Baby Foot season is upon us. It’s the time of year when the most daring individuals among us choose to place our battered winter feet into plastic socks to make them presentable for summer. Sometimes beauty is weird.
First, something you need to know about the Japanese product is that it’s not for the faint of heart—or those who can't stomach the sight of peeling skin. Baby Foot's goal is to turn your hard, calloused feet into ones that are baby soft, all thanks to the help of our acid exfoliating friends, AHAs. (More info on the science behind skin acids can be found here.) Baby Foot holds true to its name, but we should warn you that in order to get to that silky smooth finish, you have to endure days, sometimes weeks, of peeling skin. We're talking about sheets of dead skin that you’ll soon find in your socks, under your sheets, and trailing behind you whenever you dare to go anywhere with your feet exposed. It’s like when a reptile sheds its skin, but a lot more disturbing because it’s happening to you—unless you're the kind of person who loves to peel their own skin, in which case, it's super satisfying.
There are plenty of people who are, understandably, grossed out by this. But it can’t be too many people because Baby Foot has left the realm of cult product and is now widely beloved—and thus copied. But can its imitators compare? I recruited five colleagues to test out these alternative products. Ahead, read our accounts on the different products on the market and see which ones fared the best.
Jenna Igneri, assistant digital editor
Trying out Pedi Spa’s Gentle Exfoliating Foot Mask was one of the grossest and most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had—and I mean this in the best way.
I’ve attempted to use Baby Foot once before, but as I’m not one for following directions carefully, I failed to soak my feet beforehand, and it sadly didn’t work. Being that I knew so many people who had nothing but praise for this strange product, I knew I had to try it again. When I had the opportunity to try out an alternative, I jumped at the chance.
This time around, being sure to read directions thoroughly, I put Pedi Spa’s product to the test. It claims to help control callus build-up, exfoliate, and smooth for a visible result within two weeks, and that’s exactly what it did. Within five days—to my disgust and delight—the entire bottom of my foot began to peel away in sheets while I was in the shower. And the peeling didn’t stop for about four or five more days—from the bottom of my heel to the hangnails on my toes. While I went through about three pairs of socks a day during that time, when my feet were done shedding, the result was smooth, baby soft, and sandal-ready feet. I highly recommend, and the $9.99 price tag makes this purchase a no-brainer.
PediSpa, Gentle Exfoliating Foot Mask, $9.99, available at Target.
Irina Grechko, digital managing editor
Let me start with this: I love Baby Foot. I wear a lot of heels which create the type of calluses that prompt people giving me pedicures to ask me if I am a runner (no, I refuse to even jog), so foot peels have been long part of my routine.
I’ve used Boscia’s charcoal-infused skin-care products in the past, which is why I was most curious about the brand’s Baby Soft Foot Peel. Pre-application, I soaked my feet. The instructions I first read (more on that later) said to "thoroughly cleanse," but what am I a newbie?! Always soak, people. After sliding my feet into the booties, I left them on for the maximum suggested time, 90 minutes. I did have to wear socks over the booties because they don't come with tape to secure them on properly.
Even though the packaging says that it takes dead skin cells four to five days to begin peeling, it took me about six to seven. While my feet definitely did shed a very good amount of skin, it wasn’t to the point of grotesque layers that I’ve found in my bed and socks post Baby Foot, mainly because I felt like my feet were shedding over a longer period of time (it was more than a week). If I were to compare the two, I would say that Boscia’s version is like an effective exfoliant; it feels a lot more gentle on your feet when the layers peel off, yet achieves the same baby smooth result. I did like that it uses less harsh ingredients than some of its competitors—it’s made up of Alpha Hydroxy acids and fruit extracts—and didn’t leave me feeling like harmful substances were penetrating my skin for an hour and a half. Also, while my feet weren’t, erm, pretty during the shedding process, they weren’t that scary to show in public when I found myself trying on shoes in a store.
One thing to note: There is another set of instructions on the inside cover of the packaging, which suggest that you both soak your feet and wear thick socks over treatment-filled booties to help formula penetrate more deeply into the skin. I totally missed seeing these tips until I began breaking the packaging down to recycle it post-treatment.
Boscia, Baby Soft Foot Peel, $20, available at Sephora.
Kristin Iversen, digital deputy editor
After a long winter and rainy spring, during which I wore tights, thick socks, and boots basically every day, my feet were desperately in need of some TLC. And what care is more tender and loving than dousing yourself in acids, so that you can watch your skin peel off over the course of days and days? None that I can think of.
