And your pillowcase may be to blame.

By Erin Lukas
Dec 10, 2020 @ 11:21 am
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Pre-COVID, I used to daydream about being able to spend an entire day in bed. Thanks to quarantining and working from home for the foreseeable future, I've got what I wished for: my bed is now my office, my living room, and to be completely honest, sometimes my kitchen table.

And while it's bliss, of course there's a catch.

For anyone else who spends most of their days working on their laptop propped up against a couple pillows, then hits the sheets at night without changing or washing them every few days, your pillowcases may actually be contributing to breakouts — especially for certain skin types.

"Dirty pillowcases may cause acne in people who are prone to breakouts," Lian Mack, MD, board-certified dermatologist at GlamDerm Gramercy Laser and Medical Dermatology in New York, tells InStyle. "Over the course of a few days, dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria can build up on the pillow's surface. These three components may lead to acne breakouts."

And don't forget your haircare products.

"Hair gels, oils, and conditioning agents, can not only lead to clogging of the pores, but also potentially cause irritation of the skin," adds Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery in New York.

So, How Often Should You Change Your Pillowcases?

Before COVID-19, Dr. Mack says she would recommend switching your pillowcases every two to three days and the rest of your bedding every week. Now, she says every day or every other day is ideal.

"Given the increase in the amount of time we are spending in bed, I now recommend changing pillow cases every day or every other day," She says. "To minimize breakouts and reduce oil, I recommend cotton pillow cases. Breathable fabrics like cotton minimize the transfer of oil and help to reduce breakouts."

Dr. Garshick adds silk pillowcases can be a good option for those with both acne-prone and sensitive skin.

"While silk pillowcases are often considered for their possible benefits for hair and wrinkles, they don't absorb as much moisture as cotton, making them a good option for those with sensitive skin," she explains. "While more studies are needed, it is possible looking for fabrics with antimicrobial properties, such as those that incorporate silver or zinc technologies, may also provide some benefit, but still is not a substitute for washing your face regularly."

What's the Best Skincare Routine to Treat These Breakouts?

Aside from changing your pillowcases more often, making a few tweaks to your skincare routine can also help clear up these breakouts.

Dr. Garshick says if you're noticing an increase in pimples, possibly related to dirty pillowcases, it's important to cleanse twice a day to ensure you're removing dirt and oil buildup that accumulates on the skin overnight and during the day.

"For this it is best to stick with a gentle cleanser that is non-comedogenic and won't dry the skin out, such as CeraVe's Hydrating Cream to Foam Cleanser or if you prefer a bar, Dove Beauty Bar," she suggests. "If you are generally on the dry side and can't tolerate even a gentle cleanser, another option to cleanse the skin is using micellar water, such as Simple Micellar Cleansing Water."

At night, Dr. Mack suggests adding a product with benzoyl peroxide, a tried-and-true acne-fighting ingredient, or a vitamin A derivative such as Differin Gel, an over-the-counter retinoid that can be used to help reduce whiteheads and blackheads.

Dr. Garshick adds that salicylic acid is another ingredient to look for when targeting acne, because it helps clear the skin by eliminating dead skin cells and oil from pores.

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Both dermatologists agree it's equally important to moisturize, specifically with a non-comedogenic formula that won't further clog pores.

One final tip: Dr. Mack suggests pulling your hair up and out of your face before bed to help minimize oil and residue from hair products touching your face.