Sponge shocker: bacteria laden loofahs could be worsening your rosacea
Date: OCT 2016
Your shower habits may not be leaving you as squeaky clean as you would think. Over the past couple of weeks, articles have been circulating the internet talking of the damage caused to skin as a result of using a loofah. Dermatologists have been crying out for people to ditch their loofahs for years, stating that loofahs are a breeding ground for bacteria and germs which can cause havoc for your skin. Those with skin conditions will find themselves in an even worse position after using a loofah, with experts stressing that those with conditions like rosacea, eczema and psoriasis can worsen their symptoms by using a contaminated loofah or cleansing cloth.
A study conducted by experts at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York back in 1994 highlighted in detail the dangers of using a loofah when washing, "we assessed the role of loofah sponges in supporting the growth of a wide variety of bacterial species...Loofah sponges (and other exfoliatives) can serve as a reservoir and a vehicle for the transmission of potentially pathogenic species to the human skin.1
"We recommend their decontamination with hypochlorite (10%) bleach at regular intervals."
These worries have again come to the forefront of people’s minds, with many fearing what dangers could be lurking in their loofah. Articles have featured in a number of magazines and newspapers over the last few weeks, adding even further to the hysteria.
This isn’t a new revolutionary discovery however. As previously stated, dermatologists and experts in skin conditions have been stressing the importance of ditching loofahs for years. Due to the damp and warm conditions in a shower or bathroom, bacteria can grow at an alarming rate. Every time you then use your loofah you are spreading the same bacteria around your body and your face.
It is not just the risk of bacteria that is the problem for those with skin conditions. Being too rough with your loofah on sensitive skin or skin that is prone to irritation can also cause problems. Although light exfoliation can be good for resurfacing your skin and getting rid of dead skin cells, conditions such as rosacea can be worsened if using rough exfoliating products, increasing their likelihood of a flare up and sensitivity.
The National Rosacea Society of America have some top tips for managing rosacea symptoms, and have stressed what to avoid when carrying out your cleansing routine, "Begin each day with a thorough and gentle facial cleansing. Use a gentle cleanser that is not grainy or abrasive and spread it with your fingertips. Rinse your face with lukewarm water to remove all dirt and soap, and use a thick cotton towel to gently blot the face dry.2
"Never pull, tug, scratch or treat your face harshly. Avoid any rough washcloths, loofahs, brushes or sponges."
Most loofahs should be replaced every 2 months. However, if you’re not ready to lose the loofah just yet, there are ways in which you can properly disinfect your loofah to ensure it stays free from bacteria3:
- Pop in the microwave: to keep it clean, wet your loofah and put it on a medium heat in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Pop in the dishwasher or washing machine: You can also put your loofah in the washing machine or dishwasher to ensure it’s thoroughly cleaned inside and out.
- Store in a dry place: bacteria tends to multiply in damp conditions. Keeping your loofah in a dry place, such as by an open window, will ensure it dries properly.
- Soap, water and vinegar: Cleanse it thoroughly with soap and water before putting it in a bowl of vinegar mixed with water (around 2 tablespoons of vinegar) before letting them dry on the windowsill.
1. Loofah Sponges as Reservoirs and Vehicles in the Transmission of Potentially Pathogenic Bacterial Species to Human Skin, EDWARD J. BOTTONE,* ANTHONY A. PEREZ II, and JAMEL L. OESER, http://jcm.asm.org/content/32/2/469.full
2. National Rosacea Society, https://www.rosacea.org/patients/materials/coping/tripwires.php
3. How to clean a natural loofah, http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-a-Loofah-or-Natural-Sponge
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Last revised: 3rd October 2016
Next review: 3rd October 2019