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How a Clean Pillowcase Can Help Diminish Your Acne

You might initially be skeptical about the ways in which a clean pillowcase can help improve your skin condition. For instance, you might already be spending hundreds of dollars per year on cosmetic products which swear by their success in clearing up acne, so how could the same effect be achieved by a simple pillow, of all things?

If this pretty much describes your thought process on the topic, it is time to realize how much time your face spends touching your pillowcase! Particularly, if you happen to be a sideways sleeper, your face may be in contact with your pillowcase for the better part of eight hours each night. Naturally, anything that comes into contact with your face can affect its complexion, and the pillow is no exception. Indeed, the state of your pillowcases can have a significant effect on your acne.

Your pillowcase might be the culprit of your ineffective beauty care at night.

You may have been led to think1 that habits like diet and hygiene are key factors that affect your skin. While this is true to a certain extent, you must not forget that it’s possible that your pimples are simply a product of your genetics. If your parents happen to have frequent breakouts, then you most likely to have to deal with zits every now and then, too. Still, it is also important to maintain good hygiene, as this might contribute to a lessening of the effects of acne.

Certainly, we trust that you already invest time and effort into thoroughly cleansing your face once or twice a day, as well as exfoliating it regularly. You might also be using natural skin-calming aides such as honey and various kinds of essential oil, in addition to applying rejuvenating masks about once a week. These are all excellent ways to keep your breakouts in check. Yet, another thing which can help you control your pimples is ensuring that your pillow is up to certain standards.

Why Do Pillowcases Matter?

To put it simply, your pillow serves as a mirror for your skin. Essentially, everything that can be found on your face can also be found on your pillowcase – sebum, germs, dirt, etc. While it might seem useful for your facial bacteria to rub off onto the pillow, thus detaching itself from your complexion, the problem is that you will likely use the same pillow for at least a few more nights. Unfortunately, this means that this bacteria can actually irritate your skin over and over again, each time you come into contact with it again. This is particularly detrimental for your skin in the case that you have large amounts of the P.acnes bacteria, which directly causes pimples. In line with this, it is helpful to remember that there exist a wide variety of strains of this kind of bacteria – such 1a and 1b, which are sub-types, and are additionally incredibly harmful to your skin2.When you sleep on the same pillow several nights in a row, you only re-introduce these germs onto your face. Moreover, even even if you have rid yourself of acne, if your partner happens to suffer from zits, their bacteria may be crawling onto your pillow, as well.

Not only will a dirty pillowcase ensure that you keep having persistent, long-lasting acne, but it will also turn any effort of yours to cleanse your face completely futile. You might be diligently scrubbing your face in the evenings, successfully removing all dirt, but as soon as your face hits the pillow, all of the harmful substances will find their way right back to where they started from.

If, on the other hand, you happen to think view your pillow as consistently clean because you always cleanse your face thoroughly before bed, please acknowledge the perfect breeding ground that your pillowcase represents for germs. Indeed, your pillow provides a warm, slightly moist environment, which is an ideal setting for the reproduction of harmful microbes.

The Specific Relationship Of Your Pillowcase And Sebum

Although re-introducing the same oils into your face each night may sound pretty disgusting, there is no actual harm in that. This is because it would be very difficult for your sebum to find its way back into your pores. What is more, when sebum comes into contact with acne-causing bacteria3, you basically get a thriving acne-producing environment. Nevertheless, there is another level of danger in regards to oil. Sebum contains squalene peroxide which triggers acne like no other substance. Squalene peroxide levels increase whenever you experience a breakout, due to the pressure of your face’s free radicals. Basically, a chain reaction occurs in which the substances that result from your acne, directly trigger even more zits. This is part of the reason why it is so difficult to get rid of ongoing acne, once you have had it once or twice.

You can already imagine how this information relates to your pillow, right? Indeed, just the way your face re-contaminates itself with squalene peroxide, your pillowcase can do this for you tenfold. The bad news is that this substance has the potential to stuff your pores to a lot higher degree than simple sebum, inflaming your complexion more than ever.

