If you have a tendency to fall down an internet beauty k-hole (no judgment), you’ve probably heard of Baby Foot. If not (no judgment, either), now’s your chance to catch up. Around this time last year, every beauty blog was abuzz with the news of a chemical peel that could Benjamin Button your Paleolithic feet into those worthy of a Babies "R" Us catalog. The product lived up to the hype. Calluses everywhere were peeled away, revealing soft-as-a-you-know-what skin foot by foot. People were equal parts amazed and revolted by the snake-like shedding, and 100% amazed with the results. (Refinery29 called it "weird, gross, and the best thing EVER.") Next, as with all great trends, came the knockoffs. Like the Chloé-inspired lace-up platforms and Gucci-esque suede skirts that showed up at Zara that season, we soon heard the pitter-patter of baby feet with different names and lower prices. This fall, Target launched the PediSpa Gentle Exfoliating Foot Mask, retailing for $9.99 compared to $25 for Baby Foot. Okay, it's not quite the price difference of rack versus runway, but every penny counts, right? PediSpa definitely had my attention — but more importantly: Could it be as good as the original? As someone who hadn’t dipped her toes (literally or figuratively) in Baby Foot yet, and who has a peculiar fascination with conducting taste tests (aren’t they so fun?), it was obvious what would have to be done. PediSpa and Baby Foot would go head-to-head, er, my right foot to my left foot, in the great peel-off of 2015. A little background before we let the games begin: Baby Foot originated in Japan in 1997, and came to the U.S. in 2012, but is still hard to find off the internet. It's a gel formula, housed inside a plastic slip-on sock, made with alpha-hydroxy acids, or fruit acids like lactic, glycolic, and citric. It also contains 17 types of natural extracts that soak into the skin and make the old dead cells peel off by decomposing the desmosomes, or cell structures, that hold the skin together. “[The natural extracts] have a high moisturizing power and astringency, so your soles become smooth after peeling,” a rep for Baby Foot tells us. The folks at Target saw how popular foot masks were becoming and decided to make the brand's own version: similar to Baby Foot, but more readily available and affordable. Natural fruit extracts are also the main active ingredients in PediSpa.
I began my experiment on a Tuesday night, when I knew I could veg out on the couch without moving. Baby Foot requires an hour and PediSpa a little more time, and both recommend staying off your feet while the product-filled socks are on. I washed and dried my dogs as directed by both, slipped the taller Baby Foot sock on my right foot, and secured it with the included tape. The PediSpa went on my left, and was more like an ankle sock with elastic that kept it on. I put actual socks over both feet and plopped on the couch to marinate — neither foot felt very comfortable. Quality time on the couch, making your boyfriend get things for you since you can't get up ("It's for work!") may sound relaxing, but having your feet bagged up in plastic and soaking in strange goop (BF felt warmer, PS felt more menthol-like) takes a bit of the fun out of it. When my alarm finally buzzed a little over an hour later, I couldn’t take off the socks fast enough. Though the real waiting game was just beginning. It wasn't until three days later, on Friday, that the peeling started on my BF side (which was actually earlier than the five to seven days both products say it will take). Like a kid tearing wrapping paper off a present, I went for it without an ounce of restraint. A piece of skin the size of a quarter peeled off, and sure enough, the skin underneath was soft and pink. Instantly I was hooked, and spent the next 30 minutes (the first of many peel sessions) sitting on the floor foot in hand Beyoncé "7/11" style, peeling whatever I could get off my right foot — my left PediSpa skin still intact. On Saturday morning, tiny bits around the toes on my PS foot began to peel, but it was nothing like the swatches I was gathering on my BF foot. The bottom of my right foot (BF) had begun to shed, and yesterday’s peeling fixation was now an obsession. I was 20 minutes late to meet a friend for drinks because I could not peel myself away. None of this hurt, BTW, but both feet did have a mild tingly sensation throughout the week. On Sunday, the PS side started to pick up steam on the bottom of my foot, but it was after I showered so it wasn't quite as satisfying as a dry peel. But at least it was working. Not thinking, that evening I wore shoes without socks and ankle-length jeans to my boyfriend's family's house, only to notice a rather large piece of skin hanging from my BF ankle when I sat on the couch. On the PS side, neither the ankle nor the top of the foot ever peeled, but the treatment did get rid of the dead skin on my toes and the bottom of my foot. After the peeling subsided about five days later (I kinda miss it...), both feet were significantly softer, but there is no doubt that Baby Foot was superior — at least for me. If the idea of throwing little piles of skin in the trash for three or four days grosses you out, or the thought of your partner's aunt thinking you have ankle dandruff makes you blush, PediSpa may be more up your alley. But if you're a person who can't help but peel off a sunburn or pick the label off your beer bottle as you drink, the Baby Foot experience will be ultimately more satisfying — like getting that itch you've been dying to scratch. You know what they say about proof and pudding — my right foot spoke for itself. So while our closets are full of Zara knockoffs of everything from Louis Vuitton to Céline, when it comes to Baby Foot, it may be worth the extra $15 to get the real thing.