What Is Pumice Composed of?

Rasulovs/iStock/Getty Images

Unless you have a background in geology, you may not know where pumice -- that abrasive little exfoliating nugget your pedicurist uses to remove calluses and dead skin -- really comes from. Looking much like a petrified sponge, it's so lightweight that it's hard to believe it's a rock, but that's exactly what it is. Pumice is that rare thing, an all-natural beauty tool that is 100 percent safe and simple to use.

Origins of Pumice

Pumice is a rock of volcanic origin, formed from magma -- in geology terms, an igneous rock. Technically speaking, it's volcanic glass, formed when frothy liquid magma infused with bubbles of gas then cools quickly enough to trap those bubbles inside. The result is a lightweight, light-colored stone filled with tiny pockets of air. You'll find pumice just about anywhere there's volcanic activity; much commercial pumice is imported from Greece.

Pumice Characteristics

Pumice has two unusual characteristics, both of which are handy in beauty applications. First is its abrasiveness. All the tiny little air pockets and pockmarks make for a naturally abrasive surface that is perfect for scrubbing off hardened dead skin. The second unusual characteristic is its weight, or lack thereof. Thanks to all those tiny air pockets, pumice is a rock that floats. This means that if you should happen to drop it in the bath, you'll find it easily again -- more easily than your soap, in fact.

Uses For Pumice

The whole pumice stone used by your mani/pedi person may be the most familiar form of this unusual stone, but it's not the only place you'll find it. Some brands of soap use it as a mild abrasive as well. Pumice is also the "stone" in stone-washed jeans, used to abrade the denim and create their unique broken-in pattern. Pumice has dozens of industrial and landscaping uses, too. You might even find it in your cat litter.

Pumice Alternatives

Pumice isn't the only mechanical exfoliant available for beauty maintenance. You can try a loofah -- an actual sponge, the exoskeleton of a marine animal -- which has similar abrasive properties. Or you can try a plastic scrubbing puff. Other alternatives include a bristled foot brush, an emery board or a foot file made with metal or mineral abrasives.