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Can you remember those days when your baby boy was just born, and you couldn’t stop kissing those adorable little feet? Well, those days are long gone in our household. With puberty, my little angel’s feet have gotten pretty smelly (to the point the smell alone could kill you). So, I’ve immersed myself in the topic of stinky feet and discovered a few common causes for the foul smell and essential oils that have helped us out in the long run. Take a look.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Feet Stink?
- How Do Essential Oils Eliminate Foot Odour?
- 7 Essential Oils for Smelly Feet
- Do’s and Don’t of Using Essential Oils On Your Feet
- 3 Ways to Eliminate Foot Odour Using Essential Oils
Why Do Feet Stink?
As a part of the uniform policy, many of us must wear closed-toe shoes. These, in many cases, don’t always allow good airflow, trapping the moisture in and leaving our feet damp.
To top it off, socks made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon don’t allow much ventilation either, which can lead to overheating your feet. And the hotter your feet get, the more they sweat, creating a perfect breeding ground for microorganisms that live off our sweat.
Did you know our feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of our body? 125,000 for each foot, according to UCSD Health.
When bacterias break down the sweat, they produce volatile odorous molecules. Some of the “smelly molecules” produced include isovaleric acid and isobutyric acid [1,2], the primary components of foot odour.
These acids are produced by microorganisms such as Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and Brevibacterium species.
Luckily, essential oils can make all the difference. While long days in closed shoes can make things worse, good hygiene combined with essential oils can help fight odour and keep your feet fresh.
How Do Essential Oils Eliminate Foot Odour?
Abundant in chemical constituents with wide-ranging therapeutic properties, essential oils have been used throughout centuries to improve our health and wellbeing.
Some essential oils possess antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. These properties allow the essential oils to slow down or hinder the growth of bacteria that causes foot odour, hence eliminating foot smell. In addition, some essential oils can also prevent fungal infections in your feet.
If you feel like your feet have reached the point where they need more than just soap and water, then you might want to try some of nature’s best smelly-feet fighters. Here are seven essential oils that can help you get rid of stinky feet.
7 Essential Oils for Smelly Feet
1. Cinnamon Leaf Oil
Warming and comforting, the cinnamon essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves of Cinnamomum zeylanicum, an evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka.
Known for its antibacterial properties, it has been found helpful against Staphylococcus epidermidis and Bacillus subtilis, bacteria connected with strong foot odour , making it a natural alternative for people with smelly feet. Plus, it smells great too.
2. Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass essential oil is another essential oil that has proved helpful in managing foot odour. This tropical oil has been found to inhibit the growth of both Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis . The oil’s sweet lemon-like scent is a perfect natural freshener that can deodorise your feet in no time at all.
3. Clove Essential Oil
Distilled from the buds of Syzygium aromaticum, a tree native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, clove essential oil has also proved helpful in eliminating foot odour . In addition, clove essential oil is a natural antifungal agent effective at inhibiting the growth of fungi.
4. Sweet Basil Essential Oil
Sweet basil essential oil is produced by steam distilling sweet basil leaves, a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae. Known for its antibacterial and refreshing properties, this essential oil’s fresh, spicy scent with woody undertones makes it another fine choice for eradicating foot odour .
5. Blue Mountain Sage Essential Oil
Native to South Africa, blue mountain sage essential oil is distilled from flowering tops of Salvia Africana, an aromatic perennial shrub native to the coast of the Cape Provinces.
Naturally antimicrobial, blue mountain sage oil has been found effective against Bravibacterium species , odour-causing bacteria. In addition, its pleasant aroma can further mask and control foot odour.
6. Tea Tree Essential Oil
One of the most helpful essential oils, tea tree oil, has been used for centuries to remedy fungal infections effectively. Known for its antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral properties, it has been proven effective against several pathogens, including bacteria that contribute to foot odour. By simply mixing the tea tree essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice and rubbing it into your feet, you’ll be able to reduce the smell from your feet considerably.
7. Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil
Steam distilled from the wood of Juniperus virginiana, a small evergreen tree native to North America, the aromatic fragrance of Virginian cedarwood essential oil has been long favoured in:
- aromatherapy for its calming and grounding effect
- skincare as it is beautifully nourishing and moisturising
- perfumery for its fixative value
When combined with benzoin essential oil, cedarwood essential oil has also been found to inhibit the growth of pathogens, including those associated with smelly feet . Its aromatic woody fragrance makes it an excellent option in treating foot odour.
Do’s and Don’t of Using Essential Oils On Your Feet
While essential oils smell nice and offer numerous health benefits, they are also potent chemicals that can be harmful if not used responsibly. So before you start applying them all over your feet, you should know a few dos and don’ts on how to use them properly.
1. Essential oils should never be used undiluted on the skin
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids and should never be used undiluted on the skin. A general recommendation is to dilute essential oils in a carrier oil of your choice, such as sunflower oil or sweet almond oil.
