The Glycolic Acid Hack Transformed My Dry Feet Ahead Of Summer

Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Sandal season may already be underway but my feet are not ready. Shoved into thick socks and clompy boots for a year, they're a little worse for wear — especially the soles. It's not cute or glamorous to admit, I know, but no matter how many times I grab my foot file or slather them in lotion, the cracked and dry skin persists. Is there a more wince-inducing feeling than catching your feet on your bedsheets?
I'm not the only one. On TikTok the topic of cracked feet has over 5.7 billion views, while the #footcare and #dryfeet hashtags have 1.2 billion and 129 million views respectively. The tags are packed with interesting tips like skin slugging, which enlists hyaluronic acid, moisturiser and petroleum jelly for super soft skin. But one hack in particular has earned viral status on the app, and it uses one very popular skincare ingredient: glycolic acid.
TikToker @calistatee amassed hundreds of thousands of likes for showing her followers how she gets rid of cracked, dry skin on the soles of her feet. She decants a little of The Ordinary's Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, £11.50, onto a cotton pad, swipes it over her feet, follows with a heavy helping of moisturiser and pops on a pair of socks. After just two hours, the results are impressive. I didn't know it was possible for feet to glow...
@calistatee Reply to @msmarthamay sis you really did something here #glycolicacid #dryskintips #theordinary #dandruffsolution @theordinary ♬ primadonna girl - kylie!
The hack has even piqued the interest of The Ordinary's CEO and cofounder, Nicola Kilner, who told R29 that she has tried it herself — and that it works a treat. First, though, I had to put it to the skincare experts.
"Glycolic acid is an AHA (or alpha hydroxy acid) that works to chemically exfoliate skin by breaking bonds between dead skin cells," says Dr Parisha Acharya, aesthetic doctor at "It helps shed dead skin-causing issues, such as calluses, and can help soften and improve skin texture." 
In an Instagram Live, consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto also spoke about the viral trend. "Theoretically, if you're asking me whether glycolic acid can help dry feet, I suppose it can," she said. "It's an exfoliating acid and if you have a lot of hard, dead skin on your feet, then probably, using a little bit of glycolic acid will help that." Dr Mahto goes on to say that the stratum corneum (the top layer of skin) is super thick on the soles of our feet. "If you have a thick stratum corneum that has built up, using glycolic acid could help that. It makes total sense."
Dr Acharya recommends using glycolic acid once or twice a week and a nourishing balm on the other nights. "This combination will help you get your feet sandal-ready by summer."
So the TikTokers and experts are sold — but does the glycolic acid foot hack really work? I already had a bottle of The Ordinary's glycolic acid toner to hand. It's a little too strong for my sensitive facial skin (and doesn't work as deodorant, like many TikTokers have claimed recently) but I wondered whether it could be the ultimate exfoliator my feet so need.
I soaked a cotton pad with the glycolic acid and swiped it over my dry skin, then followed with a slathering of Flexitol Overnight Foot Cream, £7.49. I pulled on a pair of thick socks and went to sleep, hoping that a few extra hours might do my feet some good. Next morning, the results were pretty great and my feet felt a lot less rough, but I decided to practise the hack for the next couple of nights for the very best results.
My feet are still a little wrinkly (I blame the boots) but the dry, flaky skin is completely gone (finally!) and my soles feel so much smoother than before. Like Dr Mahto mentioned, the skin on our feet is a lot thicker compared to other areas of the body so I didn't notice any stinging or irritation when using the glycolic acid. But as with any active skincare product, says Dr Acharya, there are some cautions.
"Firstly, it is always recommended to avoid using ingredients like these on areas with broken or sensitive skin, severely cracked heels and any active skin irritation." If this is you, Dr Acharya recommends a different hack. "At night, soak your feet in warm water and apply a nourishing balm to soles, then cover with bamboo foot socks. In the morning, soak again and then gently use an exfoliating mitt or pumice to massage areas of hardened skin." 
There's no denying this hack is a game-changer for dry, cracked feet. The best part is that any exfoliating toner you have at home (even an exfoliating serum that you're not keen on using on your face) could work well.
Lastly, if you'd rather just stick with lotion, a handful of bodycare brands are infusing dedicated foot moisturisers with exfoliating acids. Try CeraVe SA Renewing Foot Cream, £9.50, which features salicylic acid to chip away at dead skin and ceramides to repair. Also check out O'Keeffe's Healthy Feet Exfoliating Moisturising Foot Cream, £9.99, which uses gentle lactic acid plus skin-softening urea and shea butter to transform parched soles.
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