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Are natural sea sponges good for my skin?

Natural Sponges vs. Artificial Sponges

When you see all the brightly-colored artificial sponges gleaming at you from the shelves and compare them with their sometimes more drab-looking natural cousins, it's tempting to take advantage of modern technology and go for the glitz. After all, by choosing an artificial sponge, you won't be raiding Mother Nature's beauty cupboard. But artificial sponges have their pros and cons, too, just like natural sponges do.

One of the main attractions with synthetic sponges is that many of them are embedded with antimicrobial ingredients to discourage nasty germs from turning the sponge into a plague palace. Although this might sound like a huge pro, it is also a main con. The modern antimicrobial ingredient of choice is triclosan, which is widely touted by environmental groups as a danger to your health [source: Walker]. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that triclosan poses a danger to human health only when it's used in paint [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. Others aren't so sure, though. Recent studies at the University of California Davis suggested that triclosan can have a negative effect on hormones and the nervous system [source: Downs].

Keep in mind that if you have sensitive skin or a skin condition such as eczema, using a sponge with antibacterial properties might irritate your skin. Generally, people with special skin concerns should avoid chemicals that might irritate the skin and cause flare-ups of their skin conditions, and that can include the antimicrobial agents in sponges [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Also, be wary of what your sponge is made of, because some synthetic fibers, such as polyester, can be too abrasive. Newer synthetic sponges tend to have softer fibers, but even so, these can remove too much skin, and they can also break down and leave chemical particulates on your face [source: Peck].

Overall, the choice between natural sea sponges and artificial sponges comes down to personal preference. If you like the eco-friendly, natural approach, then sea sponges might appeal to you more. If you think modern technology is where it's at, then you might want to choose artificial sponges.

Keep reading for even more information and articles on synthetic and natural sponges.