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Did you know that acne is not caused by excessive oil and bacteria alone? If your skin is incapable of shedding all its dead cells, they can get lodged inside your pores. When the pores get plugged, the sebum, the oil that usually nourishes your skin and keeps it soft, cannot come to the surface. Opportunistic bacteria which are lying in wait for a moment like this, make a dash for the clogged pore to feast on this oil. Your body's immune system then swings into action and starts a war with the bacteria, causing inflammation or a pimple.
So sometimes, using washing your face multiple times and slathering your skin with antibacterial creams are of little use if your dead cells are not being shed. Many dermatologists, therefore, recommend the use of a gentle exfoliating agent that will dislodge all the dead cells before they could fall into your pores. Chemical agents like glycolic peels and exfoliating scrubs can be quite harsh on your skin. Sometimes, they may end up doing more bad than good.
Acne has always been a big part of my teenage and adult life. I have very oily skin that is strangely also used to flaking, which I believe was causing the acne in the first place. I tried most exfoliating agents from scrubs to brushes with little success. One day, when I was browsing the internet, I came across konjac sponges. Curious to know more about the sponge, I did some research.
What is konjac sponge?
Konjac sponge is a revolutionary skin care product that has been making waves in the beauty industry for quite some time now. The best-kept beauty secret of the Japanese, the sponge is made from the root of Amorphophallus konjac or elephant yam found in Asian countries like Japan, China and Korea. Now, it is also available online on various e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart. That's where I got mine from.
The konjac root powder is mixed with water to form a paste. Calcium hydroxide is added to the paste to thicken it. The mixture is then shaped and heated to remove the water. The solidified "sponge" is then sold as konjac sponge. It is stone hard when dry. But when soaked in water, it becomes springy, soft and spongy.
These sponges are available in a variety of colours, each having an infused substance specialised for a specific skin problem. The white sponge is the plain one, the yellow one has turmeric, the green one is aloe vera or green tea infused, and black one contains charcoal.
(Read: Can charcoal treat acne?)
How to use konjac sponge?
The soft sponge can be used in the same way one uses the washcloth. The wet sponge, although impossibly soft and gentle, is very efficient at removing dead skin cells without hurting the skin in any way. It can be used either on its own or in combination with a cleanser.
First, you need to soak the konjac sponge in water for a few minutes. When it absorbs the water, it becomes springy and soft. Wet your face with water and gently rub the sponge on your face. Focus on your problem areas like the T-zone, jaw line and the cheeks for 2 minutes. Even if you rub it a little hard, your skin won't feel a thing. It is that gentle. Wash it off with water, and you will notice that your skin is visibly softer and smoother than before. Use it once or twice a day.
How does konjac sponge help acne?
Konjac sponge is a great thing to have in your kit if you suffer from acne. Firstly, it sloughs off the dead cells on your face to prevent pore clogging. Secondly, it neutralises bacteria pimple-causing bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus1 and Propionibacterium acnes2. And thirdly, the alkalising effect of the sponge helps you balance the pH of your skin, ensuring that bacteria and other nasty pathogens don't have a field day on your skin.
My experience using the konjac sponge
I haven't been using the sponge for a very long time, but I saw a stark difference in my skin texture after only a few uses. My skin tone became more even, and I saw lesser breakouts, even on my problem areas. It requires very little maintenance and comes at a fraction of what electric facial cleansing devices cost. Since it is organic, it is biodegradable and won't hurt the environment (in case you care, the exfoliating micro beads in your facial scrub are contaminating the sea3).
However, all good things come to an end, and konjac sponge is no different. Since it is organic, the shelf life of the konjac sponge is limited. You need to replace your sponge after every 2-3 months. But a decent quality sponge costs only Rs 290 on Amazon, a quarter of what you would spend on a facial every month. So you won't feel the pinch.
This is the best exfoliating product I have ever tried, and trust me, I have tried a lot of those. It's no surprise that konjac sponges are relatively unknown in the beauty world. When you have an economical, efficient and environment-friendly skin care product, who would visit the beauty clinics for expensive treatments.
1.Du X, Yang L, Ye X, Li B. Antibacterial activity of konjac glucomannan/chitosan blend films and their irradiation-modified counterparts.Carbohydr Polym. 2013 Feb 15;92(2):1302-7. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2012.10.006.
Epub 2012 Oct 12. PubMed PMID: 23399158.
2.Al-Ghazzewi FH, Tester RF. Effect of konjac glucomannan hydrolysates and probiotics on the growth of the skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes in vitro. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2010 Apr;32(2):139-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2009.00555.x. Epub 2009 Oct 10. PubMed PMID: 19818083.
3.Cheung PK, Fok L. Evidence of microbeads from personal care product contaminating the sea. Mar Pollut Bull. 2016 Aug 15;109(1):582-5. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.05.046. Epub 2016 May 27. PubMed PMID: 27237038
Image source: Shutterstock
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