It looks so innocent, just dangling there from your shower knob, but more likely than not, your loofah contains bacteria. Yes, what you think you should be using to gently exfoliate and keep your skin clean could actually make your skin very unhappy.
Perhaps you’ve read that your loofah contains bacteria before? And maybe you didn’t give AF. But you should: A study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology indicates that loofahs “play host to a variety of bacterial species” and that can cause some pretty nasty infections.
For example, researchers found that using contaminated loofahs can lead to folliculitis, an infection that causes the hair follicles to become inflamed and leaves small red bumps or white-headed pimples in its wake.
Here’s how it happens: Scrubbing your skin with a puff or loofah causes dead skin to slough off, and we know that isn’t all going down the shower drain. Some of it gets caught up in the mesh and when you combine that with the warm, moist conditions of your bathroom, you’ve got yourself an ripe environment for bacteria to breed.
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So what’s a loofah-lovin’ girl to do instead? Joshua Zeichner, a New York City dermatologist, says you should try exfoliating body washes instead—and use your hands. “Look for products that contain nut, rice, or bamboo powders that exfoliate dead cells,” he suggests. “[Or you could] choose a salicylic acid scrub to absorb excess oil and dissolve connections between dead cells.”
If we’re never going to pry that loofah from your hands (hey, old habits die hard), Zeichner says to at least swap in a new one every three to four weeks, and make sure it dries out thoroughly after each use. “When it stays damp or wet, it’s most likely to colonize with bacteria,” he explains. So if your bathroom doesn’t have good ventilation, either ditch the loofah or, if you’re really dedicated to using it, bring it to another room to dry.