I remember my first callus remover in excruciating detail: I was 20, sitting in a busy nail salon in Cleveland with a girl from my sorority who'd taken me back to her hometown for the weekend. We opted for the fancy pedicure — the one with an extra leg massage, choice of essential oil, and the acid-filled Saran wrap treatment that makes all that hardened foot skin easier to grate off.
Somehow — and I blame my mom for this — I'd gone two decades thinking the only solution to rough heels was a pumice stone. So here I was, utterly unprepared for what was about to happen in front of a bunch of strangers.
At first, things were going fine — the technician was lightly sawing away at my feet and chatting with the woman next to her as what seemed like a normal amount of dead skin collected on the towel. Then, all of a sudden, they were not. She started calling, loudly, for backup. She wiped her forehead with her forearm, as if she'd been doing hard, sweaty labor. Someone ran out with a broom, another followed with a dustpan. I remember being overwhelmed by the commotion but thinking maybe this was normal? I'd never gotten a pedicure in Cleveland before.
I turned to my friend, who was staring at the floor under me, making exaggerated retching noises. Have you ever seen a pile of New York City snow, two days after a storm, after dogs have peed on it and cars have skidded over it and there's the corner of a Doritos bag peeking out? That's sort of like what came off my feet. Sitting there, as people hurried to sweep up 20 years worth of calluses, I felt like I'd just gotten off on some really weird porn — deeply ashamed, but so satisfied.
Since then, I've kept up with my calluses, always waving technicians ahead when they seem to be hinting that I really ought to get the remover. The shame has lessened, but I still would rather deal with my heels alone, in my own bathroom, where no Upper West Side moms with Drybar hair and Pilates asses can look on.
And I can, finally, because Deborah Lippmann's new Callus Softener is the closest thing I've found to the good stuff at my corner nail place. It's an acid triple threat, with lactic, glycolic, and salicylic, all of which work to break down hyperkeratosis, aka rock-hard skin. You spray it on wet or dry feet (I think dry works better), let it sit for up to five minutes, then bust out the file and start buffing. Last week, when the woman doing my pedicure asked if I wanted callus remover, I asked if I needed it. "No, maybe next time," she said. That may sound like nothing, but it's a long way from my days in Cleveland.