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Chemist’s Corner: Foot Mask

A biologist by education shares everything we need to know about foot masks.

A biologist by education, Donna McCann, assistant VP for R&I with L’Oreal USA Skincare, shares everything we need to know about foot masks. Whether included in your normal pedicure routine or a part of your spa services, a foot mask has lasting benefits for all skin types, as it helps seal and retain the moisture and prevent daily wear and tear.

NAILS: What is a foot mask and how does it differ from lotion?

Donna McCann: A foot mask coats the skin with a thicker layer of product for a longer period of time (usually three to five minutes). This allows the product’s key ingredients to really penetrate the skin and absorb into its top layers. Masks are occlusive, and sometimes water-resistant, formulas that work at hydrating the skin, allowing it to feel smooth and soft. It’s important to rejuvenate the skin by exposing it to ingredients that can promote it to continue to turn over dead layers as well as maintain a healthy state. There are many different types of foot masks on the market, including gel, clay, and emulsions. Clay masks, for example, are very popular and contain natural clays that are also used to remove impurities and oils. Gel masks are composed of high levels of thickened waters whereas emulsions are composed of water and oils that are stabilized and joined with surfactant or emulsifier. Typically lotions are composed of emulsions used to penetrate into the skin and deliver a specific sensorial end feel. They tend to have higher amounts of oils than a mask.

NAILS: What should nail techs look for when choosing a foot mask product?

DM: We recommend looking at the key ingredients offered within the mask. Ask yourself questions like: Can this brand of mask deliver ingredients not found in my lotion? Will it provide ingredients that hydrate and exfoliate the skin?

NAILS: Are foot masks with exfoliators ideal?

DM: Foot masks can contain ingredients known to increase skin exfoliation. This will allow for skin turnover to be expedited, renewing the dead skin layers with newer, younger layers at the stratum corneum (the outermost layer). There are also physical exfoliators like micro-scrubs where apricot granules, pumice, alumina, and other particles can be designed to scrub off dead skin. Masks are made to sit on the skin, so we would recommend that if a physical exfoliate be used in the form of scrub, it is followed by the mask, which may deliver more soothing ingredients.

NAILS: How often should you use foot masks?

DM: Ideally weekly could help rejuvenate skin, but it depends on the stress your individual client applies to their feet.

NAILS: Should nail techs try to avoid putting a foot mask directly onto the nail beds?

DM: Nails and skin are both composed of keratin. Although the nail is composed of a thicker, less flexible surface, ingredients can still penetrate this layer. When looking at the ingredients of a foot mask, it’s important to check that they won’t harm the nails. In fact, we actually see benefits of applying certain ingredients commonly found in masks like aloe vera and glycerin to the nail beds.

NAILS: Do some foot masks have deodorizing effects? How does that work?

DM: Foot masks may contain fillers and clays that can absorb impurities, which may cause an odor. Bacteria feed on moisture, and when you have ingredients that can remove this excessive moisture, you will also reduce the bacteria feasting on it.

NAILS: What’s proper foot mask removal?

DM: You can take two approaches. One is using a wet towel to remove the formula and the other is to dry-wipe the product off with a towel.

NAILS: How do you know when a mask has expired?

DM: We recommend that once a product is opened, it be renewed after one year.

Common ingredients:

> Shea butter

> Cucumber extracts

> Menthol

> Peppermint

> Vitamins

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