Skin & Tonics : A Skincare Blog

Skincare guides & product reviews for beauty enthusiasts & ingredient connoisseurs

Review: The Japanese Konjac Sponge

It took me a long time to hop on the konjac sponge train, having just used one for the first time a little over 6 weeks ago, but I’m glad I got on board. I’ve seen konjac sponges everywhere over the past year, and now I get why they’ve taken off. I think I may have found a new favorite manual exfoliator, and its name is The Japanese Konjac Sponge. If you’re ready to hop on board the konjac sponge train too (or if you’ve been camping out in the dining car waiting for the rest of us to show up), stay tuned, because there’s a giveaway at the end of this post.

The Japanese Konjac Sponge

I’ve always had kind of a touch-and-go relationship with manual exfoliation. If given a choice between chemical and manual exfoliation, I’d choose chemical every time. Luckily, I don’t have to choose, and I’m glad because as much as I wish I didn’t, I personally need both. I’m not an excessive exfoliator – in fact, I actively avoid over-exfoliation at all costs. It’s one of the absolute worst things I can do to my skin, not only because it causes dryness and inflammation as a result of compromising my skin’s protective barrier, but over-exfoliating also generally results in brutal acne breakouts for me.

The Japanese Konjac Sponge

My exfoliation needs break down like this: I like my BHA and occasional AHA for keeping acne away and my complexion bright, but I like a light manual exfoliation session for getting rid of occasional surface flakes. It’s annoyingly difficult for me to find manual exfoliation methods that are gentle enough for me to use on a regular basis – even muslin cloths can occasionally give me raw spots. This is what makes the konjac sponge so special.

What is it?

Konjac sponges are facial cleaning sponges designed to cleanse and gently exfoliate the skin. When wet, they have a bouncy, spongy, gel-like texture with a slightly textured surface. Squeezing one almost feels like squeezing one of those special wrist wrests made to go in front of the keyboard.

Thankfully, these sponges aren’t made from wrist rest gel – they are made from the naturally antimicrobial fiber of the konjac plant, and come in either wet or dry varieties. Wet varieties are already spongy as soon as they come out of the packaging. They are pre-moistened during the packaging process in a liquid that contains preservatives and antibacterial ingredients. The dry konjac sponges come hard and dry, and need to be soaked in warm water before using. One they’ve been soaked through with warm water, they have the same, gel-like, spongy goodness as a wet-packed sponge. Of the two varieties, the dry konjac sponges have a much longer shelf life. Because they’re dry, they can be stored for up to 3 years before using, while wet konjac sponges are prone to mildew after a certain point.

Bamboo Charcoal Puff by The Japanese Konjac Sponge

The Japanese Konjac Sponge ($11.50) is a brand of dry konjac sponge made entirely in Japan – and when I say entirely, I mean that the konjac ingredients are farmed there in addition to the sponges themselves being handmade there. It’s made from 100% plant fiber and contains minerals as well as antioxidants, which are said to nourish and smooth the skin. I have my reservations about the minerals and antioxidants actually nourishing my skin – it seems like any antioxidants present in the sponge would break down pretty quickly after a couple of uses, and even if they didn’t, I’m fairly certain they’d just wash down the drain.

The instructions indicate that The Japanese Konjac Sponge lasts from 4 to 6 weeks – I throw mine out at 4 weeks to be on the safe side.

Performance

Appearance
The Japanese Konjac Sponge is approximately the size of my palm when it comes out of the package – about 3 inches/8 cm. in diameter. The texture of the dry sponge is hard and rough like a pumice stone – it feels a lot like the world’s lightest rock. It has a dome shaped top and a slightly concave bottom.

The Japanese Konjac Sponge

Bamboo Charcoal Puff , brand new and never before seen water. It feels almost like a lightweight pumice stone. When wet, it’s soft, squishy, and gel-like.

top

Once it’s been watered, The Japanese Konjac Sponge grows to approximately 4 inches /10 cm. in diameter, and the bottom flattens out. The surface of the wet sponge is much smoother, but still slightly textured, and feels dense and squishy, like the previously mentioned wrist rest gel.

