If 2013 was the year of the alphabet cream (BB, CC, and their ilk), then the 2014 Asian import of choice has got to be the konjac sponge. Wondering what the hell a konjac sponge is? Well, stay tuned, because we're about to rock your world. .
Made from the root of the konjac plant, these squishy sponges are used in your cleansing routine to help you more effectively dislodge, dirt, oil, and blackheads. "Konjac sponges are made from a natural fiber that absorbs a lot of water, so it has a very unique texture, kind of like a thick piece of rubbery felt," explains Dr. Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. "It has more texture than a dish sponge, but it's softer than a loofah and has a finer texture than a washcloth, so it's safe to use on your face. Your skin will feel very soft and smooth, and makeup will go on better."
While Americans are loyal users of washcloths, the concept of using a sponge to cleanse is a little hard for some to accept. But, once you get over the "I'm washing my face like I wash my dishes" vibe, you'll find yourself hooked on this weird little squisher. "Because of its bouncy, rubbery texture, it makes a rich lather using less cleanser than you'd normally need with a washcloth," says Dr. Wu. "It dries quickly in between uses to prevent bacteria or mold from building up in it, whereas a washcloth might stay damp in between uses." And, since you replace them monthly, there's no danger of using a dirty, moldy germ-infested sponge on your visage.
Dr. Wu says she recommends konjac cleansing for anyone with acne or clogged pores because the fibers help unclog those plugged pores in a way that a washcloth or just your hands can't. She also likes it for those with sun-damaged skin because it can help gently slough off those dull, dry flakes. If you're a hardcore SPF wearer, konjacs can also remove those stubborn, water-resistant sunscreens that won't come off with cleanser alone.
Ready to add one to your routine, but not sure exactly how to do it? Dr. Wu has you covered: The first step is to soak your sponge in warm water for at least five minutes. "Konjac sponges are very hard when they are dry, so you must wait until it softens so you don't injure your skin," she warns. Splash your face with warm water, then squeeze a few drops of cleanser directly onto the sponge, says Dr. Wu. Massage the sponge in circular motions, concentrating on those areas that have blackheads or dry patches.
You want to maintain a rich foaming lather while you are massaging, notes Dr. Wu, so add more cleanser if your lather is looking weak. She cautions to avoid those areas with healing pimples, infections (like cold sores), or abrasions and be sure not to press too hard or you could scratch your skin.
Once you've finished cleansing, rinse the sponge with warm water, squeeze out the excess water, and let your sponge air dry. Dr. Wu likes daily usage, but do what feels best for your skin — if daily makes your skin feel too raw, drop down to two or three time a week. If you are using a retinoid or other medicated cream, Dr. Wu says it's in your best interest to check with your derm first before trying this out.