2. Learn about each oil’s dermal limits
Even though essential oils are natural, that doesn’t mean they can’t cause skin reactions. In fact, essential oils can have adverse effects on the skin if not used safely. They can cause irritations, sensitisation and even cause phototoxicity, causing inflammation or irreversible cell damage.
Take lemongrass essential oils, for instance. Even though we love its fresh smell, it contains citral, a substance that can cause skin sensitisation. Another example is a cinnamon essential oil high in eugenol. While highly beneficial as an antimicrobial, it can also cause skin sensitisation. Thus, it would be best to use it in minimal amounts.
3. Use essential oils cautiously when pregnant
In general, essential oils are not recommended during pregnancy as they can adversely affect your baby. Speak to your healthcare professional before using essential oils to minimise the risk to you and your baby.
So before you start applying essential oils to your skin, always check the safety data sheet for each of the oils you want to use.
3 Ways to Eliminate Foot Odour Using Essential Oils
While it is best to visit a podiatrist if your foot odour is severe, here are three ways you can manage foot odour naturally.
1. Make your own DIY Lemongrass Foot Soak
A great way to manage foot odour is by making your own DIY Foot Soak. You will need:
- 98.90g Epsom salt
- 0.50g Virginian cedarwood essential oils
- 0.50g Benzoin essential oil
- 0.10g Lemongrass essential oil
Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Dissolve three to four tablespoons in a warm bath and soak your feet for 10 minutes.
2. Prepare DIY Lemongrass Foot Spritzer
Another DIY way to use essential oils for foot odour is to make your own Foot Spray. Use twice a day to keep your feet fresh. You will need:
- 94.10g Distilled water
- 4.00g Solubiliser Symbiosolv Clear Plus
- 0.40g Virginian cedarwood essential oils
- 0.40g Benzoin essential oil
- 0.10g Lemongrass essential oil
- 1.00g Preservative Eco
Step 1: Mix solubiliser and essential oils till well combined.
Step 2: Add the essential oil mixture into the distilled water and stir well.
Step 3: Add preservative Eco and check the ph of the product using ph strips; it should be between 4.5 -5.5. If the ph of the product is too high, lower it by adding a few drops of citric acid solution (90%distilled water to 10% citric acid). If it’s too low, you can raise it by adding a few drops of sodium bicarbonate solution (90%distilled water to 10% sodium bicarbonate).
Step 4: Bottle the foot spray and label with the name and date.
3. Make DIY Lemongrass Foot Cream
Adding essential oils to foot cream is another great way to eliminate foot odour. We will be adding arrowroot powder to help absorb moisture and keep your feet dry.
55.00g Shea butter
39.10g Sunflower Oil
0.40g Virginian cedarwood essential oils
0.40g Benzoin essential oil
0.10g Lemongrass essential oil
1.00g Vitamin E
4.00g Arrowroot powder
Step 1: Prepare a hot water bath by bringing 2-3 cm of water to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Step 2: Weigh your shea butter in a glass beaker, and place it into the hot water bath until melted. Set aside to cool down.
Step 3: Meantime, weigh the sunflower oil in another glass beaker.
Step 4: Once the melted butter has cooled down, add the sunflower oil and stir well.
Step 5: Weigh essential oils and vitamin E and add them to the cooled butter/oil mixture stirring well until the temperature drops below 40°C and essential oils.
Step 6: Place the blend in an ice batch and stir until it thickens up and you can see a trace. At this point, you can add the arrowroot powder. Mix well to eliminate any lumps.
Step 7: Whip the butter using a hand mixer for a lighter, fluffier texture.
Step 8: Transfer it into a jar and leave it in the fridge to set overnight.
Essential oils like cinnamon, lemongrass or blue mountain sage have antibacterial properties and help treat foot odour. While essential oils are natural products, they can irritate the skin. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil first, and apply to a patch of skin to see how you respond to them.
What can I do to eliminate foot odour?
To get rid of your smelly feet, consider the following:
1. Wear shoes that fit well, preferably made of breathable fabrics.
2. Wear socks made from natural fibres like bamboo; these help to absorb moisture and can help improve your foot odour.
3. Keep your feet dry and change your socks daily
4. Wash your feet regularly
5. Give your shoes and insoles a good wash
6. Exfoliate your feet regularly. It will help get rid of dead skin cells and odour-causing bacteria.
What home remedies neutralise stinky feet?
You can negate foot odour using various home remedies such as foot soaks, foot sprays, using foot powders and foot scrubs. Most home remedies are quick and easy to do, but you should check with your healthcare practitioner before using them.
- Efficacy of essential oil formulations against malodor-causing bacteria
- Microbial Origins of Body Odor
- Antibacterial Activity of an Effective Spice Essential Oil Formulated in Foot Deodorant Gel against Bacillus subtilis
- Indigenous South African essential oils as potential antimicrobials to treat foot odour (bromodosis)
- Antimicrobial Essential Oil Combinations to Combat Foot Odour