Post updated 6/25/16.
Everyone has an inner conflict. Here’s (one of) mine: I love getting my skin very, very clean, but I hate all the cleansers that feel like they actually get that job done.
If you want healthy skin, you need clean skin. Left on for too long, dirt, oil, dead skin, sunscreen, and makeup can all clog pores and cause breakouts, and neglecting to cleanse your skin at night wastes an opportunity to treat it with the products that can improve it. Also, dirty skin feels gross.
But typical deep cleansers are harsh, stripping, and alkaline. They remove dirt and oil, yeah, but they also tear up your skin’s natural moisture barrier. That can lead to dehydrated skin, increased surface oiliness, and–you guessed it–breakouts. Here’s a tip: If your cleanser makes your skin feel squeaky, dry, tight, or itchy, it’s time to find a gentler one. Problem is, many gentle cleansers hardly foam up at all, leading to an unsatisfactory cleansing experience. I dislike unsatisfactory cleansing experiences.
That’s where the mighty little konjac sponge comes in.
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What is a konjac sponge?
Made from the fibers of the konnyaku or konjac potato, a high-altitude tuber native to Asia, konjac sponges originated in Japan. They’re sold in a variety of shapes, including circular, teardrop, and my favorite, the heart shape, usually with a string attached so that you can hang them up to dry between uses. Some konjac sponges come pre-moistened, while others are dehydrated before packaging and require rehydration before the first use. Just pop a dry one in a cup of water or hold it under the tap for a while to rehydrate it.
Konjac sponges come in many colors, usually corresponding to skin-friendly additives, like charcoal for deep cleansing or green tea to reduce irritation and inflammation. To be honest, I don’t really pay attention to the additives. They’ll be washed out of the sponge after a few uses, so they don’t make much of a difference. They do add a little variety, though. That’s a good thing for those of us who get bored of things easily.
No, when it comes to konjac sponges, I’m only interested in one thing. A perfect cleanse!
What do konjac sponges do?
A few squeezes of a wet konjac sponge will produce a mountain of satisfying lather out of any foaming cleanser.
The soft, squishy sponge helps thoroughly clean skin both by getting into the little nooks and crannies and by sweeping away dead skin cells. But if that makes you think of an old-school Buf Puf (holy crap they still make those), don’t worry. Konjac sponges are nothing like Buf Pufs. (And if you don’t know what a Buf Puf is, shut up, you’re going to make me feel old.) The surface of a konjac sponge is slippery and ever so slightly nubbly rather than abrasive. They’re textured enough to sweep away flakes but not at all scrubby. I’ve been cleansing with konjac sponges twice a day for months now with no irritation whatsoever.
In short, konjac sponges turn your daily foaming cleanse into a deep purifying ritual that’ll leave your face clean and smooth, without obliterating the moisture barrier that healthy skin needs. They’re gentle enough for babies and little kids. My four-year-old son loves them. We clean his face with plain water and his very own heart-shaped konjac sponge every night. (“Mommy, heart shapes mean that I love you.”)
How do I use a konjac sponge?
Wet your face, then your konjac sponge. Pump a small amount (seriously–you don’t need more than a tiny dab) onto the konjac sponge and squeeze it a few times to build lather. Gently massage sponge over your face. Konjac sponges are even soft enough to use on your eye area to remove the last traces of stubborn eye makeup. Rinse. Look! Sparkly clean, baby soft skin!
How do I keep my konjac sponge clean?
Konjac sponges have natural antimicrobial properties and are easy to keep clean. After each use, give yours a few squeezes under warm running water to flush out leftover cleanser, then flatten the sponge between your palms to expel water. Don’t wring or twist a konjac sponge, as doing so can tear the fibers and shorten your sponge’s lifespan. Hang to dry. Replace konjac sponges after one to three months of use, sooner if they become misshapen or discolored. I actually replace mine at the beginning of every month, since having a set date helps me remember to do it.
Where can I buy konjac sponges, and how much do they cost?
If you have an Asian supermarket in your area, you’ll probably find at least a few konjac sponge options in the skincare aisle. They may be labeled as cleansing puffs or jelly puffs. Otherwise, hop online, and you’ll have a konjac sponge, or three, or five, headed to your door in no time, no matter how far from Asia (or Asian supermarkets) you live.
Konjac sponges are available at a wide range of price points. I’ve seen them for less than $2 USD; I’ve seen them for $15 (at Sephora, naturally, and I see absolutely no way any konjac sponge could justify that price). Missha sells theirs as Konjac Cleansing Puffs for $5 apiece. Korean cosmetics websites like TesterKorea and RoseRoseShop offer a few options for just a couple bucks a pop. You can buy them on eBay if that’s your thing. In my opinion, anything up to $5 is reasonable, and anything over $5 is unnecessary.
I get mine on Amazon. Most recently, I got a three-pack of heart-shaped konjac sponges–one plain, one in black charcoal, and one in green tea–made by The Beauty Shelf. I’m really happy with the price and with what I got, because look!
I love the attention to detail and the fact that despite all this fancy, they’re still only $15 for 3.
Gentle cleanser recommendations
Have I gotten you all lathered up (har, har) about cleansing with a konjac sponge? Wait up! You need to get your hands on a gentle cleanser first, because if your cleanser is too harsh, even the squishiest and softest of konjac sponges won’t help you. Here are a couple of quick cleanser recommendations, all tried, pH-tested, and approved by me. Test a few out–remember, YMMV–and find one that really works for you.
Mild, low pH foaming cleansers available in U.S. drugstores
- CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser (~$9)
- Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser (~$9)
- Hada Labo Tokyo Hydrating Facial Cleanser (~$11, Walgreens)
My favorite mild, low pH Japanese and Korean foaming cleansers (list updated 6/25/16)
- Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam (Amazon Prime*)
- COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (Full review | RRS | Jolse | Amazon Prime*)
Now that you’ve got the tools and knowledge for a perfect cleanse, what are you waiting for? Get cleansing! But gently. GENTLY!!!!!
Have you tried a konjac sponge yet? What did you think of it?