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I’ve had keratosis pilaris on my upper arms since birth, and I’ve probably bought every product that’s advertised to get rid of it. That now includes multiple African net sponges, also known as African exfoliating nets, which are long, stretchy, and porous sponges that can help you scrub and exfoliate your skin in the shower.
For all my smooth-skinned friends, keratosis pilaris (sometimes referred to as KP) is a condition where the skin produces too much keratin, blocking hair follicles and causing tiny bumps or dry, rough patches. You see it most on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and butt. It’s fairly common and technically harmless, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bothersome.
Over the years, doctors have suggested AmLactin Daily Moisturizer and CeraVe SA Cream. The AmLactin feels heavy and sticky with a strange smell that deterred me from using it long enough to see a difference. CeraVe SA Cream was lovely to use, but I had no significant results to report.
My quest to eliminate the tiny bumpies is so known by the people in my life that they send me any potential remedy they see — Soft Services Buffing Bar and Calming Gel Exfoliant, First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Scrub (which surely works for some KP cases, but unfortunately not for mine), and most recently, the African net sponge.
A friend sent me this TikTok from @fixonrachel where she raves about how nothing else worked for her keratosis pilaris, until this! It’s a revelation! Her arms are now smooth, plus her bacne is gone! I was sold, even more so since I also struggle to resolve my chest and back breakouts. And because the financial investment was minimal.
The particular African net sponge that worked wonders for Rachel is from Omas Cosmetics, but it was and still is unfortunately sold out. It has hundreds of five-star reviews. I was disappointed and determined to find another option.
According to Omas, the company’s net sponge is an excellent exfoliator to cleanse and get rid of dead skin cells. It dries almost immediately after use, making it more hygienic and less likely to build up bacteria than a loofah. It’s also machine washable, can be used for up to two years, and it’s long enough to reach every inch of your skin. That’s a lot to live up to.
My first dupe attempt was this Ayate washcloth from Public Goods. The all-natural fabric is derived from agave and it was under $5, so I quickly ordered it without too much attention to detail. And while I actually love the texture and felt like my skin was smoother after just a few shower scrub sessions, it’s far smaller than I realized. As in, big enough to use on my arms and other easily reachable areas, but no way it could stretch to reach the middle of my back.
This exfoliating net really doesn’t feel rough or abrasive at all, to the point that I very gently used it on parts of my face that needed some dry skin removal and resurfacing. I can’t say my body acne situation changed noticeably, and it’s hard to know for sure whether the KP on my arms looks better, but it definitely feels more soft and smooth than ever before. Considering that it’s winter, my skin all over feels more supple than usual from the combination of this net sponge and my Curel wet skin moisturizer. I can’t stop running my hands over my shoulders.
Some little threads started to poke out after two or three uses, which worried me that the whole thing might fall apart rather quickly. But since I was liking the results, I decided to keep it and also find another, larger option.
You can buy the Ayate washcloth from Public Goods for around $4.
My next purchase was a set of three well-reviewed African net sponges for under $10 from Amazon. They were the size I needed and seemed to be a similar texture to the original Omas Cosmetics option. I also thought the colors were fun.
These ones are definitely the right size, allowing me to hold either end and scrub through the middle of my back. However, the texture sort of feels like cheap mesh to me, almost like I cut up the thrifted neon mesh shirt I wore for Mardi Gras in 2014. BUT, and this is an important but, the fabric has stayed perfectly intact for weeks no matter how hard I scrub.
I believe that I could use these for years without them growing mildew or deconstructing in the least, and they definitely offer some exfoliating power. I don’t think they make my skin feel quite as smooth as my first miniscule tester, but it’s possible that they would with regular use.
You can buy this 3-pack of African net sponges from Amazon for around $10.
Despite now having two versions and a total of four different African net sponges, I was still convinced that I could find another to meet all of my needs. With a bit more research, I found that Public Goods also uses that same Ayate fabric in a bath strip that is specifically designed for full-body scrubbing. (It’s 25 inches long and 4 inches wide.). It even has handles on either end to help the strip lay flat, at maximum surface area, rather than rolling up and twisting (as the Amazon net sponge sometimes did).
I’m confident that this will be the ultimate exfoliating net, and that my keratosis pilaris will continue to improve with daily use. So thank you to @fixonrachel and my friend for instigating this exfoliating net journey.