This is extremely embarrassing to say, out loud and in print, for the entire world to hear, but I have Hobbit feet.
That’s what a former girlfriend called them. My brother, who suffers from a similar, albeit less extreme, version refers to it as the “Gross family curse”: Flat, rectangular feet with short, squat toes covered liberally with hair.
The hair really gets me. It’s dark, coarse, totally not sexy and likes to hang out on my little toe-knuckles. I hate it so much that, in the summertime, I’ll give it a little trim if I know I’ll be by the pool or the beach or hanging out shoeless among friends, just to make my feet a little less of an eyesore.
The fact is, I would do nearly anything to change my Hobbit feet. I’d start by making them longer, the toes more toe-like, and of course, lose all that hair. But I’m also keenly aware that, short of getting a fictional foot-o-plasty, the best I can do is attempt to make them less awful.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, there are some things about my feet I do like. They’re not gross, for starters. If you saw me in the gym locker room, you wouldn’t look at my feet and think I had any sort of fungal infection. My toe beds are all pretty healthy, the nails don’t resemble yellowish clamshells and I’m free of any calluses, corns, hammer toes or bunions. But that’s kinda like saying a terminal illness is free of any gaping, open wounds.
The bottom line is, they could be prettier overall. So I was excited when a coworker told me that the hottest new thing in foot beautification was this product called Baby Foot. I obviously hadn’t the faintest idea of what Baby Foot was, but if it promised to turn my Hobbit feet into baby feet, that was good enough for me. Naturally, when I told my girlfriend about the idea, she jumped for joy.
But little did I know that, before I’d be able to realize my dream of having beautiful feet, I’d have to subject myself to one of the most disgusting experiences of my life. So stomach-turning, in fact, I question whether the juice was even worth the squeeze.
The Problem: I have a strong dislike for the shape/texture of my feet.
The Alleged Cure-All: The Baby Foot Exfoliating Peel, which multiple people explained would transform my feet from the tired old hooves they are normally, to pristine, foot-model feet in just a few days.
What that meant, I wasn’t sure. I knew it didn’t mean my feet would cease to be ugly, square old things, but I hoped it meant that, through the magic of science, my Baby Foot peel would somehow remove dead skin, and hopefully, in the process, some of the stuff embedded in the dead skin I also wanted gone — like hair — leaving beautiful square baby things in the end.
That is sorta what Baby Foot does, it turns out. I was, for instance, correct that Baby Foot uses the magic of science to, in the words of Baby Foot’s website, “remove the unsightly, dead skin cells on your feet that build up over time and can contribute to numerous problems associated with the soles of your feet.” It accomplishes this by asking you to put your feet in bags filled with some sort of liquid for an hour, removing said bags, and then waiting up to 14 days for your skin to fall off, basically.
How a bag filled with a magical liquid might be the catalyst for all this to happen, I wasn’t sure. But that’s mainly because I wasn’t giving this magical liquid enough credit.
The Science: There are 33 ingredients in the Baby Foot Exfoliating Peel, and of the top 10 of those ingredients, three are acid: Lactic acid, glycolic acid and citric acid.
And that’s why Baby Foot’s magical liquid is, well, magical: It’s got a bunch of acid in it, weak enough that it doesn’t turn you into Drew Sharp soup, but strong enough that, according to Baby Foot’s website, it “penetrates into the layers of dead skin cells and breaks down the desmosomes which hold the layers together.”
Lactic acid, you see, is a keratolytic agent. So are glycolic acid and citric acid. And desmosomes are a specific type of cell structure that promotes adhesion between other cells, adhesion that uses keratin, a type of protein, for its stickiness. Keratolytic agents eat away at that keratin — separating the layers between the skin.
What this all means is, wear those Baby Foot Exfoliating Peel bags on your feet for one hour, and the acid in the bag is going to begin the process of loosening up the outer layers of skin until, one day soon, it’s just going to slough right off.
You won’t immediately know it’s coming, but whoa mama, when that skin starts a-sloughin’, you best be prepared.
The Experience: My girlfriend, who per usual, was way more excited to try whatever fad I was writing about than I was, insisted she had the skinny on all the secret tricks to amp up the effectiveness of the Baby Foot Peel, and suggested we make slight changes to the box-specified directions.
For example, nowhere on the box does Baby Foot make mention of soaking feet in hot water before putting on the acid bags, but we soaked for 30 minutes. The box says wear the bags for an hour, but we wore them for 90 minutes. And each night before bed, we soaked our feet again in hot water for 10 minutes — a step never mentioned anywhere by Baby Foot.
Wearing the bags was no big thing; even after 90 minutes, it didn’t feel like the acid mixture was eating my feet alive. In fact, the only sensation I experienced was one of sliminess, a sensation that was mitigated by wearing socks over the bag, which helped keep it firmly in place.
After we removed the bags and washed off our feet with soap and water, I was expecting to see some sort of reaction — some redness, some puffy looking skin around my big toe, some acid-induced bubbling — but my feet appeared completely normal and would continue to look completely normal for the next five days.
Even after my girlfriend woke up on the fifth day and noticed some light peeling, my feet didn’t budge. I was beginning to think nothing was going to happen for me, and that I was doomed to be Hobbit-footed forever.
But on Day 6, the peeling began.
It started on my big toe and on my heels a little. At first, I was like, “This could be kind of fun.” But by Day 8, what started as a few spots here and there turned into peeling everywhere. There was so much skin coming off that a few minutes of peeling over a toilet here and there turned into 45-minute or hour-long Sisyphean peeling sessions, every night (that honestly probably could have lasted another hour or two).
My girlfriend loved it. I hated every minute of it. Peeling off two-inch strips of dead skin is among the foulest things I’ve ever experienced. Sitting there with a foot scraper trying to get off the little itty bits for minutes on end — it was awful.
And each day, it continued. And continued. We peeled for four days straight. Finally, on Day 10, it was over.
The Takeaway: My feet now are definitely softer. The pads under the balls and heels are smoother. They’re also still Hobbit feet — a gentler, more baby-like version, but hairy and square with sausage toes nonetheless.
I think my expectations were probably a bit too high. If I was a runner with omnipresent calluses and cracked heels and all I wanted was softer skin, I could see how I might be totally and completely satisfied. Because Baby Foot does exactly what it says it’s going to do.
Then again, if you’re easily grossed out by dead skin like I am, I wouldn’t recommend this peel to my worst enemy.