Let’s talk about that year-old loofah you have hanging in your shower.
If you use a loofah until it’s literally falling apart, dermatologists want you to rethink that method. It turns out, these brightly colored puffs are a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens. So the question is, how often do you need to replace your shower loofah?
You might not like the answer.
Here’s the thing: Loofahs have endless nooks and crannies, which make them great for making suds from your bar of soap. However, it also makes your loofah great at housing communities of pathogens. Even worse, loofahs hold in moisture in all those crevices, and they hang around in your humid bathroom. Bacteria and fungi love warm, humid environments, so your wet loofah is the perfect place to breed.
Then, you use that germy loofah to clean your skin. See the problem here? Loofahs may be especially dangerous if your skin has cuts, putting you at a greater risk of infection. Your risk is also greater right after shaving, since that essentially creates micro-cuts all over the skin.
HealthiNation asked dermatologists how often you should replace your shower loofah, and their answers were grim and blunt: “I think [shower loofahs] are great for showering and gentle skin exfoliation, but only if used once and then thrown away,” says Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, dermatologist and editor at DermBoard.”If you use it repeatedly, you will smear your old dirt plus new bacteria and fungi on your skin.”
Of course, single-use items are not the most environmentally friendly option. Using a new shower loofah multiple times a week would greatly increase your contributions to landfills. Is it time to give up the loofah altogether?
“I do not recommend ever using a loofah as the constant moisture and high surface area promote bacterial growth,” says Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in Scottsdale, AZ, and Park City, UT. “I have seen terrible acne breakouts that don’t respond to typical treatments because of aggressive loofah use."
Not only are loofahs packed with pathogens, but loofahs and washcloths can also be harsh on sensitive skin. You may especially notice the irritation if you already suffer from dry skin, acne, eczema, or psoriasis—all of which may be worsened by harsh exfoliation by loofahs, washcloths, and other scrubbers.
What’s the alternative? Good news: It’s free. Derms actually recommend just sudsing up with your own hands instead. It helps you avoid fabrics that harbor pathogens, as well as the harsh irritation caused by exfoliators. (Here are more skincare mistakes you make in the shower.)
Your shower is the place to get clean, so don’t let your loofah be a host to the germs you wanna ghost.
8 ways to stop baths and showers from worsening your psoriasis. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on March 11, 2022 at https://www.aad.org/baths-showers.)
Bottone EJ, Perez AA, Oeser JL. Loofah sponges as reservoirs and vehicles in the transmission of potentially pathogenic bacterial species to human skin. J Clin Microbiol. 1994 Feb;32(2):469-72.