How can you deal with this issue? Antioxidants can effectively counteract squalene peroxide, but if your face encounters the same pillow, with the same amounts of the substance on it, there is little use in such treatment. All you have left to do is… that’s right! Change your pillow regularly. Or read on, for hints and tips on how to completely get rid of your pillow problem.

Pillowcase Products That Can Help Solve The Problem

First of all, you might want to slightly alter your sleeping habits. Sleeping on your side ensures that the contents of your facial complexion will end up rubbing all over your pillow, as well as that any residue on your pillowcase will rub back onto your face. To be sure, there are statistics which proclaim that those who tend to sleep on one side of their body, tend to have more acne on that cheek, as well. Try sleeping on your back, instead. You might be uncomfortable for a couple of minutes before falling asleep, but this might have great results for your skin’s health.

Secondly, do change your pillowcase as often as possible. You don’t necessarily need to buy many pillowcases – just drop last night’s pillow cover into the laundry and dryer before work, and enjoy a new, fresh pillowcase in the evening.

If you feel like you might have problems fulfilling either of these requirements, then we have a list of solutions for you! Since many people suffer from the same issue, companies have invested their efforts in creating innovative kinds of pillowcases which save you time and effort, as well as your skin. We thus provide you with a few examples of inventions which may help you get rid of any acne that is being caused by your sleeping habits.

The Pillow That Forces You To Sleep Upright

As mentioned, most of us do have a problem with avoiding turning to one side as we sleep. After all, the fetal position is the most natural and comfortable position for the human body. A product that can help you avoid rubbing your cheeks into your pillow all night long is the YourFacePillow. It is specifically designed to envelop your head and upper body, so as to prevent you from turning in your sleep. The pillow’s sides are soft and comfortable, and allow slight movement which does not lead your face to touch the pillow.

The pillow is especially designed for this reason, so you don’t need to worry about breathing properly, etc. while you nap. Its material is simple foam, so it also does not contain chemicals, heavy metals or phthalates.

The Pillow That Prevents Materials From Coming Into Contact With Your Face

The Save My Face La Petite White Satin Pillow is a highly unusual invention which makes sure that your face remains free from contact throughout the night. While it does allow you to turn sideways, it basically creates a sort of half-moon around your cheek. This way, you can nap in whatever position is comfortable for you, without worrying about what germs you will be picking up on the way. Nevertheless, this only works if you turn slightly to the side, as, if you were to put more pressure onto the side of your body, then your face might still end up touching the sheets.

The Essential Oil Pillowcase

Ever hoped for a pillow which will cleanse your face for you every night? The Nufabrx Pillowcase: Clearer Skin While You Sleep is exactly that! It not only gets rid of any bacteria on its surface, but it is also infused with a concoction made of various essential oils. Naturally, it contains the most caring ingredient for skin – tea tree oil. In addition, it is infused with lemon balm oil4, and lavender and wintergreen essential oils. Interestingly, it is also completely made of bamboo – a detail that we absolutely adore.

Does it work? After just one night, the properties of the Nufabrx pillowcase can potentially diminish your acne-causing bacteria by more than 90 percent. Now that’s one statistic in which we are willing to invest!

A Disinfecting Pillowcase

The SleepClean Acne Fighting Pillowcase essentially cleans itself! The ionic silver that is interwoven into the pillowcase material ensures that any germs will be killed5 before they come into contact with your face. Ionic silver is related to colloidal silver and is so efficient that it completely destructs the cell membranes of harmful bacteria. The result is a pillow which will kill existing germs, and even stop them from multiplying beforehand.

The heavy metal is woven into the pillowcase’s cotton surface. You still have to wash it about once a week, but customers report great success from using the SleepClean pillowcase. The downside is that it only lasts about a year, after which you have to invest in a new one. Still, chances are that your acne will be more-or-less gone by then!

Do-It-Yourself Solutions

If none of these products seem appealing to you, or if you simply find it unnecessary to invest in a fancy pillow just because you have some acne, then we have some more solutions for you.