Even if I hadn't been asked to participate in this alt-Baby Foot experiment, I had already been planning on using a hard-core exfoliator like this anyway. I'm a Baby Foot veteran, after all, and I've had good experiences with the original product before. But I'm pretty catholic when it comes to beauty products, and was happy to be trying a new version of Baby Foot, because how will I ever know if I like something if I don't try it? And I've used Tony Moly's face masks for years now, and like them quite a bit, so using one of their foot masks seemed like a natural next step. (No pun intended, I swear.)
Because I wanted to approach this scientifically, I followed the instructions precisely and did not soak my feet before inserting them in the big plastic booties provided. The lack of a pre-soak made me skeptical because I have done Baby Foot both with and without a pre-soak, and the results were dramatically different. But my skepticism wound up being tempered because I fell asleep while doing the treatment and so wound up leaving the booties on for about two and a half hours instead of 90 minutes. Oops!
Or maybe, not oops? Because while it did take a legitimate seven days before my feet started to peel (long enough that I worried the product just didn't work), once the peeling started, it would not be stopped. Massive sheets of skin began rolling off my feet, revealing baby soft, new skin underneath. In the shower, I would scrub at my feet, and the skin would pile up into little balls, and I would be sure it was all over, there was no more skin to shed. I was wrong. There would be lots more skin to shed. In fact, I'm currently on day seven of my feet peeling, and it's only just starting to die down. It's been a wild week, what can I say.
Now that the end is in sight, I can say that I'm extremely happy with the results. My feet are super soft, and all it took was one week of looking like a lizard monster. That's a small price to pay, in my opinion. Especially since, sometimes, it's cool to look like a lizard monster and freak people out.
Tony Moly, Shiny Foot Super Peeling Liquid, $14, available at Soko Glam.
Sydney Gore, assistant digital editor
Going into this whole thing, I was nervous but intrigued. I have never tried Baby Foot before, so I followed the directions for Kocostar's "Foot Therapy" very carefully as I didn't want my feet to be destroyed in the process. All of the reviews for this product were glowing so I had high expectations for it.
I didn't soak my feet prior to slipping them into the plastic cocoons, but this step was not stated anywhere on the packaging. I was instructed to leave the baggies on for a total of 90 minutes, the perfect amount of time to allot for starting to watch the new season of Master of None. After I finished, I rinsed my feet in the tub, and they felt noticeably smoother so I assumed that I was on the right track.
It took about five days for my feet to finally start peeling, and it just had to happen on the hottest day of the year. (I'm talking 90 degrees.) Add to that, I was running around town all day in wedges, so the first day of shedding was very intense. I was really uncomfortable by the time I got home, but after that, it was smooth sailing. Over the next few days, the bottoms of my feet were flaky, but the skin wouldn't budge until I scratched it off myself. I found that the best way to deal with this was in the bathtub, so I didn't have dead skin all over my apartment.
I'm relieved that the process is over eight days later and my feet are officially ready for sandal season. The whole experience wasn't as gross or life-changing as I hoped it would be, but I am willing to try it again next year.
Kocostar, Foot Therapy, $10, available at Anthropologie.
Taylor Bryant, web editor
I went into my knockoff Baby Foot product testing jaunt with very high expectations. I tried Baby Foot once, about a year ago, and knew firsthand just how disgustingly satisfying it could be. I was also that student who poured glue on their hand and took pleasure in peeling it off, so this is kind of my thing.
The directions told me to wash my feet beforehand, so I did just that. I inadvertently also ended up soaking them (even though the directions didn’t call for that) mostly because my tub has a very shitty drain. The directions state that you should leave the product on for 30 minutes. I maybe left mine on for an hour or so because, if 30 minutes called for "mild shedding," I wanted a notch up from that. Then, I waited. And, I waited. And, I continued to wait, checking my socks at the end of each day in hopes that I would see something, anything. Then, maybe about a week after first slipping on the socks, I noticed some action around my heel area—very little though and not nearly on the scale of the real Baby Foot—but it subsided after a day.
It’s been at least two weeks since I first used the product and, much to my very severe disappointment, the only shedding I experienced happened on week one. So, very little to none. According to cosmetic chemist Ni'Kita Wilson, the amount of shedding one experiences is based on how much dry skin the user has. So, it's possible that my moisturizing habits ended up being my downfall. Which, if that's the case: sad! But also bravo on my part, I guess.
Missha, Soft Foot 30-Minute Peeling Socks, $5, available at Missha.