How Often Should You Change Your Pillowcase?

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If you didn’t change your pillowcase this week, your skin could be in trouble.

One of my friends gets terrible bouts of acne. He washes his skin twice a day, eats well, and has even cut some of the sugar from his diet to try to help the acne — but it simply won’t go away. After doing some research, I realized that one of the many downfalls people have when it comes to taking care of their skin is taking care of the things that touch your skin.

What may be one of the big secret contributors behind many people’s acne, skin oiliness, and even allergies is their bedding.

Contributor 1: Detergent and Fabric Softener

Alongside germs from the outside world, our detergents and cleaners contribute a great deal to our skin misfortunes. Many of us use fabric softener when cleaning our clothes, which contain oily, non- water dissolvable ingredients like fragrances, emulsifiers, colors and preservatives that will gladly seep into facial pores (Bellevue Acne Clinic). While the small  residue on clothing and pillowcases shouldn’t cause too much of a problem, this coupled with the germs encountered throughout the day and the skin’s natural oils has a high potential of causing skin outbreaks, depending on your skin’s individual sensitivity (Bellevue  Clinic).

Contributor 2: Dust Mites

Dust mite allergies may be causing some of your skin issues. Be sure to check with you doctor.
Dust mite allergies may be causing some of your skin issues. Be sure to check with you doctor.

Along with spiders and flies scurrying throughout your house yearlong, you now have another type of bug to fret over: the dust mite (University of Nebraska – Lincoln). Though they are not parasitic (they won’t try to burrow inside you), the microscopic dust mites do so love to eat dead human skin, bacteria, and animal dander, and will develop colonies in carpet, couches, and pillows.

While they seem relatively harmless, the dust mites are not the most polite of guests: they often cause allergies in humans, with repercussions ranging from itchy eyes, runny noses, congested ears, breathing problems, and even itchy skin or rashes.  Being that they are so tiny, dust mites frequently lose limbs that fall into the recesses of your cotton or down pillow, along with their feces — these also make up dust that you may find on your countertop or fan blades.

Yet worst of all, dust mites breed rather frequently and leave behind  microscopic white eggs — adding a more repulsive meaning to “having egg on your face”… or hair or limbs. Plus, you may want to be cautious about going around with a wet face or wet hair, or if you sweat profusely in the night: dust mites cannot drink water, but will absorb it from the air and its surroundings (i.e. your skin and sheets) (University of Nebraska – Lincoln).

Contributor 3: The Pillowcase and the Body

While you slumber peacefully, your skin is pressed up against your pillow and if it's not clean, it could mean trouble.
While you slumber peacefully, your skin is pressed up against your pillow and if it’s not clean, it could mean trouble.

The next time that you go linen shopping, you may want to reconsider buying high thread count sheets – the higher the thread count, the more your sheets will irritate your skin (Emax Health). Your skin needs oxygen so that the pores can be opened, allowing harmful bacteria and sweat to exit the pores and helpful cleansers to enter them.

However, the tight threading allows little oxygen to pass through the pillow while creating a shelf for sweat, dead skin cells, oils, pet dander, and dust mites. Additionally, oxygen deprivation makes the skin produce more oil, sweat, and swell, creating more debris to collect on the pillow and agitate your skin (Emax Health).

Plus, hair sebum and oils from products (conditioners, mousse, styling gel) will streak onto your pillow and in turn leak into the pores (The Mayo Clinic).

How Often Should You Change Your Pillowcase?

Dermatologists recommend changing your pillowcase and bedding at least once a week, they suggest you do it even more if you have acne, oily-prone skin. Some even suggest using a fresh pillowcase everyday, particularly for bad acne. And if you’ve been itchy or getting allergies, you may also need to try changing your bedsheets more and see your doctor about dust mites.

What Type of Material Should My Pillowcase Be?

It is best to avoid having a pillow case made out of a coarse, sweaty material, or one that does not breathe or dry easily, such as synthetic fibers (rayon, polyester). Fibers which do not allow the skin to “breathe” and sweat cause sweat retention, which in turn causes pore clogging.

The dyes Disperse Blue 106 and 124 are frequently used in colors for polyester clothing and have been known to cause skin irritation. Additional studies have noted that some dyes do not strongly adhere to an item’s fibers, and can rub onto the skin ( Clothing Dermatitis and Clothing-Related Skin Conditions).

Some companies, like Natural Allergy Supply, have created anti-dust mite covers for pillows and blankets (Natural Allergy Supply) solving part of the allergy/skin irritation problem. For those with sensitive skin, cotton is a nice lightweight fabric that will keep the skin cool and not irritated, while silk not only cools the skin but draws moisture away from one’s body (Disabled Living Foundation).  Cotton, silk, or blends of these fibers are probably the best choices for bedding.

More Ways to Change It

Change or get rid of your fabric softener and wash your sheets regularly.

If you have sensitive skin, here are some things that you may want to consider:

  • Try new brands of fabric softener which explicitly say that they are designed for sensitive skin or that are hypo-allergenic (Bellevue Acne Clinic).
  • The Acne Treatment Center, however, says that you should totally skip using fabric softeners since they are prone to pore-clogging, and use dryer balls instead. They also recommend changing your pillowcase nightly, to avoid oil/bacteria build up (The Acne Treatment Center).
  • For those of you who, after reading this article, have developed a fear of dust mites and have unexplained allergies, visit a doctor to see if dust mites have the sources of your allergies (University of Nebraska – Lincoln).
  • Sweep and dust at least twice a week, and frequently brush your pets to minimize pet dander around your house.
  • Studies have shown that keeping the house temperature at 60 degrees of humidity or lower will wipe out dust mites, as they prefer to breed in temperatures of 75-80 degrees (University of Nebraska – Lincoln).
  • Perhaps put your hair in a loose top knot, so that it has minimal contact with your pillowcase and leaves fewer oils
  • Try to not go to bed with wet hair or a wet face – the repeated moisture on your pillow will not only welcome dust mites,  but also could lead to mold growing within the pillow
  • Avoid pillowcases made from coarse and synthetic fibers, or those with high thread counts

Bottom Line

Your pillowcases, bedsheets, and even your couch cushions retain a great deal of bacteria, dead skin cells, dust mites, and a variety of other unsavory things.

While some recommend changing your pillowcases at least once a week, there are others who champion daily washings. Personally, I think although your pillow isn’t the only culprit of acne and allergies, it would seem that changing your pillowcase and sheets daily, along with sweeping and dusting at least twice a week and maintain good hygiene would ensure the best care for your skin.

Additionally, I’m not quite sure I feel comfortable with dust mites and bacteria backlogging my pores, or the mites setting up camp on my new bedspread. You can never be too clean.

Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop

Bellevue Acne Clinic

Emax Health

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

The Acne Treatment Center

Clothing Dermatitis and Clothing Related Skin Conditions

Natural Allergy Supply

The Mayo Clinic

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Nicki Zevola is the founder and editor-in-chief of FutureDerm.com. Named one of the top 30 beauty bloggers in the world by Konector.com since 2009, Nicki