The Real Dirt on Bath Sponges ( What Kind You Should Use!)
Most of us use some kind of tool to assist us in getting an exfoliating, satisfying clean when we bathe and shower. For the purposes of this article, however, let’s put them all into two groups: natural and synthetic. There may be some pros and cons to consider before deciding which one should we be including in our bath and shower protocol. So let’s take a look!
Sea Sponges are a popular choice for the bath and shower for two main reasons. The first is that they are, well, natural, and to some people, this means more healthy. Sea sponges are in fact said to contain enzymes that inhibit the growth of some kinds of bacteria.(1) However, it is unclear if this actually benefits you in the shower to any significant degree. Some people also complain that the texture of sea sponges, amazing as they are at absorbing high volumes of water, are too soft and mushy to provide satisfactory exfoliation. Furthermore, there is some concern with sea sponges about sustainability and harvesting practices; if they are cut too close to the “foot” of the animal, they may die, though if properly done they will grow again normally. Some sponges are even farmed, ostensibly reducing the environmental impact.
Loofahs are another natural option for you bath and shower ritual. Unlike the sea sponges, loofahs are made from plants, not animals. They are large gourds that grow on vines, and are commonly eaten in Asian countries, chiefly as an ingredient in soups. They are dried out in the sun, and the fibrous “skeleton” of the gourd. Using loofahs instead of sea sponges seems like a perfect option for those seeking natural products without harming animals, but with loofahs there is one big catch, unfortunately – bacteria! We’ve all heard or read about the horrors that
The most common synthetic bath and shower accessory we use is the …err, mesh ball thingy. We have many names for them (what do YOU call it – a ball, sponge, loofah/luffa, pouf, puff, poof, scrubber, scrubbie, scrunchie? Tell us here which name you use, and get registered for free giveaways!) I personally have always called it a shower ball, but recently I’ve become a bit more descriptive and usually refer to it as a mesh bath and shower sponge. Is it a sponge technically? No, and it doesn’t absorb water the way a real, natural sea sponge does, but this seems to be the most popular term out there from what I can see, along with loofah, which it also is technically NOT.
The advantages of synthetic sponges, loofahs and exfoliating poufs are several. First, they give your skin a better scrub than the natural sea sponges, and many bathers insist on getting some exfoliation going on in the shower. Now natural loofahs are also known for their exfoliating ability, but the synthetic mesh bath sponges tend to harbor fewer bacteria than their gourdy cousins, which is the second advantage they bring. Many shower sponges are treated with some form of antimicrobial agent to keep them bacteria free, but some of the chemical additives, like triclosan, are suspected to be harmful human health. Look for products infused with activated charcoal (sometimes called activated carbon) instead, as this is a natural antimicrobial and detoxifying agent that helps instead of hurts your health. You can read more about it here.
These mesh shower sponges are my personal choice, mainly because I like the texture of them on my skin, exfoliating, but not too abrasive (as I find some natural loofahs to be). Also, they can be cleaned more easily and thus used longer than loofahs, they hold shower gel well to give me a good lather
Finally, you should replace your bath or shower time buddies once a month. In the meantime, there are some easy steps to take care of your mesh bath and shower sponge / pouf / loofah that will keep bacteria at bay and extend the lifespan and effectiveness of your sponge.
I hope you’ve found this rundown useful. Leave some feedback about your favorite bath and shower tools, as well as any tips you want to pass along!