TikTok’s Glycolic Acid Foot Peel Hack Is Dermatologist-Approved

And so easy.

Woman wearing black flip flops


Soft, moisturized feet might not be at the top of your list of beauty goals. (To be honest, for me, it’s more like longer lashes and clearer skin.) But as the weather cools down and the humidity drops, your feet might be getting the brunt of the winter conditions. Dry, cracked skin is never fun—and when you happen to be walking on that skin everyday, discomfort is practically guaranteed.

Of course, you could invest in regular pedicures to keep your feet looking and feeling their best, but that can add up quickly. To remedy the problem (without the heavy price point), there are plenty of affordable foot peels on the market, but now, there’s an even easier way to give your feet some TLC: a derm-approved foot peel hack that's going viral.

According to Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, if you’re looking to get rid of dead and cracked skin on your feet, you should “apply glycolic acid, lactic acid, or urea on your feet” then follow up with moisturizer and put on a pair of socks. In the video, she adds, “Absolutely love this. [It’s] way better than a pumice stone.”

Before you start dipping your toes in the world of chemical exfoliation, read on for everything you need to know about the foot peel hack—plus, tips for trying it at home.

The Hype

Part of the reason this hack is so popular? The necessary ingredients are probably already in your medicine cabinet. Even if you don't have them on hand, glycolic acid, cotton pads, and moisturizer are pretty easy to come by—and they’re multi-functional, too, so it’s not like you have to stock up on them solely for your feet.

You can also use this hack on other parts of your body that might be extra dry. Bowe explained on TikTok, “Elbows, knees feet all good!”

Another TikToker tried the hack out on their dry feet with great results. “It works,” they wrote about the three-step process.

For some, the hack only took about two hours. After the time was up, their feet were noticeably softer and more moisturized. Just remember: glycolic acid can be drying, so pick a rich moisturizer for the best results.

Why It Works

“Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid commonly used to brighten and even skin tone,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist and the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells Byrdie. “It works by dissolving connections between cells, so they can be shed from the skin.”

Your results will depend on the percentage of the toning solution. Zeichner explains, “At low concentrations, glycolic acid treatments may give imperceivable shedding. At higher concentrations, it can lead to significant peeling.” He adds, “The highest concentration of glycolic acid available over the counter is somewhere around 30%.”

As Bowe mentioned in her video, other solutions can also work with similar effects, but don’t expect them all to work the exact same. According to Zeichner, because “glycolic acid is structurally a smaller molecule than lactic acid,” it will be more potent, even at the same concentration. Urea, on the other hand, “is a humectant ingredient that softens the skin.” It will also help gently exfoliate.

How To Do It

On clean dry feet, use a cotton pad to apply glycolic acid (or your solution of choice). Then, apply a thick layer of moisturizer, and cover your feet with socks or saran wrap. That final step is important, so don’t skip it. Zeichner explains, “By occluding your acid treatment with saran wrap, a heavy moisturizer, or socks, you can help enhance penetration for a more potent effect.” Softer feet are just hours away.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution $10.00
Cerave Daily Moisturizing Lotion
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion $15.00 $11.62

Related Stories