Dry Skin: Simple Versus Fungal

Written by Dana Canuso, D.P.M, founder of Dr. Canuso Skincare for Feet

As a skin care professional, it is just as important to know what to recommend for a client's feet as it is for their face, hands, and neck. What should professionals offer the client that has tried everything but simply cannot get rid of the dry, cracked skin on their heels?

Most professionals would suggest a quick file or pedicure, as well as thick heel creams or lotions to treat the stubborn and sometimes painful condition. Inevitably, however, the problem always returns. What is this dry skin and why is it so persistent?

There are two types of dry skin on the feet. The first type, simple dry skin, is the one that most skin care professionals are aware of. Simple dry skin is a lack of moisture that can be caused by excessively dry or cold climates; certain systemic disorders, like diabetes, eczema, and thyroid disorders; and decreased circulation caused by smoking or an increase in age. Simple dry skin is easily managed with moisturizers, lotions, heel creams, and urea- or salicylic acid-based creams.

The second type of dry skin, fungal dry skin, is flaking or cracking that is caused by a superficial fungal infection. It is also the cause of persistent dryness that shows some or minimal improvement with lotions or creams, but always comes back. Most often, it looks similar to simple dry skin and is worsened by all of the same environmental conditions, especially amongst diabetics and in certain extreme climates, making the two almost impossible to distinguish from one another.

Because most people are only familiar with the itchy, red, peeling presentation of fungus, they overlook the beginning stages of fungal dry skin, which can be much more benign in appearance and look just like ordinary dry skin.

In order to completely treat fungal dry skin, a fungicidal product should be used to cure the fungal infection and the dry skin that it produces. Dry skin caused by fungus may respond initially to lotions or creams, but if the products are not fungicidal, the dry skin will come right back. An antifungal serum is helpful because it is able to go deeper than lotions or creams and penetrate through the thick layers of the foot.

Since it is nearly impossible to clinically tell the difference between fungal and simple dry skin without testing, professionals should recommend that their clients with persistent dry skin use a product that treats both types of dry skin.

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