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The word "pumice" often conjures up images of that porous stone most people use for the sole purpose of exfoliating their skin. No one can deny that a few quick passes with the stone does wonders for smoothing those rough, dry patches on the soles of your feet -- but you probably wouldn't think of using a rock as a way of improving your complexion. Nonetheless, pumice often figures as a key ingredient in facial cleansers.
Pumice cleansers may sound like gritty facial washes, but the true benefit of such a product is its active ingredient. Most pumice cleansers -- although containing fairly fine granules -- are made with benzoyl peroxide, one of the most common medications used to treat acne. Even prescription medications utilize its many benefits.
First and foremost, benzoyl peroxide acts as an antimicrobial, meaning it kills the bacteria causing the inflammation of acne lesions. It’s also quite effective for drying excess oil and sloughing off dead skin. Excess oil -- or sebum, as it’s often called -- can cause dead skin cells to clump together. If clusters of dead cells become trapped in your follicles, they can clog your pores and lead to a breakout.
Although the granules in pumice cleansers are relatively fine, they can pose a problem, especially if you’re already dealing with a breakout. In fact, most dermatologists recommend avoiding facial scrubs. Pumice cleansers often fall within this category. Like almost any scrub, a pumice cleanser has the potential of irritating your skin, which may end up worsening your complexion. Instead, you should use a gentle cleanser to wash your face or any other area of your body affected by acne. If you’re not currently dealing with blemishes, a pumice cleanser is fine. It may even help prevent a breakout.
During an acne breakout, your best option is an acne cream containing benzoyl peroxide. Creams made with this active ingredient provide all the same benefits as facial washes. You may also see an improvement in your complexion with acne creams containing salicylic acid or resorcinol. If your breakout is moderate to severe, a prescription medication may be in order. These usually contain higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide or derivatives of vitamin A, such as adapalene, tretinoin and tazarotene. Some also contain antibiotics. Talk to your dermatologist to determine the best skincare regimen for you.