town. The exfoliating head is made with diamond crystals and spins 360 degrees, essentially sanding down calluses in a way. It’s effective and pretty easy to use, though reviewers note that if you accidentally get it near non-callused, thinner skin it can be a little bit painful.
Type: Electric, roller
Best for Targeted Calluses: Dr. Sholl’s Duragel Salicylic Acid Callus Remover Cushion
Great for targeted calluses
Foolproof and totally hands-off
Only four come in a pack
If you have just one or two super stubborn calluses, try these convenient stickers. The cushiony gel patches are infused with a whopping 40% concentration of salicylic acid, and because they’re stickers, they are great to stick onto individual calluses. They’re meant to be worn for 48 hours, though you’ll likely need to repeat with another stick for at least one more round.
Type: Gel sticker
When it comes to removing calluses, flaky skin, and corns, we’re giving top honors to the Rikans Foot File and Callus Remover (view at Amazon). It’s simple, but the thousands of positive reviews don’t lie—it’ll remove just about everything. Plus, it only needs light pressure to get the job done. We’re also big fans of the Baby Foot Exfoliation Foot Peel (view at QVC), which doesn’t involve any manual labor. The botanical extract-packed gel penetrates the skin to soften dry, cracked feet over the course of two weeks—shedding it all in the process. It’s equal parts gross and satisfying—but truly, it’s effective. Finally, the Amope Pedi Perfect (view at Target) is great for keeping the feet soft and smooth in-between pedicures. This strong, battery-powered file buffs away calluses and dry skin with ease.
What to Look for in a Callus Remover
The Right Type
Callus removers come in multiple forms, from physical pumice stones, foot files, and razors to treatment gels and creams. Nail artist and LeChat Nails educator Syreeta Aaron says the first thing to look into when shopping for a callus remover is what type is best suited for your needs. “If there’s not a lot of buildup or dead skin, a cream is sufficient to use, along with a pumice stone,” she says. “A foot file is the least abrasive option and is great for in-between maintenance after a callus has already been addressed.”
If your calluses are more serious, consider opting for stronger options. “If you really need to attack a callus, use a razor or a gel treatment, as these will work for more severe cases.” She notes that razors are illegal in most states, and they can leave your feet more prone to infection. “I wouldn’t trust myself at home on my own using a razor because you can take off too much skin, which can leave your feet burning when you walk.” Yup, we’ll stick to gel.
Safe and Gentle
Aaron also stresses the importance of using a product that's safe and gentle, even if you’re trying to remove a tougher callus. We’ve already mentioned the potential dangers of razors, but gel treatments—which are formulated with a mix of skincare acids to remove dead skin—can be very strong and irritating if not used correctly. They’re safe, but be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
Easy to Use
Callus removers that are easy to use and don’t involve much manual labor are always great options. An electric foot buffer requires little to no effort, making callus and corn removal a breeze, while foot masks with plastic booties are a great (and relatively mess-free) way to kick back and relax while addressing any pesky rough patches.
Do callus removers work?
According to Aaron, callus removers—both physical and chemical—do work, as long as they are used properly.
Do callus removers hurt?
Callus removers aren’t meant to hurt, but Aaron says that if they're used improperly and you accidentally take off too much skin, they can cause discomfort and even lead to infection.
She also mentions that gel callus removers left on the feet too long can potentially burn the skin, so it’s important to always follow directions. However, as a general rule of thumb, she says that gel treatments should only be left on for three to five minutes max. “With a gel callus remover, you still have to be careful and use gloves, as it’s a treatment to remove skin and shouldn’t get on your hands,” she adds.
Are callus removers safe?
“When used properly, callus removers are safe,” says Aaron. She does think it’s best to leave callus removal to a professional since tools and treatments need to be used with caution and instructions must be followed carefully. However, when you just can’t make it to a salon, consider them a safe and effective method for leaving your feet baby soft.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. The exfoliating part of a pedicure is her absolute favorite (an avid runner, she has calluses galore), but she also keeps the Rikans Foot File in her shower at all times for whenever she feels like she needs a little extra sloughing at home.
Meet the Expert
Syreeta Aaron is a nail artist and LeChat Nails educator based in Montgomery, Alabama.
Brittney Boyce is a celebrity nail artist and the founder of Nails of LA. With over a decade of experience in the nail industry, Boyce has worked on everything from fashion campaigns to the hands of celebrity clientele.