How to Use a Pumice Stone to Get Rid of the Dead Skin and Calluses on Your Feet

Mary Grace Garis

Photo: Getty Images/George Doyle

It’s almost boot season and if your feet feel like cracked leather and you don’t know what to do with them, you’re certainly not alone (I write as I cram my own foot non-chalantly into a boot). Sure, a professional pedicure could maybe help file down your calluses, but given that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it might not be option A. So, maybe it’s time to go the DIY route, which means grabbing some old-school tools and having at it. If you’ve never been taught how to use a pumice stone—or you have no idea what a pumice stone even is in the first place—I’m here for you.

Pumice stones are a simple way to buff the rough spots on your feet. “A pumice stone is created when lava and water mix together,” says Miguel Cunha, DPM, board-certified podiatric surgeon and founder of Gotham Footcare. “It’s used to remove dry and dead skin cells because of its light, yet abrasive properties.” It’s therefore a highly useful tool to give your heels some serious TLC. What’s important to understand, though, is that not all pumice stones are created equal.

“I recommend any pumice stone that is made from volcanic material versus synthetic ones, to avoid undesirable ingredients,” Dr. Cunha says. For example, this Natural Earth Lava Pumice Stone retails at a cool $10 and will help you tend to your corns, and hard patches without any aggravating additives. What else do you need to integrate a pumice stone into your foot-care routine? Glad you asked, friend…

What Else You Need When Using a Pumice Stone

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

To caveat, apple cider vinegar shouldn’t be a topical skin-care treatment when it comes to, like, trying to get rid of a zit or something. But it can be a helpful way to soften your corns and calluses before you try to remove them.

Shop Now: Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, $13

2. Epsom Salt

If you’re not keen on soaking your feet in ACV, try Epsom salts. The magnesium in Epsom salts can help reduce inflammation and promote skin health, so a splash in your basin is going to make the process even smoother.

Shop Now: Epsoak Naturals Collection Pure Epsom, $27

3. A compatible essential oil for aftercare

There’s a few essential oils that Dr. Cunha recommends (more on that in a minute) but we’re going to champion eucalyptus. Aside from providing an aroma that’ll calm you while you’re soaking, eucalyptus makes for a soothing, nourishing skin-care ingredient, one that’ll feel delightful before you take a porous rock to your feet.

Shop Now: Plant Therapy Essential Oils Organic Eucalyptus Oil, $9

4. Foot Soaking Bath Basin

Doing a foot soak in the bathtub would probably work fine, but if you want to make this a recurring practice, a foot basin might be your best friend here. Bonus: you’ll be using up less water in a sitting, so it might even be eco-friendly in the long run.

Shop Now: Foot Soaking Bath Basin, $12

How to use a pumice stone

Alright, once you have your materials, it’s time to get to work. And for what it’s worth, Dr. Cunha says the best way to remove dead skin from the bottom of your feet is to exfoliate frequently (even every day) with a pumice stone to avoid build-up, not just when your feet have reached their breaking point. Here’s what he suggests.

1. Give yourself a foot soak

Pull out your basin and fill it with warm (not hot) water. Then, soak your skin in a mixture of water, apple cider vinegar (or Epsom salt!) for 20 minutes.

2. Give yourself a foot rub with essential oils

When you’ve taken your feet out of the tub and toweled off, you want to oil up. “Apply castor oil with tea tree oil, or eucalyptus oil, which are natural anti-fungals, directly to the dead skin and calluses for five to 10 minutes,” says Dr. Cunha. “Then, exfoliate with a wet pumice stone.” Note: You never want to apply essential oils alone directly to the skin because they can be too aggressive.

3. Scrub your feet with the pumice stone to get that dead skin off

Now it’s time to get to work! Remember that we want to be kind to our feet and not scrub vigorously back and forth. “Rub the pumice stone in a circular motion over the area with light pressure up to two minutes as tolerated, until the skin is visibly clear and soft when palpated,” says Dr. Cunha.

When you’re happy with the results, rinse your feet off and apply the moisturizer of your choice. Make sure to rinse off your pumice stone too, and maybe even use a brush to get all the nooks and crannies. Set it in a dry place, so it’ll be good and ready for your next use.

And word to the wise: While a pumice stone can be such an ally in the war against rough skin, it isn’t for everyone, and if you feel any painful senstations, discontinue use.

“Stop using a pumice stone if your skin starts to feel sensitive or sore, as this may be a result of applying too much pressure or excessive exfoliation of normal skin,” Dr. Cunha says. “Do not use a pumice stone on open wounds, or if you’re a diabetic with nerve damage as you will not be able to determine how hard and much to pumice. Please leave this for a medical professional.”

Beyond that, though, enjoy your new baby soft feet!

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