Is Your Dirty Pillowcase Causing Your Pimples?

Okay, shame on me. This is supposed to be a Hygiene/Beauty 101 and I flunked it! I was quite ecstatic about two weeks ago when I saw my skin cleared of pimples after two straight months of terrible outbreak a.k.a “The Uglies”. However, it was a short-lived joy because just after three days, I spotted small pesky pimples forming on the outer part of my cheeks near my hairline. It was only until early this week that I suspected it could be my dirty pillow case that’s causing my pimples. How did I find out?

All it Took was a Clean Towel
I couldn’t think of any other reason for my breakouts until I remembered that I haven’t changed my bed sheets for a very, very long time. And guessing the cause of the pimples just by looking at them, they were small, clustered yet scattered and sometimes itchy which meant that they were triggered or at least worsened by bacteria/molds. It was also weird that I was only having them on my cheeks–and I do like to sleep on my side with either my left or right cheek resting on my pillow. Since I didn’t have time to change my bed covers, I placed a clean towel on my pillow instead to protect my skin and do a little experiment. And, lo and behold, in 3 days, my pimples started clearing up!

More Than Bedbugs
Believe it or not, bed sheets and pillowcases that are not regularly changed are bacteria and mold heaven. It’s because we unconsciously shed dead skin as our skin rubs against our bed sheets and pillow cases during sleep. These dead skin shreddings, having a good amount of protein in them, are like perfectly roasted steaks for bacteria. Worse, if you’re the type who don’t shower before you hop to bed or have the habit of wearing your dirty clothes or makeup to sleep, then it makes contamination happen much faster. If you leave in a mold-prone environment, dirty bedsheets can cause you more than fungal pimples but a wayward of other skin problems like allergies and rashes. And let’s not get started about the consequences of dirty bedding to our health!

How Often Do You Change Your Bed Sheets?
I’m so ashamed to say that I’m a girl and the last time I changed my bed sheets was probably four to five months ago… I know, it’s disgusting! For some reason, it really takes a long time for my sheets to start having that “humanly” smell so I often forget to change them. Usually, I just change them because I want a change of colors or am really craving for the “fabric softener” freshness. How can I feed myself lousy excuses, right? But after this pimple outbreak incident, I decided to dump all my very dirty and highly contaminated bed sheets and pillowcases into the washing machine and finally change my bed covers this morning. I hope I can keep this up, though. Time to enlist in Sesame’s Viva Challenge: Change Your Pillowcase Regularly!

Shucks, I forgot about my three-week old towels!

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  • Betchy torres

    i can;t agree with you more on this son and daughter, both past their teen years have this nasty habit of going to bed without cleaning up their face,,we always argue about this because i am aware that no matter how regularly i change their individual bed sheets, pillow cases, if they’re gonna sleep and lay their dirty face on them, the possibility of having skin break outs is not remote..of course you have amply explained the reason why. they only come to their senses when not just one, but aplenty of zits here and there start invading their face.

    • Vivi

      Well, regrets always come last, as they always say. :p

      I make it a point to always wash my face before heading to bed. But I forgot about my 4 to 5-month old dirty bed sheets!

  • Alexandra

    I had the same experience with you too, though my sheets are max 2 months old. I am rather particular about ‘contaminating’ my bed sheets so, wearing working or soiled clothes is an absolute NO-NO. And, one must bathe first before sleeping on the bed!

    For towels, I change them weekly.

    • Vivi

      I think I need to buy more towels so I can afford to change them regularly, lol. Currently, I change them every 2 weeks which is a bit disgusting ’cause they are left wet and moist most of the time–perfect bacteria breeding ground. But most of the time, I’m really too busy or jaded with work to remember. :(

  • astrorainfall @ beauty box

    Yeah that is def a cause for breakouts…I usually change my sheets once a week but after remembering a friend’s quirk (who posted on FB that she changes her pillow case nightly; she does have incredible skin), I tried changing my pillow cases twice a week and I stopped getting acne on my cheeks!!

    • Vivi

      Hmmmm…. I think I’ll buy new pillowcases so I can afford to change at least 2x per week, too. I’m even contemplating on whether to wash my pillows every month, too. I’m afraid they won’t dry properly, though. I’m not even sure whether they can be washed, lol.

  • Mai

    that sounds a l0t like me!! L0l. However I’m very diligent in changing my t0wels..every 3-4 days ;P

    I’ve been experiencing breakouts these past 2 mths but have yet t0 pinpoint the actual cause. At first I thought it might b the MVO anti aging 0il plus – read reviews that the emu 0il might cause a reaction t0 s0me. But after st0pping using it f0r 2 wks, the nasty pimples are still p0pping up!!! Arrhhggg.

