Over the past week, the internet has descended into what appears to be mass panic over some unpleasant scientific findings: As it turns out, most shower loofahs are fairly unhygienic. Those cute little scrubbers can be a prime location for hosting and transmitting bacteria. They also have a tendency to collect dead skin cells, so each time you use yours, you may be spreading dirt you removed from your body during yesterday’s shower right back onto yourself. (Gag.) “Ick” factor aside, it’s worth noting that the findings everyone is concerned over are from a study that took place back in 1994. Many dermatologists have been advising against their patients using loofahs for decades. So, while the internet’s current freak-out may be a tad excessive, it does have some major truth to it.
“Loofahs are very unhealthy for the skin,” Anjali Butane, M.D., cosmetic dermatologist and founder of Anjali MD Skincare tells SELF. “They fill with dead skin cells and bacteria after just a few uses.” The warm, wet environment inside your shower is a major culprit in maintaining a loofah’s nastiness. According to Butani, those surroundings, paired with “all those dead skin cells trapped in the nooks and crannies” come together to serve as the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. “Instead of cleaning your skin, you end up adding germs and bacteria to your skin.” Gross.
A potential nasty cocktail of bacteria and dead skin cells is probably enough to scare most of us away from loofahs for life, but it’s not the only downside of using them: The sponges can also irritate sensitive skin. Going too hard on the loofah can invite redness and flare-ups of conditions like acne and rosacea.
While it may be time to part with your beloved loofah, the good news is that you’ve got a much simpler way to cleanse right at your fingertips. Butani suggests that anyone mourning the loss of their favorite shower accessory should simply switch to applying a cleanser with their hands. “In my practice, I recommended using a cleanser with glycolic acid instead of physically exfoliating with harsh tools like loofahs. I tell patients to use their hands in a soft, circular massaging technique to exfoliate and stimulate circulation.” With this method, you can get clean without all the possible germs and irritation. It’s the best of both worlds! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to toss my loofah in the trash.
SELF – Culture