Is Your Pillowcase Causing Acne?

can pillowcase cause acne

By Kaala Wood

Can acne really be caused by my pillow case?

Before my acne got really bad, I would sort of blow it off when people recommended simple or holistic methods of improving my skin.

But after my acne kept getting worse, I got serious about getting rid of my acne. I backtracked to all of the suggestions I've seen for acne and one, in particular, stood out: changing my pillow case to improve my skin.

At first, I thought this was a pretty silly suggestion when I first heard it. "You mean you think my terrible, confidence-destroying,  acne is because of my pillow? How could my sweet, soft pillow cause such a horrible thing?" Well, here is how your pillow case might be ruining your skin and causing acne.

Pillowcases can hold onto bacteria and oil

Your pillowcase naturally collects your body's oils. Even if you freshly wash your face before you lie down to go to sleep, your natural hair oil, any product you put on your skin or hair, and dust from the environment will still collect onto your beloved pillow case, not to mention the oils from your hands and potential drool that might happen as you sleep can land on your pillow and make a home of bacteria. Every night, this bacteria multiples and collects more oil and product until you change your pillow case.

Unless you are a back sleeper 100% of the time, your face comes in contact with your pillow case as you move throughout the night. This can be a factor in causing more acne because unlike your phone touching you during a several minute phone call or something short in time, your skin is in direct contact with your pillow for 6-10 hours!

Now your freshly washed face is being invaded by bacteria all night long or the long term friction will irritate skin leading to acne. This can both cause new breakouts and also irritate existing breakouts.

As someone who struggles with cheek acne and also who sleeps on my side, I can greatly testify to this icky process. I usually have hormonal acne that's deep and cystic and a lot of them leave acne scars, but when I don't sleep on a clean pillowcase every night, I'll actually wake up with a brand new whitehead that was nonexistent when I went to bed.  

Will Changing Pillow Case Daily Clear My Acne?

Not everyone's skin has a reaction to their pillowcase or the materials sitting on it, but it could irritate if you are already acne prone or cause existing acne to linger longer on skin.  Usually factors like hormones, stress, and gut health have a overall larger impact on whether or not acne will clear up. 

How To Prevent Pillowcase Acne

Ways to prevent acne from a dirty pillowcase:

  1. Buy a weeks worth of pillow cases and put a new one on every night. Wash at the end of the week (or whenever you prefer, but this has been easiest for me).
  2. Place a clean towel or cotton t-shirt over your pillow every night and wash these when you run out. 
  3. Buy pillow cases made of natural fabrics since they breathe better and transfer less oil.
  4. Avoid using dryer sheets or fabric softener when doing laundry for your pillow cases, as many of them leave behind a pore clogging wax like substance. 
  5. Wash your face in the morning and before sleeping. 

It is generally recommended that you change your pillow case every 2-3 uses, but I personally have seen the best improvements by changing them every single night. I have extremely sensitive skin, so my case is probably on the extreme spectrum, but try for yourself and see what works for you and adjust your routine accordingly.  

If I forget for a night, without failure, I will wake up with a new white head on the side I slept on. I hope and pray this isn't the case for everyone, though!

I challenge you to give this simple method a try for a few weeks and journal out any skin differences to see if it helps!

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