Your Loofah’s Dirty Little Secret – Unexpected Acne
What Are Loofahs?
You might have been using a loofah for years without actually knowing what it is made of. What you are actually scrubbing your skin with is made of a vegetable related to the cucumber, suitably dubbed the luffa plant. You read it right – this vegetable’s dried fibers are used to weave together your trusty loofah. The resulting texture is seemingly ideal for improving your overall blood flow and for ridding off your dead skin cells1.
There is also a myth that loofahs can help you decrease cellulite. While we would love to believe this, scrubbing the surface of your epidermis does little to affect its bottom layers. As cellulite basically represents groupings of fat within your skin, they remain completely unaffected by force being exerted onto the outermost layer of your body.
One thing that loofahs do well is the way that they stimulate your blood circulation. Indeed, scrubbing the surface of your skin allows capillaries to become excited and start pumping your blood at a quicker rate. This is useful in innumerable ways, including relieving acne, as well as fighting more serious conditions2, and alleviating stress. Indeed, loofahs are much better at this than other kinds of sponges which tend to be more rough and scratchy.
If you are a loofah user, then you are probably currently also enjoying smoother skin, and a fresh, and hydrated-looking skin tone. While loofahs can help scrub dirt away (especially one clutching onto your dead skin cells), it could actually be adding additional and more numerous germs in its place. If that is beginning to sound even slightly uncomfortable, read on.
The Risks Of Loofahs
When you discovered the ways that loofahs cleanse your body, you probably thought you had hit the jackpot. They are meant to exfoliate your skin, leaving it pristine and smooth like a baby’s bottom. What could go wrong with that?
Unfortunately, the problem is not so much what the loofah does but how long it does it for. When you invest in a nice loofah, you probably keep it around for ages and basically forget the last time you switched to a new one. You might even be willing to disregard the moldy smell it begins to produce. In this way, you essentially create a very comfortable and lasting home for all kinds of germs and other dirt3. You may not think about where the dead skin cells go as soon as your trusty loofah wipes them off of you. The answers is unpleasantly simple – nowhere. Instead, they remain stuck to the loofah and lead to the gathering of all kinds of bacteria, looking to snack on your unwanted skin. This is particularly so because people normally leave their loofah in their bathroom – and what better place than this moist, warm room for the production of germs?
You might think that having a bit of bacteria on your loofah may not be all that bad for you. However, you must remember that bacteria is alive – the more organic cells you feed those little germs, the bigger and stronger they become. This means that each time you use your trusty sponge you only drag the germs all over your body, feeding them even more of what they came there to get. Feeling turned off of loofahs yet? Just wait ‘til you see the kind of trouble they can cause.
The kind of germs that get stuck onto your sponge can bring about things that you never thought you would have to worry about, such as staph infection4. You are particularly vulnerable if you happen to have any sort of open wound while scrubbing yourself. The danger does not stop there, however. You are equally vulnerable just by being in the shower – just think of all those open, welcoming pores all over your body. What is more, when you use your loofah, you are not just gently dragging the bacteria around – you are actually scrubbing it intensely into your open skin.
In fact, the kind of germs that can shack up in your sponge could be more harmful than you think5. It can get so bad that the bacteria that was stored in cucumber-made loofahs in the 90s, the pseudomonas aeruginosa, was responsible for bringing illnesses to animals. Now, is that something you really want to be scrubbing your body with on a daily basis?
Love Your Loofah? Here Is How To Make It Last
If you are stuck on the particular kind of sponge that you have, there are several things you can try out in order to minimize the dangers it can bring. A simple, yet efficient step you can take toward cleansing your loofah is to just allow it to dry outside of the bathroom. Leave it on a hanger or plop it on your radiator. If you are set on leaving it in the bathroom, leave the door open so as to reduce the moisture that bacteria adore. This is not a long-term solution, but it can help you until you are ready to part with your favorite scrubbing device.
A more efficient solution is to clean your loofah on a regular basis. And what better way to cleanse something than to thoroughly heat it up? Place the moist loofah in the microwave and let the hot air do its magic. A third of a minute should be enough to kill most of the bacteria on its surface. Naturally, if you are sporting a plastic loofah, keep it out of the microwave!
If putting your scrubber into the oven where you warm up food doesn’t sound appealing, opt for using bleach6. Drop your loofah in a 5% bleach solution and wait. The waiting time depends on how clean you want your loofah to be. The most hygienic option is to just get a new one!
Indeed, do not keep the same loofah for too long. Believe us, there will be better ones out there. Just toss it and save yourself all the trouble you could be risking by keeping it around. An even better option? Abandon scrubbing in the shower altogether. There is not much logic in vigorously rubbing your sensitive skin, especially when you are trying to actually get rid of something that is causing trouble for your complexion, such as acne. Instead, opt for a gentle sponge7 and a mild body scrub, at the most.
Ultimately, no matter what you hear, nothing remedies your skin better than…, well, your skin. Allow its own oils to replenish it and rid off your skin problems in the most natural way.
- Ha H., Lim H.S., Lee M.Y., Shin I.S., Jeon W.Y., Kim J.H., Shin H.K. Luffa cylindrica suppresses development of Dermatophagoides farinae-induced atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in Nc/Nga mice. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2015;53(4):555-62.
- Abdel-Salam I.M., Awadein N.E., Ashour M. Cytotoxicity of Luffa cylindrica (L.) M.Roem. extract against circulating cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2019;229:89-96.
- Bottone E.J., Perez A.A. 2nd, Oeser J.L. Loofah sponges as reservoirs and vehicles in the transmission of potentially pathogenic bacterial species to human skin. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 1994;32(2):469–472.
- Miller L.G., Eells S.J., David M.Z., Ortiz N., Taylor A.R., Kumar N., Cruz D., Boyle-Vavra S., Daum R.S. Staphylococcus aureus skin infection recurrences among household members: an examination of host, behavioral, and pathogen-level predictors. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2015;60(5):753-63.
- Bottone E.J., Perez A.A. 2nd. Pseudomonas aeruginosa folliculitis acquired through use of a contaminated loofah sponge: an unrecognized potential public health problem. Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 1993;31(3):480–483.
- World Health Organization. Infection Prevention and Control of Epidemic- and Pandemic-Prone Acute Respiratory Infections in Health Care (Use of disinfectants: alcohol and bleach, Annex G). WHO Press. 2014.
- Back acne: How to see clearer skin. American Academy of Dermatology. Accessed 2019.
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