Is it safe to use a loofah to scrub your skin? As a dermatologist, I never recommend a natural loofah (also spelled luffa) for showering. They aren’t great for exfoliating, they don’t dry well and they can harbor germs.
That perpetually damp loofah sitting in the shower is home to microbes that can cause infection on your skin. The loofah provides the perfect world for germs. Yep, it sits in a damp and humid shower where there is minimal air circulation for drying.
Is it Safe to Use a Loofah in the Shower?
Some of the pathogens (germs) that can grow on your loofah include,
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa (a sweet-ish smelling bacteria that loves damp places),
- Staph aureus (a sour smelling bacteria that causes impetigo and other serious skin infections)
- Candida yeast.
Your loofah is the perfect happy home for germs!
Why does a loofah sponge cause skin infection?
The natural and porous cucumber fibers of your loofah look pretty because they are a matrix of nooks and crannies. Your loofah becomes even more porous as you squeeze and press the fibers against your skin, bending and breaking them into even more nooks and crannies.
Add soap scum, dead skin cells and skin oils into the damp and dark nooks and crannies and that loofah is a banquet of nourishment for the microbial populous, which eat down the fibers to make - more nooks and crannies - it’s microbial heaven.
Even worse than rubbing that on your healthy and intact skin is using it before or after shaving! This is double trouble, because shaving causes micro-abrasions in your skin that are perfect new homes for microbes to move into and cause skin infection. Shaving can also mechanically irritate hair follicles and those microbes may just take up residence in the nice warm indentation of a pore to cause shaving folliculitis.
I’m not a loofah fan, but if you love your loofah so much that I have not persuaded you with that description of loofah microbial misadventure, then at least lower the odds of getting a skin infection by discouraging microbes from taking up residence in your loofah.
Doctor's tips for using a loofah sponge safely:
- Be sure your loofah dries entirely between uses – put it in the breeze, set it in the sun, or hang it up so the water dries entirely.
- Replace it when it looks anything but perky and firm. Soft, smelly, scummy loofahs need to be retired at the earliest signs of break down.
Other ideas like microwaving and bleaching (you need a 10% bleach solution according to the article below) may work, but as there are no concrete studies with a guarantee, I won't share any advice on these methods.
What is the best and safest way to exfoliate your skin in the shower?
Exfoliation makes skin look young and bright. It softens skin and helps control non-cancerous age related growths called seborrheic keratosis. Body scrubs are nice, but I don't find them very effective. Most are either too fine or too sharp.
Shower exfoliating cloths are the best way to hygienically exfoliate your body skin.
In my opinion and professional experience, a non-porous, synthetic plastic sponge or cloth is the most effective way to exfoliate and a safer option than a loofah. It exfoliates and dries better. My favorite is the Salux Wash Cloth. As with a loofah, you need to totally dry and replace any shower accessory – plastic shower cloth, razor etc. to be safe.
As a dermatologist, I recommend that you do not share your exfoliating shower cloth even among spouses.
Get even better exfoliation results by adding an AHA body wash to use with your exfoliating Salux Cloth. I use my Triple Action Exfoliating Cleanser in the shower with my Salux Cloth about twice a week. It works beautifully to keep my skin soft, prevent keratosis pilaris (yes I have that) and age seborrheic keratosis. Maintaining soft body skin takes work for most of us.
For the best results getting soft and smooth body skin apply a glycolic acid body lotion after exfoliating in the shower.
Get everything you need in my Ultra-Fast Triple Action Body Exfoliating Kit.
What is the best way to exfoliate your face without acids?
You can use a simple Exfoliation Facial Sponge with your favorite skin cleanser. You could also use an exfoliating scrub and the best is my Bamboo and Clay Exfoliation scrub made with eco-friendly bamboo beads and a thermal clay that helps clean deeply into pores.
If you want to use an acid combined with an exfoliating scrub the Triple Action Cleanser in my Ultra-Fast Body Smoothing Kit is a favorite daily cleanser for facial exfoliation to keep skin bright and smooth 365 days a year.
Be intentional about the accessories you use while showering and bathing. Careful thought and the right products can make the difference between healthy and soft skin versus a skin infection.
I don't recommend using a loofah. Instead, I recommend a much safer and more effective shower exfoliation routine using a kit like my Ultra-Fast Triple Action Body Smoothing Kit. Click here to learn more.
EDWARD J. BOTTONE, ANTHONY A. PEREZ II, and JAMEL L. OESER, Loofah Sponges as Reservoirs and Vehicles in the Transmission of Potentially Pathogenic Bacterial Species to Human Skin, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY, Feb. 1994, p. 469-472