September 24, 2013

The Yogi Muse On Peeling Toes: Could Your Mat Be Toxic?


Dear Yogi Muse:

I am new to yoga and after I practice, the skin on my toes begins to peel. This is uncomfortable and when my feet are dry the skin rips back even deeper and hurts. Help!

~ Peels after Practice

Dear Peels,

You are not alone. I am one of those sufferers too.

As yogis, our feet are critical to our practice. If our feet aren’t healthy, our practice will have an unhealthy foundation.

So when my toes started to bleed, I sought all kinds of advice. I’ve been to healers, doctors, dermatologists and yogis from Yin to Yang. Some people call this “Ashtanga Toe.”

There may be several causes:

  • Are you binding or clinging your toes to the mat? If so, try to use your entire foot to hold you steady. Push evenly through the four corners of the foot, lifting the arches and ease the toes down onto the mat.
  • Is your skin too dry? Well-moisturized feet on the mat make it a “Slip and Slide.” But we need to keep tootsies clean and moisturized after practice.
  • Is there a change in temperature or weather? That can upset our doshas and cause peeling.
  • Do you eat too much Vitamin A? Or is your diet acidic? Alkaline-based diets are said to be better for the skin.
  • Did you use a rental mat? Or have you cleaned your mat? Yoga Journal reports an increase of yucky foot diseases from unclean yoga facilities and mats. Clean your mat daily with something antiseptic. Many yogis use Tea Tree Oil, but personally, I go straight for the bleach. Then store your mat flat, never rolled. That is critical to prevent the growth of very disgusting things.

Now, if none of that rings true, consider this: Are you allergic to latex?

Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding!

After doing everything I could to eliminate peeling toes, I was skin tested and it turns out, I am allergic to latex. It makes my skin itch, break into a rash and bleed. Natural yoga mats, made with 100% natural rubber, may contain latex.

In fact, the website for Jade mat says it should not be used by individuals with latex sensitivity. Lululemon also says their mat may contain latex. The other product that made my feet bleed was the Yogi Toes anti-skid towels. They do not say if the towel contains latex, but it does contain “100% natural rubber” so it could have been a cause.

I now use mats that are guaranteed to be latex-free and I haven’t had a problem.

No matter the cause of your peeling toes, here is the cure:

  • Clean feet with an antiseptic and soak them in warm water to loosen the dry skin. If you think your feet have a fungus, see a doctor.
  • Trim excess skin flaps with a cuticle clipper, and then scrape or rub the area with a pumice stone. Do not leave a skin flap on your toe as it will continue to pull. Scrape down to the next layer of healthy skin.
  • Cover the new skin with a liquid bandage (super glue also works well), especially before practice. The liquid bandage will form a protective barrier while the skin heals.
  • Keep feet moisturized with a natural oil, or use a hypoallergenic cream such as Vanicream or Cetaphil.

I hope this helps and that soon you and your yogi-toes are smiling all the way to enlightenment.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise



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