Last week, we introduced a new series in which we put cult classic beauty products to the test to find out whether they're worth the hype. First, we set our gaze on the best-selling Maybelline Great Lash mascara; now, we're tackling Baby Foot, an exfoliating peel for the feet made internet famous thanks to the many shudder-inflicting photos of molting skin posted by users. Bravely up to the task to see what all the fuss is about are Alex and Colleen, contributing writers with polar opposite views on all things beauty.
Meet the Testers (& the Product)
Alex Nursall, who, odds are, is on a first name basis with any given Sephora employee at her local mall.
Colleen Murphy, most likely to store books and snacks in her bathroom vanity (as her skin care and cosmetic collections are practically nonexistent.)
Product tested: Baby Foot Exfoliant Foot Peel, Lavender Scented, $17. There are many other similar products on the market, but this particular brand gets the most buzz. After an hour-long soak in the provided bags, the dead skin on your feet is supposed to effortlessly (but not necessarily discreetly) peel away over a two week period, leaving you with, well…baby feet.
First Thoughts (& a Little Science)
Alex: Ladies and gentleman, it's time for Baby Foot!
Colleen: When Alex first asked if I had heard of Baby Foot, I thought I was about to hear one hell of an urban legend (Spoiler: I did not…but it was still a little scary).
Alex: For those going, "What about infant feet?" Baby Foot is a popular foot care product. It's a chemical exfoliator that is supposed to remove rough skin and calluses, giving you soft, "baby"-like feet (minus the razor-sharp toenails; seriously, babies are all cuddly and great until you get their nails near you, and then BAM, it's tiny razor blades to the forehead). It comes with two plastic socks filled with liquid that you wear on your feet for an hour (or longer, if you want to live dangerously, more on that in a bit), after which you wash off the residual liquid and continue on with your life and wait for the magic to happen. After a few days, the rough skin on your feet is supposed to peel off like a molting snake, giving you the chance to run around your apartment screaming, "I am the lizard queen!!" You can also post photos to the internet if you're that kind of person. I'm just going to start by saying that I was pretty excited to try this one, because I'm both into weird beauty products and I have feet that I take so little care of sometimes that I worry they'll just pop off my ankles and wander away one day (Note: I do clean them, don't freak out. I just don't get pedicures or own things like pumice stones and I walk about 10-13 km a day, so they take a real beating).
Colleen: I was not excited. For starters, my feet are already pretty soft. I mean, they aren't newborn feet, but I would definitely say they would get carded at the liquor store. I take some pride in the fact that they aren't snagging the sheets. I rarely go barefoot, I love pedicures, and I take a bath at least three times a week (more on that later). I was a little worried about what these chemical bags were going to do to my feet. What happens if you don't have a lot of skin to shed? Do you go down to the bone? When it comes to miracle products or weird cosmetics, my idea of an adventure is buying a new flavor of Chapstick.
Alex: The science behind Baby Foot is pretty straightforward: The two main ingredients are glycolic acid and lactic acid, both of which are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). The skin on your body is constantly being shed (through physical exfoliation or just through continued skin growth), but AHAs (and other chemical exfoliators, like BHAs) aid this by hurrying along the process. Fun fact: There isn't exactly a consensus as to why this happens, but one of the major theories is that AHAs cause an influx of calcium into the cells (corneocytes) in the top layers of the skin (stratum corneum), causing them to rupture, experience cell death, and exfoliate off. This probably sounds weird (and scary), but please note that AHAs and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are found in tons of facial skincare as well and are highly effective. To quote a friend of mine, "They're acids, they peel your face off and then there's a new face underneath. Trust me, I'm a chemist." Note: She actually is a chemist, I swear.
Colleen: Alex saying, "They don't know why it works. It just does" does not inspire me with confidence. Great! Time for a mystery bag to go on my feet! The packaging for Baby Foot is specifically non-threatening. There's a front flap on the box that opens up like a storybook outlining the "essential oils" contained inside ready to begin their magical journey and sweep the skin right off your feet. It also gives a series of steps for how to best use the product, which I followed to a T.
