The very surprising thing everyone should do to their feet after showering

I’m used to trying tricks and hacks from beauty pros—using a damp sponge when applying face makeup, the wonder-working magic of an overnight mask—but when my editor told me that nail pro Deborah Lippman suggested she blow-dry her toes after showering, I was completely confused. I totally get blow-drying your hair after a shower, but your toes? That just sounded weird.

Turns out, she wasn’t talking about helping your nail polish dry faster (which, actually, doesn’t work, she was talking about preventing foot fungus.

Lippman informs me that she actually got the tip from her podiatrist, Ivar Roth, D.P.M., M.P.H., of Concierge Podiatry and Spa. "Using a blow-dryer is something that I came up with to combat fungus infections of the feet and nails," Dr. Roth tells SELF. The rationale is simple, he explains. Fungi grow in moist environments; take away the water, and it helps to stop growth.

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When you let your feet air-dry, it can take up to 30 minutes for the corners of your nails and the spaces between your toes to dry—these are the places where fungus often begins to grow, Dr. Roth says. Blow-drying cuts that down to around a minute or so, which means there’s less time for fungus to grow, and therefore less chance you’ll walk out of your bathroom or the gym locker room with a budding case of athlete’s foot.

The very surprising thing everyone should do to their feet after showering

(Note, if you have decreased sensation to pain or temperature in your toes, from diabetic neuropathy or other causes, don't try this at home—you could risk burning your skin.)

NYC sports podiatrist Lori Weisenfeld says the method makes sense. “Fungi like warm, dark places, which is why it’s important to dry between and under toes,” she says. “Your feet dry quickly—it’s between and under toes that act as a reservoir for moisture and fungus.” Yet, she says, many people tend to neglect drying the areas between and under toes after bathing. Dr. Weisenfeld has never advised patients to use a blow-dryer, but always recommends they use a tissue as opposed to their body towel when drying their feet, as using the same towel could potentially spread fungus.

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The standard advice for preventing foot fungus, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, is to wear shoes that aren’t too tight to provide air flow to feet, as well as changing shoes and socks regularly to keep your feet dry. And if you shower at the gym, you’ll want to invest in a pair of shower shoes.

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One of the first signs you may be dealing with possible foot fungus? Small white spots on your toe nails. "White spots on the nails or any signs of discoloration or thickening of the nail could be a sign that you may be dealing with a fungus or mold," says Dr. Roth. "Other signs are scaly/dry skin on the foot, which can indicate skin fungus." According to podiatrist Emily Splichal, many patients believe think their skin just is dry when they actually have a fungal infection. Try an over-the-counter antifungal—and if you don't see an improvement within two weeks, consult a podiatrist.

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