Something to Talk About: Embarrassing Feet

by Michelle Pratt | January 3, 2017

How often have you heard something like this: “Oh, my feet are terrible; I’m embarrassed for you to see them” or “I hope you can do something with these feet.” A male client might point to cosmetic concerns, such as thick, yellow toenails, excessively dry skin, or split heels, while a woman might mention conditions related to lifestyle or footwear, such as corns, ingrown toenails, and bunions. Your first step is to assure the client you’re a professional, unmoved by what you see. The second step is to explain how you’re going to help: either through your repertoire of skills or with a referral to a doctor. That conversation may go something like this:

Client: I almost cancelled today because I’m so embarrassed by my feet. They’re so dry; plus, my heel is cracking! But the real reason I’m here is that my wife said I should come in and have you look at my big toe. See how yellow and thick the nail is?

You: Yes, I see. And I have good news. First, everything I see here is normal and the result of a lack of basic maintenance. It’s funny, we know to wash and moisturize our face, hair, and hands, but we overlook daily maintenance for the skin on our feet. I think you’re going to appreciate the difference a professional pedicure makes. You would benefit from scheduling one once a month.

Client: I really would schedule every month if it made a difference. Do you think it can actually help?

You: Yes, if you commit to home care. I’m going to clean, shorten, and file your toenails, paying special attention to the one that has yellowed. Sometimes this is simply part of the aging process; other times it needs the attention of a doctor. The same goes for the cracked heels. I’m going to use a professional-grade product to remove a lot of this dead skin, and then we’ll use a moisturizer that will help with the dry flaking. I’m going to send you home with that cream and also a product specifically formulated for cracked heels. I need you to use them daily. When you come in next month, I’ll evaluate your skin and heels, and take another look at that toenail. If we don’t see improvement, I’ll refer you to a podiatrist. It’s possible you could have a fungus on the skin of your heel or under your toenail.

Client: A fungus? What?!

You: Athlete’s foot, for example, is a common foot fungus. It can often be cleared up with foot soaks or over-the-counter sprays. Certain types of fungus can cause toenails to thicken and yellow, though your nail is not separated from the skin and it’s not peeling at all. If those other symptoms were present, I’d recommend a doctor’s visit before I could proceed. Honestly, I see a lot of clients who haven’t developed a habit of regular maintenance and pedicures. Within only a few weeks, they see a big improvement. It’s harder when clients come in with conditions such as bunions, corns, warts, hammertoes, or even ingrown toenails. In some cases, I’ve had to reschedule their pedicure until they saw a doctor. The good news is, most foot issues can be corrected, either here or at the doctor’s office. There’s always a way to make feet beautiful again.


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