Here is why you shouldn’t use a loofah, according to experts (2024)

It might be time to trade in your standard synthetic or natural loofah for a new alternative — preferably one that doesn’t harbor loads of bacteria, according to dermatologists.

Although loofahs can help gentlyexfoliate your skinand provide a rich lather when paired with yourbody wash, there are some underlying risks. “In general, loofahs are not necessary to use in the shower and may come with associated risks [like] microtraumas on the skin and, if not properly cared for or replaced, can lead to the risk of mold or bacteria,” saysDr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery.

To help you decide which exfoliating and cleansing products to use instead, I spoke to board-certified dermatologists about safer alternatives.

SKIP AHEAD The best loofah alternatives | What can you use instead of a loofah? | What to know about your loofah

How I picked the best loofah alternatives

Our dermatologists recommend using the following loofah alternatives, all of which are easier to clean and will generally harbor less bacteria than your typical loofah.

  • Silicone scrub: Paired with your everyday body wash, these scrubs use silicone bristles to remove dead skin, dirt, excess oil and more from the skin, according to experts.
  • Washcloth: Washcloths can be a great option for all skin types, including sensitive skin, since they are less abrasive than loofahs and reduce the chance of microtears on the skin.
  • Exfoliating gloves: These textured gloves provide a deeper exfoliation than your standard loofah and are great for targeting rough areas like elbows and knees, according to our experts.
  • Dry brush: These brushes have dense bristles that can help exfoliate your skin before you get in the shower, says Dr. Rachel Westbay, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. Like exfoliating gloves, dry brushes are especially good to use on dry and rough areas of the body, experts told me.



selectYour body wash could be drying out your skin

The best loofah alternatives

Although your hands are the safest option when it comes to cleansing your skin in the shower, our experts recommend the following alternatives to help clean and exfoliate.

Silicone Body Scrubber Loofah

If you’re looking to replace your loofah, consider this silicone body scrub. “[It’s] both easy to use and easy to clean, helping to provide a lather while still being gentle on the skin,” says Garshick. One side of the scrub has long silicone bristles, while the other side can be used to gently massage and cleanse the skin, according to the brand. This pack contains three scrubs, so you can replace them when needed, says Garshick. Generally, silicone scrubs will last around 6 months or longer before needing to be replaced, according to experts.

Pai Skincare Twin Flyer Cloths

This washcloth is suitable for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin, according to the brand. The dual-sided cloth, made of 100% cotton, has a muslin side to gently exfoliate the skin, while the other side is made of terry flannel to help cleanse the skin, according to the brand. This pack of three washcloths has a 4.8-star average rating from over 200 reviews at Pai Skincare and can be washed and reused time and time again, according to the brand.

Popchose Dry Brushing Body Brush

Unlike a loofah, which you typically use while you’re bathing, dry brushes are an alternative to use before you step foot in the shower. This brush, which has a 4.7-star average rating from 17,400 reviews, uses natural boar bristles to help exfoliate the skin, and it even has a cotton strap to help maintain a steady grip as you work the dry brush across your body, according to the brand.

Earth Therapeutics Exfoliating Hydro Gloves

If you want to exfoliate rough areas of the body like your feet or elbows, consider using these gloves that earned a 4.5-star average rating from over 1,200 reviews on Amazon. They’re made of textured nylon to remove dead skin cells and dirt, according to Earth Therapeutics. After using the gloves in the shower, be sure to rinse them out, remove excess water and hang dry. You should replace them every three months, according to the brand.

Elemis Body Detox Skin Brush

Dermatologists recommend this option because of its soft bristles, detachable handle and hand strap, which makes it easy to focus on specific areas of the body and target hard-to-reach spots, according to experts in our guide to dry brushing. To prevent bacteria from accumulating and growing on the brush, store it in a dry place (not in the bath or shower) and use the brush without any product on it, according to the brand.



selectWhen to use a soap-free body wash

What can you use instead of a loofah?

Deciding which product to use in the shower is based on your personal preference. However, there are some factors that our experts recommend considering, like your skin type and how easy each product is to clean.


