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By Cynthia Bailey MD.

Hyperkeratosis on the feet and elbow: Causes, symptoms and treatment.

Hyperkeratosis is a thickening of the outer dead cell layer of your skin called the stratum corneum.

  1. It can happen from friction and rubbing as a normal protective mechanism for feet and elbow skin. This is often asymptomatic until the skin cracks into painful fissures. 
  2. It can happen in a localized area in the form of a corn or callous. The focal hyperkeratosis often create pressure pain. 
  3. It can also happen after menopause in a condition called keratoderma climactericum. Hyperkeratosis often starts on the edges of the heels and sides of the feet along the soles. It is often asymptomatic and of cosmetic concern primarily. 

Dermatologist's tips for the best treatment for hyperkeratosis and thick skin on the feet and elbows?

Thick skin on the bottoms of the feet is easily controlled when you combine tough physical exfoliation with “chemical” exfoliation.

Physical exfoliation

This involves the use of a rough scrub, sponge, cloth, pumice stone, or file to remove dead skin. It works so much better when you are using a keratolytic cream or lotion; the thick layer of dead cells comes off so much easier, and you’ll have smooth feet in no time. Maintain your soft, smooth feet using the exfoliation routine as needed. Using a moisturizer after bathing also helps to keep the skin soft and supple. You can use the same treatment on the elbows, but be much gentler there because the skin is much less thick.

Chemical exfoliation

This involves the use of keratolytics, which are ingredients in products that help to dissolve the 'glue' holding dead cells together. The most effective keratolytic in skin care products for this job is glycolic acid. It works best for thick soles in a professional-grade strength, and made in a product with an acid pH as in Glycolic Acid Body Lotion. The combination of physical exfoliation with Glycolic Acid Body Lotion is available in my Soft and Smooth Feet - Rough Skin Remover Kit. I depend on this kit to keep my feet soft and smooth - hence the name!

Elbow skin that is only slightly thick may exfoliate sufficiently with my Ultra-Fast Smooth Skin Triple Action Kit  routine, which also gives you smooth skin all over. I also depend on this kit for my general body skin care routine. 

What does Keratoderma Climactericum mean?

Keratoderma means a marked hyperkeratotic thickening of the dead skin cell layer. Climacteric refers to a critical time in life. It comes from the Greek word 'klimakter', which literally means "rung of a ladder". Thus, climacteric refers to a big moment in the ladder of life - such as menopause. The word has come to actually mean menopause (male or female), and denotes the time of life when fertility is in decline. I always find it funny that this common phenomenon of post-menopausal rough feet has such an interesting name! The good news for this post-menopausal dermatologist, is that it can be fixed! 

Athlete's foot infection can cause rough feet skin too.

Athlete’s foot causes rough skin, too. If you think you have athlete's foot, be certain to treat it with a medicated cream designed to treat this foot fungus. Any rough skin left over can be treated with my products below.