The color of the sponge varies, depending on which “flavor” you choose. The Japanese Konjac Sponge comes in a lot of varieties, including Pure White, Cherry Blossom (pink), Bamboo Charcoal (black), Green Tea (green), Citrus Fruit (yellow), and Pure Mint (blue).

All sponges come with a string attached so it can be hung up to dry when not in use.

Application
It takes around 10-15 minutes for water to saturate the sponge when it’s being soaked for the first time. After initial use, it only takes a couple of minutes for water to soak all the way through the sponge. The method most people like to use is to drop the konjac sponge into a container of warm water for a few minutes and then do something else while they wait. I am always in the shower when I’m using my Japanese Konjac Sponge, so my method is to hold the sponge in the water stream until it’s soaked through. This approach takes about 2 or 3 minutes, which gives me ample time to obsessively squeeze the sponge over and over again to see if it’s soft yet, as well as reflect on all the embarrassing things I might have said earlier in the day. If you have the option, choose to soak the sponge in a container of warm water.

Bamboo Charcoal Puff by The Japanese Konjac Sponge

One the sponge was wet, I smoothed a gentle cleanser over my face with my hands, then gently massaged my face with the sponge. I took care not to press too hard to avoid over-exfoliation, and found it very easy to use the sponge with a light hand (as opposed to something like a spin brush or a Clarisonic). Once I’d lightly massaged my whole face with the sponge, I rinsed my face and sponge, then hung the sponge up to dry.

It’s worth noting that a lot of people prefer to use the konjac sponge without any cleanser, so that’s certainly an option.

Between uses, the sponge dries pretty thoroughly on the outside, but never fully hardens on the inside, making it less time consuming to reconstitute when I’m ready to use it again.

Smell
So far I’ve used both the Green Tea Puff and Bamboo Charcoal Puff varieties of The Japanese Konjac Sponge, and found that neither of them smell like much of anything.

Results
Every evening for the first 4 weeks, I used the Green Tea Japanese Konjac Sponge, which is said to be for all skin types, reduce inflammation, prevent acne, and keep skin clean. I really liked this sponge – I didn’t have any inflammation during the 4 weeks when I was using this sponge, so I can’t speak to its anti-inflammatory claims. I’m also still gloriously acne-free at the moment, so as far as preventing acne goes – I think it may be a small contributor, but I’d be shocked if this was anyone’s solo acne miracle. What this sponge does do well is thoroughly clean my face, and get rid of any dry skin flakes without roughing up my moisture barrier.

Bamboo Charcoal Puff by The Japanese Konjac Sponge

Dry vs. Wet
Left: Dry, never-before-used Bamboo Charcoal konjac sponge
Right: Fully water-saturated Green Tea konjac sponge

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using the Bamboo Charcoal sponge, which is said to be for sensitive, oily, and acne prone skin, and promises to remove blackheads, dirt, and oil. I don’t have oily or sensitive skin, but I chose this one specifically because it said it was good for sensitive skin. I was very curious before I started using the Bamboo Charcoal konjac sponge about whether or not I would be able to tell the difference. The primary difference seems to be the texture – this Bamboo Charcoal sponge is slightly more abrasive than the Green Tea variety. I have to be a little gentler with this sponge. I works very well, but my sensitive skin prefers the gentler texture of the Green Tea sponge. Those who need the extra help or prefer a slightly heavier duty exfoliating experience will love the Bamboo Charcoal.

Overall, I’m sold on konjac sponges. The Japanese Konjac Sponge made me a convert, though in the future, I’ll stick with the softer varieties such as Green Tea.