Most dermatologists recommend simply using your hands to lather your body wash and exfoliate because it’s hygienic and isn’t as likely to cause injury to the skin, according to Westbay.

“Using clean hands to wash your body is the most affordable, accessible and gentle option to wash the body,” says Garshick. “To get the benefits of exfoliation, it is possible to use an exfoliating cleanser.”

If you want to up your exfoliating game, consider using a body wash with chemical exfoliants like gentle alpha hydroxy acids, or a physical exfoliant like a scrub and apply it gently with your hands, says Westbay.

Silicone scrubs

Silicone scrubs are gentle enough for sensitive skin and are ideal for cleansing without being harsh or abrasive, according to Garshick. This type of bath product is durable and doesn’t trap bacteria or mold, making it more hygienic and easier to clean. Since it doesn’t harbor bacteria, it’s especially good for those with dry or sensitive skin, says Garshick.


If you have sensitive skin, consider using a washcloth since it cleans the skin without being too harsh or abrasive, according to Garshick. “A washcloth can help apply the body wash to the skin,” says Garshick. However, it’s best to avoid combining an exfoliating wash or scrub with a washcloth because it may be too rough for the skin, she says.

Like loofahs, washcloths can still harbor bacteria, though they tend to be easier to clean, says Garshick. You should clean your washcloths regularly (two to three times a week or after each use if visibly dirty) and should be thrown out after some time. If you maintain and clean your washcloth frequently, they can last up to two years.

Exfoliating gloves

Exfoliating gloves may be more exfoliating compared to loofahs, especially on thickened, rough areas of skin like knees, elbows and feet, says Westbay. However, because they are rougher on the skin, exfoliating gloves can cause microtears, according to our experts.

In terms of how it compares hygienically, exfoliating gloves are reusable, easier to clean and accumulate less bacteria compared to loofahs, according to Westbay.

Dry brush

If you have oily skin, consider using a dry brush on your body since it can help remove any buildup of dead skin and unclog pores, according to our experts. However, keep in mind that a dry brush can be more abrasive on the skin when compared to loofahs, says Garshick.

“I would consider them, overall, to be a higher risk of microinjury to the skin but a lower risk of microbial contamination,” says Westbay. “A dry brush accumulates bacteria less easily than a loofah, but that is not to say that using one hygienically and following proper cleaning is not necessary.”



selectHow to pick the best body wash for your skin type

What to know about your loofah

If you do decide to continue using your loofah, here are a few things to remember, according to Garshick.

  • Proper use and cleaning. In order to prevent microbial growth, it is essential to regularly clean and replace your loofah. The frequency will depend on the type of loofah — for example, a natural loofah (which refers to ones that are made up of natural fibers, which may be derived from the luffa aegyptiaca plant) should be replaced every three to four weeks, while your standard plastic one can last for up to three months.
  • Don’t be rough with it. While it may be tempting to achieve a deep clean by using a rough exfoliating product like your loofah to get dead skin and dirt off, it’s best to be gentle when using it on your skin to avoid any microtears or injury.
  • Be aware of your skin type. Although loofahs may seem like a universal product suitable for all skin types, some individuals need to be extra cautious if they want to continue using one. Those with dry or sensitive skin should be especially cautious not to rub too vigorously or apply too much pressure to minimize any potential trauma to the skin.
  • Check the material of your loofah. It is best to look for loofahs made of antimicrobial materials to reduce the potential of bacterial overgrowth. Consider antimicrobial options made of natural sea sponge or silicone material, according to our experts.
Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Marisa Garshick is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York and New Jersey. Her areas of expertise include pediatric and adult dermatology and cosmetic dermatology.
  • Dr. Rachel Westbay is a board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical in New York City. Her areas of expertise include general and cosmetic dermatology, like injectables and other non-invasive procedures.
Why trust NBC Select?

I am an associate reporter at NBC Select covering beauty, including how to build a skin care routine, exfoliating 101 and blackhead treatments. For this piece, I interviewed dermatologists and researched many loofah alternatives on the market. I also recommended products the dermatologists shared with me and that align with their shopping guidance.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Bianca Alvarez

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter at NBC Select.

Here is why you shouldn’t use a loofah, according to experts (2024)
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