Buying Guide – How to Choose a Pillowcase for Acne
Millions of adults and children in the U.S. experience regular acne breakouts. The condition can be attributed to a number of causes, which vary by individual. However, most dermatologists agree that exposing one’s skin to oily or greasy surfaces can increase the risk of more intense breakouts. Pillowcases, which absorb natural oil from the sleeper’s skin, are one of the most notorious culprits.
However, some fabrics used to make pillowcases are better for acne than others. This guide compare different pillowcase materials to see which ones are most suitable for people with acne. We’ll also explore common causes and risk factors for acne symptoms and discuss additional strategies for sleepers who experience breakouts.
Please note: Tuck.com is not a medical website, and our advice about pillowcases for people with acne should never substitute for the advice of a licensed physician or medical professional. If you have questions about acne, please consult your doctor for more information.
Acne: Causes, Solutions, and Myths
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, roughly 50 million people in the U.S. experience acne symptoms every year. The condition is most prevalent among those between the ages of 12 and 24, though people commonly experience symptoms up to the age of 50.
The Mayo Clinic notes that acne breakouts occur when hair follicles in the skin become clogged with oil and dead skin. This commonly leads to acne breakouts on the face, neck, and shoulders – though symptoms may appear anywhere on the body. Signs of acne include the following:
- Whiteheads: Small clogged pores with a closed surface.
- Blackheads: Small clogged pores with an open surface.
- Papules: Small, red raised bumps with no visible fluid.
- Pimples: Red raised bumps filled with pus, also known as pustules.
- Nodules: Large, painful lumps located beneath the outer skin layer that do not discharge pus.
- Cystic lesions: Large, painful pustules beneath the outer skin layer.
Several factors can contribute to acne breakouts. Hair follicles are attached to sebaceous glands, which excrete oil. As a result, an overabundance of oil in the skin increases the risk of clogged follicles. Exposing the skin to bacteria can also harm follicles and cause acne symptoms.
Additionally, most experts agree the following factors can indicate a higher risk for acne:
- Hormonal changes that affect oil production in the sebaceous glands. These changes commonly occur during puberty. Pregnant women and those who take oral birth control pills may also experience hormonal changes.
- Although more research is needed, some studies have linked certain foods with acne breakouts. These include skim milk, chocolate, and foods rich in carbohydrates such as bread and potato chips.
- Many people develop breakouts after using oil-rich makeup and cosmetics. Dermatologists recommend using oil-free makeup and washing it off daily to help avoid acne symptoms.
- Stress can trigger acne breakouts or worsen existing symptoms.
- Those with a family history of acne are more likely to experience symptoms themselves, some studies have found. However, there is no gene mutation associated with acne breakouts.
The Mayo Clinic also points to two common misconceptions about risk factors for acne:
- The consumption of greasy foods was long believed to aggravate acne symptoms. However, there is no evidence that greasy foods clog hair follicles or impact sebaceous gland oil production.
- Although exposure to high quantities of grease or oil can lead to clogged follicles, dirty skin does not directly cause acne symptoms. However, excessive wiping or scrubbing can irritate the skin and exacerbate breakouts.
A wide range of topical and oral medications for acne are available, with or without a prescription. Dermatologists may also recommend chemical peels, steroid injections, and other treatments.
Although purchasing a new pillowcase may not alleviate acne symptoms for everyone, sleeping on a material that causes minimal friction and absorbs less oil can reduce breakouts to some degree. Read on to learn more about different pillow fabrics.
Common Pillowcase Fabrics and Materials
Before we discuss specific fabrics and materials, let’s look at some characteristics in pillowcase materials that can affect acne symptoms:
- Friction: Fabrics that create excess friction can irritate the skin, which may lead to clogged follicles and acne breakouts.
- Absorbency:: Absorbency refers to how much liquid a fabric can retain. Pillow materials that are highly absorbent retain more body oil from sleepers, resulting in less hygienic surfaces that can trigger breakouts.
- Hypoallergenic properties: Hypoallergenic fabrics repel dust mites, dirt, and bacteria. The presence of these contaminants can make a pillowcase surface unhygienic and leave sleepers vulnerable to acne. Some plant-based fibers – such as cotton, silk, and linen – are naturally hypoallergenic. Synthetics like polyester and rayon from bamboo can be treated with additives to make them hypoallergenic, as well.
- Antimicrobial properties: Microbes are bacteria and other microorganisms that, when accumulated, can lead to acne breakouts and adverse health effects for humans. Some fabrics used in pillowcases are treated with antimicrobial agents that stave off harmful microorganisms. These materials mostly include synthetic textiles such as polyester and rayon from bamboo.
- Cleaning and care: Pillowcase owners are encouraged to launder their cases once or twice per week in order to maintain optimal surface hygiene. However, some fabrics should be hand-washed or dry cleaned, rather than washed or dried in machines. These extra care treatments can be time-consuming and/or expensive for owners.
Pillowcases can be made from dozens of different materials. The table below illustrates some key characteristics about the most common pillowcase fabrics.