Pros:
– Removes dry skin flakes
– Does not damage skin’s protective barrier
– Thoroughly cleansing
– Easy to use

Cons:
– A few inflated claims, such as supplying antioxidants and minerals

Skin & Tonics Rating:

Performance: 4/5 – These sponges work really well to exfoliate and clean without damaging skin. They would have received a 5 if there weren’t other hard-to-prove claims made.

Packaging: 4/5 – It comes sealed in plastic and packed in a box. The string for hanging it to dry is handy. I’d say I wished it came with a storage container, but it really needs to be air-dried after each use, so there’s really no point. I just like things to have a container, especially when those things go on my face.

Ingredients: 4/5 – It’s just konjac fiber, plus whatever dash of plant extracts or charcoal is needed to make each variety.

Overall: 4/5

Where to Buy

The Japanese Konjac Sponge can be purchased on the company’s website for $11.50 each. The sponges are made in Japan, but they ship from California.

If you’d like a chance to win Japanese Konjac Sponge of your own, then today is your lucky day! I’m giving away a Japanese Konjac Sponge to three lucky winners – just follow the steps in the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

I have one Pure White Puff, one Citrus Fruit Puff, and one Bamboo Charcoal Sponge (rectangle instead of round) to give away. I’ll be choosing a winner at 1pm on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The winner will be notified by email, and announced on the S&T Facebook page. Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

This article features a press sample that was sent to me for my unbiased consideration. Any opinion expressed is 100% my own. For more information about my review policies, see my full disclosure.

This prize for this giveaway has been supplied by Elova Essence, US distributer of The Japanese Konjac Sponge. 

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19 comments onReview: The Japanese Konjac Sponge

  1. I made a twitter just to follow you 😛

    This is very high on my to-buy list now that I’ve been seeing these in western stores too, so I’m quite excited to try one of these. That’s crazy how it doesn’t dry in the center really–in humid climates I wonder if it molds in the center. O.O
    Samplehime recently posted…Review: Innisfree Glossy Lip Lacquer + Swatches! (2, 3, 4, 5, 9)My Profile

    • Kerry

      Thanks, Tiffany! I hope you’ll start tweeting now that you have an account!

      I’m also curious about how this sponge holds up in humid climates. I haven’t had any issues with my sponge, but the air in my house is dry as a bone.

  2. I’ve seen many Korean brands (Innisfree, Etude House, etc.) sell these but I’ve never heard of this brand before. It’s definitely on the more expensive side but perhaps it works better? ^^;

    I’ve always been really interested in trying out one of these but at the same time I was a bit hesitant as well. After all, a wet sponge sounds like a great place for bacteria to grow and mold to form. Although now I’m tempted to put this next on my to-buy list after reading your review 😀
    Gloria recently posted…iBuyBeauti Site ReviewMy Profile

    • Kerry

      Hey Gloria! I had almost exactly the same question you did about the price difference between this sponge and other brands. Since this is the only type of konjac sponge I’ve tried, I can’t speak from personal experience. But I did write to the distributers of The Japanese Konjac Sponge and asked how their product differed from their competitors’ product. Here’s what they had to say:

      1. Our Konjac Sponge is the original genuine high quality Japanese product made in Japan. All production materials are from Japanese farms, including the Konjac plant, the ingredients, and the know-how. The sponges are also handmade in Japan by Japanese workers for superior quality. Japan has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to cleanliness, health, safety, and quality control. As a result, our products and production environment are free from harmful toxic and chemicals, from the collection of raw materials, to process handling, all the way to the final product.

      2. Our Konjac sponges are dry type. The wet type of Konjac sponges may be more vulnerable to mildew if not handled properly during packaging, or when stored on a shelf after the expiration date. Our dry sponge type has a longer shelf life, and can last for up to 3 years in a dry environment, if never been used.

      3. The Konjac plants used to make our konjac sponges are non-GMO (GMO free products).

      4. Our Konjac sponges are original, genuinely handmade in Japan, and will give you the best exfoliation result. The Japanese Konjac Sponge products are superior in sizes and texture when you compare them side by side with other brands (in both dry and wet conditions). As noted in the customers’ reviews in our website, those who have tried other brands before said they like and prefer our products over other brands.

