Pumice stones pack a big punch when it comes to exfoliation and getting smooth skin, specifically feet. "Thanks to their abrasive properties, these volcanic rocks (which are created when lava and water mix together) can be used as a physical exfoliant to remove dead, hardened and excess skin, especially on the feet where the skin is thickest," explains Sabina Wizemann, senior chemist at the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab. While they are most often used in salon and DIY pedicures, pumice stones can also remove calluses and soften thick skin on hands. In addition to their beauty benefits, pumice stones are used in industrial cleaning, fiber stonewashing and gardening and landscaping.
In the GH Beauty Lab, our skincare pros test body scrubs and face scrubs for factors including ease of use, irritation, level of exfoliation and making skin feel softer and smoother. While we haven't specifically tested pumice stones in the Lab, we selected these picks by leaning on expert advice from Lab scientists, intensive editor research as well as crowd sourcing from throughly vetted online reviews of top-rated products. Keep reading for the best pumice stones you can buy, plus how to shop for and use them, according to experts.
While the GH Beauty Lab hasn't yet formally tested pumice stones in our Labs, the above picks are a mix of Beauty Lab expert recommended stones, along with top-rated picks from reputable online reviews.
There is a difference between pumice stones, including size, functionality and whether they are natural or synthetically-made. One pumice stone isn't necessarily better than another; it's more about your planned use and preferences. Here's what to keep in mind:
✔️ Natural vs. synthetic: The general rule of thumb here is to stick with naturally-made stones, as synthetic options could potentially be unsuitable for skin, since they may be created for other uses. Natural pumice stones are made from volcanic lava. If you do opt for synthetic, check the product packaging for labeling that indicates it is intended for use on skin or the body.
✔️ Size: Larger stones are best to cover bigger areas of skin, while smaller ones are good for gripping and maneuvering in around crevices or small areas. For something in the middle, "medium-sized stones with rounded edges or ones that are attached to a handle may be easier to hold and use," Wizemann notes. Also, the larger the cavities in the pumice stone, the easier it will be to clean them, which you should do after each use.
✔️ Dual-sided: A classic pumice stone that is the same level of roughness serves a great purpose, while dual-sided pumice stones can give you different strength options, depending on how rough your feet or deep your calluses are. Some have two levels of coarseness, while others have one coarse side and one smoothing side — both are great options.
Pumice stones are generally easy and quick to use; just don't rub the tool straight onto your dry skin (ouch!). Follow GH Beauty Lab expert tips on how to use a pumice stone for the best results:
- Soak first. You should always soak both the pumice stone and your feet before use. You can either soak them together or wet the stone separately, but "aim for at least 10 minutes of soaking to soften thick and rough skin," Wizemann advises. She recommends exfoliating in the bathtub instead of in the shower to give the skin enough time to soften.
- Be gentle. "Stick to light pressure and circular motions to avoid skin damage," Wizemann advises. Using light pressure, rub the stone in a circular motion to exfoliate.
- Rinse and wash. While pumice stones don't require a deep clean, be sure to rinse them off after each use, as they can collect bacteria. Rinse and dry your feet well, and don't skip moisturizer to hydrate the dry skin — it's an important step to lock hydration back into skin and keep it soft and smooth. Once you are done, wash the pumice stone with dish or antibacterial soap before rinsing and let it air dry. "We suggest exfoliating a couple of times a week until the desired results are obtained," Wizemanna adds.
Yes, they can help get rid of dead skin and reveal fresh, healthy skin underneath, but should always be applied with gentle pressure. Just as during any mechanical (a.k.a. physical) exfoliation, it is good to exercise caution and not overdo it. Start slowly and build up in length and frequency of use to prevent potentially damaging the skin.
This article was written by Dori Price, a freelance beauty editor who conducted in-depth research on the pumice stone product category. Price has over 15 years of experience researching and writing skincare stories, combining her knowledge with the expertise of top industry professionals including dermatologists and aestheticians. Price worked closely with Sabina Wizemann, GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist, who contributed research on pumice stones as well as information on how to shop for and use them. Since joining Good Housekeeping in 2012, she has researched, tested and evaluated thousands of products.