In my family, we set some extremely high stakes whenever there is a bet on the table. We don't typically involve money, material possessions, or even manual labor. No, those are all far too inconsequential. Instead, the winner gets to subject the loser to one of the most degrading and disgusting tasks known to humankind: the foot massage. Being so well-acquainted with the tools of the pedicurist's trade, I expected that Pedi-Relax Exfoliating Cream for Feet and Intense Hydrating Cream for Feet would make a welcome addition to future family wagers.

Unfortunately, I found that these products are far too weak to make a dent in truly rough or callused skin. Though my feet tend to be tougher than most thanks to a daily beating on the city pavement, I don't think even a set of regularly pampered pads would notice a difference from using Pedi-Relax. Both items are so gentle that they seem to have been developed for the soft skin of a baby. But I wouldn't let any baby near these formulations.

Even though the products emphasize the inclusion of essential oils to soften and heal the feet, I could only locate a lone lemon peel oil in the exfoliating cream. Both formulas contain artificial fragrances, which aren't overpowering but can be irritating. Allergies to liquid paraffin and mineral oil (both in the exfoliating cream) are common, resulting in itchy, dry, and flaky skin.  Disodium PEG-12 can be a slight eye and skin irritant, though it's probably not at a high enough concentration to do harm. The pH balancer triethanolamine is not only an irritant but also potentially carcinogenic. The preservative phenoxyethanol is linked to contact dermatitis and toxicity in the central nervous system. Need I go on?

The so-called exfoliating cream offers much more in the emollient department, due to urea, mineral oil, and silicone, than in the exfoliation department. Salicylic acid and lactic acid, both of which cause the cells of the epidermis to become unglued and peel off, are so far down the ingredients list that their effects are nominal. Meanwhile, the hydrating cream is loaded with mediocre lubricants, such as petrolatum, dimethiconal, and lactamide MEA, that I'd allow nowhere on my body except my feet.

If the Intense Hydrating Cream were not specifically formulated for extremely dry and damaged feet, it would make for a perfectly adequate evening treatment. But call a spade a spade. This cream offers none of the "intense hydration" promised and seems to glide over rather than actually absorb into the skin. Likewise, the exfoliating cream hardly removes rough patches or sloughs off calluses. Its puny polyethylene microbeads might remove a little surface dirt and lightly moisturize, but there is scant satisfaction in that.

When I perform or receive a pedicure (preferably the latter), I want to use an exfoliator with large scrubbing particles that chase away the dead skin cells in the skin's top layer. I also want a deeply conditioning cream that makes feet feel luxuriously pampered and nourished. Pedi-Relax provides neither. Nonetheless, if you are dealing with well-tended feet that don't need heavy-duty, professional-grade care, Pedi-Relax might be more your speed.

Ingredients in the Exfoliating Cream for Feet:

Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Urea, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Paraffin, Dimethicone, Triethanolamine, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Polyethylene, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Beeswax (Cera alba), Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Lemon Peel Oil (Citrus Limonum), Fragrance (Parfum).


Ingredients in the Intense Hydrating Cream for Feet:

Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Petrolatum, Cyclomethicone, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-12, Butcher’s Broom Extract (Ruscus Aculeatus), Urea, Stearic Acid, Lactamide MEA, Dimethiconol, Fragrance (Parfum), Piroctone Olamine, Tocopheryl Nicotinate, Triethanolamine.