What Is a Loofah Sponge?

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A loofah is neither animal nor mineral -- it's the dried fruit of a certain gourd plant. The rough, fibrous texture of a dried loofah makes it an excellent beauty tool, facilitating exfoliation when you use it with a body wash or soap in the shower or bath. You'll also find plastic imitations called loofahs on the market, but the term should be reserved for the actual plant-based product.

Origin of the Loofah

The loofah, technically speaking, is not a sponge -- sponges refer to either a class of sea animal or a porous synthetic imitation. Rather, it is a fruit, grown from a tropical vine. Loofah fruits, or gourds, are edible when fresh. When dried, they're used as pot scrubbers as well as beauty aids. To make a loofah scrubber, the gourd is dried and peeled, and the seeds are shaken out. What's left is the rough-textured cellulose fiber, almost like a skeleton.

Using the Loofah

A loofah skeleton can be cut into sections for easy handling. Use it to exfoliate layers of dead cells from the surface of your skin. For best results, add a dab of body wash to your loofah while in the bath or shower, and then scrub up a good lather. Don't use an exfoliating cleanser -- that's overkill -- and don't scrub too hard. Rinse clean and moisturize after you towel off. Don't exfoliate over broken, sunburned or irritated skin, and be extra gentle around your face and bikini area.