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What is hard skin?

Hard skin can be caused by repeated pressure and friction against your skin, resulting in corns or calluses.

It most often occurs on your hands and feet from activities such as walking or running in tight shoes, playing instruments, or using work tools over and over again. This type of hard skin is known for the thick areas of skin that become hardened and waxy in appearance.

In such cases, your skin is actually doing its job. It’s responding to repeated injuries and stress by protecting your skin against further damage. Over time, though, hard skin can also become tender and painful to the touch.

Most cases of hard skin are treatable at home. Read on to learn how to remove hard skin at home and prevent it from coming back.

Calluses and corns aren’t usually a major health concern. They usually go away over time, but this can take months or even years in severe cases.

To remove hard skin at home, follow these steps:

  1. Soak the area of hard skin in warm water for 10 minutes. This will help to soften the skin, making it easier to remove.
  2. Gently apply a pumice stone or large nail file to the area. Start in a sideways motion, and then work your way up to small circles to remove the dead skin. You can purchase a pumice stone on Amazon.
  3. Follow up with moisturizer to soothe the skin. A lotion that contains salicylic or glycolic acid can offer added benefits by gently removing any remaining dead skin.

Repeat the process daily until the hard skin is completely gone. Avoid over-filing and over-scrubbing on your first try — this can irritate the surrounding skin and lead to more injuries. Read more about how to use a pumice stone.

When removing hard skin, steer clear of any sharp objects. This includes razors, nail clippers, and scissors. These tools all make it very easy to accidentally cut your skin, leaving an open wound that’s vulnerable to infection. Some claim that shaving calluses helps them to grow back thinner, but there’s no evidence to support this.

If soaking and using a pumice stone isn’t doing the trick, consider seeing a doctor. They can either physically remove the hard skin or prescribe something, such as a strong salicylic acid gel, to help dissolve the extra skin.

Once you’ve cleared up an area of hard skin, there are a few steps you can take to keep the area soft.

You may first need to determine why the hard skin developed in the first place. For example, if it’s the result of friction from using certain tools or wearing a particular pair of shoes, you’ll need to avoid these items to prevent future cases of hard skin.

You can also prevent harmful skin friction by wearing properly fitting shoes and other protective gear, such as work gloves or padded shoe inserts.

Another way to prevent hard skin is to regularly use a moisturizing lotion. This helps keep skin tissues from drying out. Try to apply it immediately after taking a bath or shower. If you have very dry skin, you may need to apply it several times a day.

For added benefit, look for a lotion that contains alpha hydroxyl acid, which helps to gently remove built-up skin. Try this one by Amlactin.

If hard skin doesn’t go away despite home remedies and lifestyle changes, you may need to see your doctor to rule out the possibility of an underlying condition. You can connect to a dermatologist in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Make an appointment if you have hard skin that’s accompanied by:

  • flesh-colored, grainy bumps that grow and become painful, which could be warts
  • redness and severe itchiness, which could be eczema
  • red, bumpy rash, which could be a fungal infection
  • ulcers and hair loss, which could be a rare condition called scleroderma
  • pus, oozing, and pain, which could be an infection

Depending on the underlying cause, you may need prescription antibiotics or antifungals in tablet or cream form.

If you have diabetes, you may be at an increased risk for calluses and corns on your feet because of reduced blood flow to the area. Talk to your doctor if this is the case, as you might need an adjustment to your treatment plan.

Hard skin can be frustrating, but most cases are resolvable at home with a few lifestyle adjustments and treatments.

If you have hard skin that’s not getting any better with home treatment, make an appointment with your doctor to figure out what’s causing it.