How can podiatrists help with Xerosis (Dry skin)?

by Afni Shah Hamilton

Many people experience dry skin (Xerosis) from time to time, but patients on certain cancer therapies may experience severe dry skin.  Dry skin can cause the top layer to split especially around the heels and cause painful thickened hard skin (callus) and corns.

callus shown under the ball of foot

Routine podiatry will help to reduce fissures and callus through debridement (finely skilled scalpel reduction of dead skin) and leave healthy pain free skin.  Frequent use of ointments to rehydrate the skin is recommended. Ointments that soften skin cells (keratolytics) such as salicylic acid 6% with a urea base of 10%-40%, can be applied.   Patient must check that the skin doesn’t become white and rubbery and if so stop using the cream for a few days.  A cream containing a weak trichloraectic acid solution (keratolytic) and urea, such as Clearzal hard skin remover and available over the counter can be used.  This has delivered good results with close monitoring (Shah-Hamilton, 2020).

Avoidance of the risk of skin breakdown can arise in patients with thin and sensitive skin, therefore close monitoring of the skin is paramount. Where diabetes also exists, any cream application should be cautiously selected for diabetic skin. The following regular foot problems include

Changes within the foot can cause new footwear problems.
Painful walking alters weight bearing under the foot and strains tendons.
Changes to skin and nails.
Painful joint pain.
Self care and daily life activities are difficult to perform e.g. cutting toenails or caring for the skin.


Podiatric-medical intervention should help to avoid any undesirable effects of anticancer therapy. By working in partnership with the cancer team many concerns can be resolved. It is important when seeing either your cancer team or podiatrist that you are encouraged to liaise with each person to achieve the most successful outcome of treatment. Always speak to your podiatrist about any problems you notice on your foot no matter how trivial.  As the specialists of feet, like dentists are the specialist for your teeth, they can reassure you..


Please read other articles by Afni Shah-Hamilton & David R Tollafield published in Footlocker ( by Busypencilcase Communications Ltd

Topical articles:

Cancer and the foot
Five Conditions in feet caused by medication to treat cancers

Supplementary facts and podiatry from Afni Shah-Hamilton

How can podiatry help with peripheral neuropathy? 
How can podiatrists help with the toxic effect of medication on nails?
How can podiatrists help with hand-foot syndromes? 

Thanks for reading ‘How can Podiatrists help with Xerosis (Dry Skin)?’ written by Afni Shah-Hamilton and edited by David Tollafield.

Published under ConsultingFootPain by Busypencilcase Communications.

April 2020