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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– Removes dry skin flakes
– Does not damage skin’s protective barrier
– Thoroughly cleansing
– Easy to use
– 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.
Where to Buy
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!
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.