For centuries, nay millennia, people in China, Korea, and Japan have cultivated konjac. This plant was eaten and used as medicine. In recent years, it’s gaining ever-growing popularity as it’s making its way into cosmetics and as a health supplement. So much so it’s being called the future of health food. Wait, you never heard of konjac? Let’s dive in.
What is konjac?
The scientific name is Amorphophallus konjac. Depending on the region, people also call it konjaku, konnyaku potato, corpse flower, devil’s tongue, elephant yam, snake palm, or voodoo lily.
What’s used for food, medicine, and lately for cosmetics is the root, that is the short underground stem also called a corm. The konjac root contains glucomannan or konjac gum. It’s a type of dietary fibre, a polysaccharide made of glucose and mannose. It can absorb 100 times its weight of water. Glucomannan is also known as Konjac gum is ground down into flour which then is made into noodles. It’s also used to make desserts like fruit jellies. Konjac gum is what makes the jelly viscous.
Besides glucomannan (3%), the corm also contains water (97%), protein, carbohydrate, lipids, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, pantothenate, niacin, fatty acids, and folic acids. As you see, it’s an all-natural powerhouse but very low in calories. Taken as a supplement konjac promises to
- Improve digestion and reduce the risk of constipation
- Reduce blood glucose and so help control diabetes
- Regulate lipid metabolism, reduce blood lipid, and cholesterol
- Help with weight loss as it helps you feel fuller longer
In some cultures, people have been eating konjac for more than 1500 years. In the 6th century, it was introduced to Japan. For over a century, the Japanese have used it as a beauty treatment and cleansing tool. The Japanese make a sponge out of the dried and ground konjac root that’s so gentle it’s said that it was originally used in Japan to wash babies.
Do you really need a konjac sponge?
After reading about how konjac can help your health in general and your skin’s health specifically when you eat it, I’m sure your itching to get your hands on a konjac sponge.
Technically speaking, you don’t need to use a konjac sponge. You can perfectly well continue using brushes, exfoliation serums, and cleansers. But after years of overflowing beauty cabinets and multi-step routine, you may be looking into hardworking and multitasking skincare so that you can enjoy a simplified regimen that not only saves time but also money.
If you’re really want to see a noticeable difference in your skin’s health and appearance instead of maintaining the run-of-the-mill standard with a ton of tools and products, then go for it! Especially if you have sensitive or oily skin, the konjac sponge will probably cleanse and exfoliate your skin in a much gentler way than alternatives.
Using the konjac sponge will naturally remove dirt, pollutants, and oil while buffing and massaging your skin in the most delicate manner. It unclogs pores, removes blackheads and flaky skin one cleanse at a time while at the same time nourishes your skin. It also takes off water-resistant sunscreen and makeup (although we recommend doing a proper cleanse to remove it first).
The sponge is made by adding water to the konjac root powder and mixing it into a thick paste. This is then mixed with pickling lime (calcium hydroxide), then heated, frozen, and dried. The konjac sponge started its career in Japan as a baby wash as legend has it and then was widely used in Korea, Taiwan, and the rest of Asia.
Since the sponge cleanses so gently and kind, that it can be used to wash babies, it’s suitable for all skin types. Use it on acne-prone or oily skin for thorough cleansing of impurities o use it on dry areas that are difficult to buff away without irritating skin. You can also use it all over your body, not just your face, although there are specifically made exclusively for either. In this case, you’ll have one for the face and one for the body.
How does it work?
A konjac sponge functions both as an applicator and as a product. Once you have soaked it with water, you can use it both with a cleanser or alone.
You can find pre-soaked as well as dry sponges, although the dry form is more common. Always soak a dry sponge before use, otherwise, it’s too hard and rough.
When a sponge is saturated with water, it will become softer and larger. It will feel squishy, slick, and slippery. This tells you that a water barrier has formed over the surface of the sponge and each konjac fibre. With this water coating, the fibre hardly comes into direct contact with your skin. It will wash away dirt and other debris without scraping, irritating, or damaging your skin all the while enabling a more thorough cleanse as with a face wash and your hands alone.
As konjac itself is naturally alkaline, gives the sponge its gentle soap like cleansing ability, so you can use it with nothing other than water. You can also apply a cleanser to your sponge and then massage your face with the sponge to cleanse, remove makeup, and exfoliate. Although this option will degrade your sponge faster.
The sponge is 100% natural and biodegradable and just like toothbrush bristles, the texture of each sponge will deteriorate over time. Depending on how you care for it, it will last between 4 – 6 weeks.
How long can you use it?
Make sure that you rinse your sponge well after each use. When you rinse your sponge, lay it flat in between your palms and press gently until the water runs clear. Don’t wring, pull, or twist it as it can damage the fibres.
After rinsing, gently squeeze it between your palms to remove excess water and hang it to dry in a well-ventilated space but away from the sun. Handling your sponge in this way will preserve the texture and prolong its lifespan, meaning you can get more out of it for longer. As with any sponge, keep it clean and dry to avoid bacteria and mold.
You can tell when it’s time to get a new sponge when you see that your sponge doesn’t expand or starts to disintegrate. As long as the manufacturer doesn’t add any unnatural ingredients, it’s 100% plant-based. When you swap out the old one, you can compost it along with your vegetable and fruit leftovers. Even if the sponge is 100% natural and plant-based, it’s for external use only. So never put it in your mouth.
Glucomannan as an ingredient in cosmetic formulations
Konjac root powder is used in beauty products for its water-holding ability and also as a prebiotic. When added as a prebiotic, its purpose is to be the food source for the probiotics that make the skin microbiome of each individual. For maintaining a healthy biome and so a healthy skin, prebiotics is vital.
Glucomannan is classified as skin conditioning and protecting. It promotes hydration and elasticity similar to hyaluronic acid. When konjac gum is applied to the skin, it alleviates the appearance of fine lines and the effects of ageing.
Are you ready to step up your cleansing game? If you use a konjac sponge daily, you’ll soon see a smooth and glowing complexion that you won’t want to cover up. Share your thoughts in the comments below.