The Baby Foot Experience
Alex: When I first opened the package, the immediate thing I noticed was that I hated the smell. It was like my nose didn't know what to expect, so I kept oscillating between thinking it smelled like weird lavender hand soap and random household cleaners. Also, I hate wearing socks (when not in shoes), so the idea of putting a wet, cold, plastic sock on my foot for a prolonged period of time sounded horrible. I did some research beforehand and a number of users suggested soaking your feet in water for about 15 minutes before even putting the acid socks on, then leaving them on for about 20 minutes longer than the hour listed on the package. I have a condition known as "Hobbit feet," so I left them on for about 80 minutes or so—80 minutes of wet, cold, plastic sock! I mean, it doesn't hurt and it's not bad or anything, it's just weird. I recommend going to the bathroom first and keeping a book or laptop with you, because it's super hard to move in these. I nearly killed myself trying to get from the kitchen to the living room in these damn socks.
Colleen: Ha! I liked the smell! It was lavender! That's like a top five smell! I did not do any research before because I am the type of person who will not deviate from the directions on a package. Baby Foot says 60 minutes? You better believe I'm sliding across the floor towards the bathroom for disposal at minute 59. A word of caution: don't shave your legs immediately before going calf-deep in a bag of acid. It stings.
There are photos where people are peeling veritable sheets of skin off their feet. It's bananas and weird and kind of what I hoped would happen. — Alex Nursall
Alex: My immediate reaction, post-Baby Foot, was that I was suddenly way more aware of my feet. They didn't feel painful or anything, just really waterlogged. Again, I found through some random internet research that the best thing to do is continue to soak your feet each night to speed up the shedding process. I don't have a tub, so instead I awkwardly soaked them in a really large bowl for about 20 minutes each evening (for about four nights in a row) until the peeling started.
Colleen: I would liken the sensation immediately after to that tingly cold/dry sensation that you get when you use nail polish remover. My feet felt really clean. Alex had tipped me off about the soaking your feet, but I figured that my highly regular bath schedule would suffice.
Alex: In a lot of the reviews I read, there are photos where people are peeling veritable sheets of skin off their feet. It's bananas and weird and kind of what I hoped would happen, but, well, that was not my experience. I found that the best way for me to get any sort of result was to soak my feet and then gently rub them with my hands to help manipulate the skin off. What I got instead was some sort of nasty skin soup. I'm not including photos because it's just upsetting. On the upside, after about a week of this, I ended up with probably the smoothest feet of my entire life.
Colleen: So…I'm sad (?) to report that not much happened for me. Maybe it was because I didn't have a lot to lose in the first place or perhaps it was my fear of Toxic Shock of the Feet and I didn't give it that extra 20 minutes Alex recommended, but peeling was pretty minimal. Or maybe what I needed to do was stand at the edge of a full tub and chant "baby foot, baby foot, baby foot." Baby Foot, come to me! It was like my feet had sunburn and only the top thin layer of skin peeled off. It was mostly in the arch of my foot instead of the pads or heels, which was surprising. After about a week of this delicate sloughing of skin, I cracked and grabbed the pumice stone. The box also says the process can take up to two weeks. Who has that kind of time?
Alex: One key point here is that I spent a lot of time looking into ways to make the Baby Foot experience better, while Colleen did the version printed on the box. The extra tips and tricks seemed to help, but I feel like you shouldn't have to spend time looking for ways to make the product work better.
The Results: Were Alex & Colleen Granted Feet of Babies?
Alex: Overall, would I say this worked? Well, sort of. I mean, do I have nice feet? Yeah, for once. Was this worth it? I'm not really sure. Maybe it's because I've never been the kind of person who worries about the look of my feet, but this felt like a lot of work for something I'm going to ruin and never see. If you like your feet to be really smooth and are into weird-ish products, then take a run at it. If you don't like the idea of shedding a bunch of skin all over your house for a week, maybe avoid it (or at least step up your vacuuming) and stick to using physical exfoliation. My feet feel pretty good, but I don't think I'd do this again.
Colleen: All and all this didn't really work for me, but the process, the mystery and suspense was kind of fun in the end. It really felt like a science experiment. I would highly recommend as a funny stocking stuffer or passive aggressive hint for the rough-footed person in your life. I'm more inclined to stick to pedicures and a pumice stone.