      5. Since our competitors’ sponge textures are smoother when compared to ours, other brands’ users will need to scrub / press the sponges harder into their skin to exfoliate. With our products, only light / gentle massage is needed. We believe less time and less scrubbing are needed when using our products because our sponges produce better exfoliation and benefits.

      • Hi Kerry, I am sorry if I am being so skeptical about this brand. I don’t believe what the distributor told you. Of course the distributor will tell you that their brand is better than competitor :þ. However, I found out that all big companies such as Boscia’s , the Face Shop’s, Etude House’s, and Tony Moly’s konjac sponges are all made in Korea. I regularly use the Face Shop’s konjac sponges and they are very smooth & will never damage my skin. I do believe konjac sponges do not have to be rough to effectively exfoliate the dead skin. Btw, I didn’t have to press the sponges harder.

        • Kerry

          Hey Sara! I realize that the distributor is going to tell me that their brand is better than their competitor. 🙂 I asked for that information and shared it without any personal commentary specifically so you guys could read it and make up your own mind about it. I’ve had a very positive experience with this particular konjac sponge, but since I haven’t used any competing konjac sponges yet, I’m not in a position to personally make a comparison or say whether the price difference is justified. For what it’s worth, I also don’t think a sponge needs to be rough to effectively exfoliate, which is why I mentioned my preference for the smoother Green Tea sponge over the Bamboo Charcoal sponge in my review.

          Out of the brands you’ve tried, which one do you like most?

          • Hey Kerry, I’ve always been a fan of korean beauty products. So of course I like the korean made konjac sponges 🙂
            So far I’ve tried few of them (The Face Shop, konjac sponge company at spiritbeautylounge.com, my konjac sponge at amazon, Boscia at Sephora) but I couldn’t really tell the differences. I think all of them come from the same source.

            Regularly I get the Face Shop konjac sponge from a local shop near my neighborhood in NY chinatown.

  3. I’ve never heard of these, but count me interested. o.o I entered. <3

    Also, "as well as reflect on all the embarrassing things I might have said earlier in the day" – SO TRUE. T_T I do this all the time.
    Bethany recently posted…Manicure Monday: Wild StrawberriesMy Profile

  4. I finally caved and tried one about six months ago. I used it daily for two months (I used a charcoal one) and was disappointed by the results. Or lack of results I should say. I noticed no difference in my skin. I tried it with cleanser and on its own. I tossed it one day as it just wasn’t doing it for me. I still swear by my micro-fiber washcloth. That thing really cleans my pores, but is very gentle. Glad these sponges work for so many. I’m just not one of them.

    • Kerry

      That sucks, Angel! I hate investing so much time into a product that doesn’t work out, especially when everyone else is raving about it. Just curious – was your konjac sponge the wet type or the dry type?

      I’ve heard a lot of great things about micro-fiber cloths, though I haven’t yet tried one yet, if you can believe it. Do you have a particular brand that you like?

  5. I’m using a conjak sponge too, and I really like that it helps cleansing the skin. I also use my foam cleanser on it, and I need much less product as before and it foams nicely nevertheless 😀

  6. “… as well as reflect on all the embarrassing things I might have said earlier in the day’

    and this is why you’re of my favourite bloggers evaaaar.

  7. Wow, this sounds interesting. I love that it is antimicrobial and that it has different varieties to choose from. I would love to try it. Thank you so much for sharing and also for the opportunity to win this ^_^

  8. Katy Mae

    Have you tried Elishacoy’s cleansing brush? It’s super soft and effective, much better than others I’ve tried.

  9. Jess

    Do you think that this could be a good substitute for the Clarisonic? (I used Olay’s spinning brush because I don’t feel like shelling out $200). I am also on Retin-A like you and I am trying to make certain I also don’t over-exfoliate.