First and foremost, you should be doing everything you can to not have to sleep on the side – especially if you are finding yourself in the middle of an acne breakout. If things are getting really bad, you might want to try going to bed with large headphones or earmuffs on your head, so as to prevent you from turning. The last case scenario may be to wrap something like a towel around your head in order to prevent motion. Make sure that whatever you are placing around your head doesn’t actually touch your face.

Secondly, we cannot stress it enough – wash your pillowcases as often as possible. This is the trustiest way to get rid of any and all bacteria that might be plaguing the fabric on which you sleep. You definitely don’t need to throw it in the laundry every single day, but doing so every three days or so might really help alleviate your skin problems.

Don’t have time or money to do laundry that often? There is a trick for you, too! Just flip your pillow after a couple of days, and make it last longer. If you happen to use more than one pillow in bed, you can even switch them around one or two times, before it is time to actually wash them. Last but not least, if you want to make your pillowcase last even longer, you can flip the case inside-out – if the material is sturdy enough, bacteria will not be able to soak through it.

Another way to make your pillow last longer is to place clean towels or t-shirts on it, so as to avoid contact with its surface. You will still need to wash these materials frequently, but they will win you a few more days without having to do laundry.

If, for some reason, you are not able to do laundry at all, you might want to focus on actually killing the bacteria on your pillow. That can be done by placing the pillowcase in the fridge, or in another kind of cold environment – the harmful bacteria will not be able to thrive in such conditions!

An Unexpected Enemy – Fabric Softeners

One factor which you may have ignored thus far, but which may be affecting your skin, is the actual products you use when doing laundry. Your skin’s secret enemy may actually be your fabric softener. The chemicals used to make these softeners are specifically enabling when it comes to skin problems.

For example, the pleasant smell of fabric softeners is actually the result of a vast combination of various chemicals that you certainly don’t want near your face. Limonene is one such common component which actually has the potential to become formaldehyde when mixed with ozone. That sounds creepy as it is, but the chemical can also heavily increase the irritation of your skin6. Other chemicals that are found in fabric softeners happen to be methylene chloride, which dries up your skin, 1,4-dioxane and acetaldehyde.

Preservatives like phthalates are also used in softeners, yet they can also inflame your skin and get rid of antioxidants. If this wasn’t enough, phthalates are generally weird – they represent xenoestrogens, which can severely affect the hormonal balance of your body.

In general, fabric softeners are totally unnecessary, and are full of toxic7, cancer-and-infertility-causing chemicals. You can also be sure that not all ingredients are enumerated on the packaging of these products. In general, try to wash your laundry with products that are natural as possible – with as few ingredients as possible.

Whichever advice you decide to take, don’t forget to apply it to your towels, as well. Your facial towel has as much contact with your face as your pillow does, so it only makes sense to wash it as frequently as your pillowcase. Lastly, although you should definitely make sure to apply some of these strategies to your pillowcases, you should not slack in the healthy lifestyle department, either! Sleep right, but also eat right, and don’t forget to exercise!


  1. Green J., Sinclair R.D. Perceptions of acne vulgaris in final year medical student written examination answers. The Australasian Journal of Dermatology. 2001;42(2):98-101.
  2. Brüggemann H., Lomholt H.B., Kilian M. CThe flexible gene pool of Propionibacterium acnes. Mobile Genetic Elements. 2012;2(3):145–148.
  3. Lwin S.M., Kimber I., McFadden J.P. Acne, quorum sensing and danger. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 2014;39(2):162-7.
  4. Orchard A., van Vuuren S. Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017.
  5. Sim W., Barnard R.T., Blaskovich M.A.T., Ziora Z.M. Antimicrobial Silver in Medicinal and Consumer Applications: A Patent Review of the Past Decade (2007–2017). Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland). 2018;7(4):93.
  6. Salthammer T., Mentese S., Marutzky R. Formaldehyde in the Indoor Environment. Chemical Reviews. 2010;110(4):2536–2572.
  7. Anderson R.C., Anderson J.H. Respiratory toxicity of fabric softener emissions. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. 2000;60(2):121-36.
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