When most of us think about our time in the shower, we envision an oasis where we can get some peace and quiet to balance out our hectic day. To de-stress, some people enjoy massage showerheads or fragrant shampoo and soap, while others love to exfoliate their skin with a loofah or bath pouf. However, this common shower accessory is often a colorful pouf of plastic. With all of the plastic waste building up in our oceans and landfills, just thinking about your loofah can kill the calm you were craving in the shower.
Loofahs vs. Poufs
Although the term loofah is commonly used to describe the popular shower accessory that we use to lather ourselves up and exfoliate our skin, there is actually a difference between a loofah and a bath pouf.
The pouf is made of colorful synthetic materials that are gathered into looped sections of mesh to create a fluffy ball. It has a lot of surface area where cleanser and water can mix together to create suds while bathing. Poufs provide some exfoliation but are much gentler than loofahs.
The problem with bath poufs when it comes to the environment is two-fold. First, these plastic products end up getting thrown away, which means they will ultimately sit for hundreds or even thousands of years in a landfill. Or worse, they could end up in a waterway like the ocean. Second, the plastic material that they are made from can be harmful to our health. The microfibers from the plastic get washed down the drain every time we use it and enter the local water source. Some of the materials used to make poufs may contain cancer-causing ingredients, which can turn up both on our bodies and in our drinking water.
On the other hand, genuine loofahs are made from natural materials, not plastic. They come from the fruit of the tropical Luffa aegyptiaca plant, also known as the sponge gourd or Egyptian cucumber. They are deep green dry gourds that contain a large network of fibers in a tubular pattern inside a thick outer skin and basically look like a giant cucumber. The luffa plant originated in India and is also grown commercially in China, Korea, Japan, and Central America. The inside part of the plant that we use to bathe—the loofah—has a rougher texture than a pouf, providing more exfoliation. They are typically off-white in color and rough to the touch.
If you don’t want to ruin your Zen moment in the shower, you can try some simple alternatives to traditional plastic bath poufs.
Choose a natural loofah. Skip the plastic and choose a natural loofah made from the luffa plant. These plants can be re-grown, making them especially sustainable. The best part is that they can be composted when you are done using them. Just search for natural loofahs on Amazon and you’ll be able to find plenty of reputable choices.
Grow your own. Believe it or not, you can grow your own loofah in your garden. Luffa gourds are a cousin to squashes, cucumbers, and melons. Although a tropical plant, they can be grown throughout the United States during warm weather. According to Good Housekeeping, luffas grow well in full sun and moist soil. They can reach up to 30 feet and have long, winding vines, so you’ll need a large space to grow them. You can purchase luffa seeds online or try your local nursery or garden center.
Try a konjac sponge. Another natural exfoliator option is the konjac sponge. It is made from the konjac root, a porous root vegetable that grows in Asia. They are known to be very gentle and can even be used on sensitive skin. They come in a variety of colors depending on their ingredients. Dark gray sponges contain charcoal, green ones have green tea or green clay in them, and white means they contain Kaolin clay. They are 100 percent biodegradable and can be composted.
Look for recycled. If you prefer the feel of the plastic pouf, then purchase ones made of 100 percent recycled plastic netting. Just be sure to always read the label and choose reliable brands. One example is the EcoPouf, which is made from recycled materials and can also be recycled after you are finished using it. The company recommends that you just pop off the rope and toss it into your recycling bin.
Caring for Your Loofah or Pouf
When we scrub our skin with either a natural loofah or 100 percent recycled synthetic pouf, dead skin falls off and gets caught in the fibrous material or mesh netting. Combine this with the warm, moist conditions of your bathroom and now there is a chance that bacteria can form. If not cleaned and cared for properly, you can end up with a rash or even a staph infection.
Dermatology experts and manufacturers recommend that loofahs and poufs be discarded after 2-3 months. If you notice a smell, mold growth, or change in color before that time frame, then throw it out.
Here are some tips to keep your loofah or pouf clean and lasting as long as possible:
- Rinse thoroughly with soap and water after each use.
- Keep it out to dry completely, but not in your warm, moist, humid bathroom. To reduce the humidity in your bathroom, open a window.
- Do not store in an enclosed area like a drawer. It needs to air out to dry properly.
Whether you choose a natural loofah, a konjac sponge, or even a recycled pouf, choose a loofah option that is best for your skin and for the environment.