    I’ve changed my pill0wcase but n0 difference als0. I need t0 try & eat less spicy f00d n0w t0 see if they are the culprit :(

    • Vivi

      One way of finding out whether it’s internal is to take lots of water–much more than you would usually take. If you see even the slightest improvement on your skin, then that means there is something about your diet that you’ll need to tweak.
      Recently, I discovered that “beef” makes me more prone to cystic acne. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything to balance my beef intake ’cause it’s so nice, I find it very hard to totally toss it out of my menu. :'(

  • Mai

    c00l, i shall try that! But that means i have t0 make even m0re frequent trips t0 the l00. l0l. als0 will try t0 st0p using the MFS. Fingers cr0ss.

    Hmm..mayb u can just limit y0ur intake. D0nt deprive y0urself 0f the f00d u l0ve unless it is really necessary i.e. health reas0ns.

  • lemon

    I can’t believe there was a long period in my life where I could actually sleep face up for the whole night. In the past 5 years, I started the bad habit of sleeping on my sides so I am getting “pillow acne” for sure. Doesn’t help that I am generally acne prone (hormonal too). I’ve noticed an increase of breakouts on my neck and my cheeks. Although changing and washing pillow case, bed sheets and sleepwear is a great idea…I can’t afford for my water bill to increase so I make do with only changing and washing my pillow cases frequently. I also finally bought a new pillow since the old one was super nasty. You should check if your pillow is fine in washing machine/dryer (can buy pillow protectors) or brush pillow with baking soda. I also agree about a large water intake…unfortunately I must have a small bladder (even with small water intake) since I have to get up in intervals which disrupts my sleep..hahah.

    • Vivi

      It really is a hard habit to break… Lately, been having much success trying to sleep on my back and my nasal labial folds haven’t been as deep in the morning as they used to be when I slept on my sides! 😀

  • miguel

    Dirty pillow cases do play a major role on causing acne. When I found that out I rushed to my local thrift store and got me extra pillow cases. I went home and washed them and since that day I change my pillow cases every day. I haven’t been getting pimples since then.

    • Vivi

      Wow! You change it everyday? Now, that is impressive! It’s hard enough for me to change my pillowcases twice a week although I try my best to do it at least once a week.

      I’m glad it helped you clear out your pimples. :)

  • No Namer

    I only have 2 sets of pillow cases, one sheet and one comforter. But the bedding gets washed every 1-2 weeks and my pillows every 2-3 weeks. And after 2 weeks of not washing my bedding today I noticed a smell, whether humanly or not. 4 or 5 months is just gross, and an invitation to acne. But even thats better than the condition of my bedding before I started doing my own laundry, my mom washed our bedding probably only once or twice a year (I know, yikes!) And Ive had my bedding and pillows for 3 years but theyre at least somewhat clean now lol.

    • Vivi

      Haha, yeah! I know 4-5 months is really gross. To make it worse, my apartment is really prone to molds.

      I admire your discipline in washing your bedding and pillow cases. Currently, with my schedule, I can only manage a max of once a month. I promised myself (when I wrote this post) that I’ll try to at least try changing my pillow cases every week but I soon lost the momentum after a few months.

      Hmmm.. it reminds me that I should wash my pillows this weekend. Been going into a sneeze fest lately and I highly suspect it’s due to my old pillow.
      Vivi recently blogged..Wash Your Hair Backwards and be Silly…NOT!

  • No Namer

    And good idea about changing the pillow cases, Ive been changing my pillow cases probably once a month (with the used pillow cases still getting cleaned in that time of course). And I always have the spare pillow cases washed in my closet.

    • Vivi

      Do you wash your mattress and pillows, too?

  • No Namer

    And I mean just frequently washed and sitting in my closet when I said “washed in my closet” lol

    • Vivi

      You sound very organized at home. I’m cowering in shame under my desk, haha. Do you wash your mattress and pillows, too?

  • Lauren

    Haha, I’m bad at changing my pillowcases, too. My face has been itchy, lately, and my sensible, nurse mother figured it out rather quickly.

    • Vivi

      You’re right! It’s usually the ‘itch’ that comes first, then comes the tiny pimples! :X

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  • Te Friend

    I too have struggled with acne for years, ever since puberty and I am now in my early 30s. A few years ago I started changing my pillowcases more frequently and it helped a little, but since I sleep on my stomach and side mostly my face is always on the pillow. So even thoughout the night my hair, which I wash in the mornings is still transferring oil and dirt to the pillow case. What I have found works the best is putting a clean towel over the pillow every night. I find that this not only ensures the pillow is clean but it helps absorb any oil from my hair and traps it in place so that it doesn’t get on my face and cause breakouts. This has been a pretty successful way for me to stop acne caused by pillow cases.

    • Vivi

      Great tip! I also use clean towels whenever I don’t have time to change my pillow cases. I have a couple of large face towels which can cover almost half my pillow. I can’t change it every night because I have too much weekly laundry as it is. I can only change them every 2-3 days but I guess that’s better than my previous record of keeping them for over a month. 😀