When to change your face towel? The truth, myths, and science behind the hidden dangers in towels...
As a board certified dermatologist and a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, I often see the problems when poor skin care results in skin conditions. Most people are more concerned about which product to put on their skin or what type of cleanser is best.
But what about how to properly dry your skin and take care of it for the long term? Should we use the same towel for our body as for our face?
Quite simply, the based is no - everyone should have a separate towel for the body and the face. This is especially important if you are acne-prone or have sensitive skin.
Much science is put into every product depending on the body part intended. Products for the face are made to not clog pores and to have more sensitive formulations. But the same cannot be said for other products for other body locations. Hence, moisturizers for the body are meant to deeply moisturize (can clog pores), exfoliating soaps for the body meant to breakdown scaly skin (easily cause irritation), or even hair shampoos meant to wash away oils (leaving excessive dry skin) - but if they get on your face, they can cause breakouts, closed pores, or irritation. Towels can easily transfer a product meant for the body onto the face and cause issues.
How often should someone change his/her face-drying towel before it's bad for the skin?
Bacteria will start to develop immediately after the first use. Our whole body has a bacterial microbiome of bacteria normally occurring on our skin. We leave dead skin cells, bacteria, oils, cosmetic products, and sweat after drying with towels. However, people with acne-prone skin or severely sensitive skin are more prone to developing reactions from the lingering bacteria on towels.
I always recommend to wash towels in warm water using hypoallergenic laundry soap (made for sensitive skin). Bath towels used to dry off daily after showering can be used multiple times before laundering as long as the towel completely dries outside of the bathroom (do not want mold or bacterial buildup). However, hand towels should be laundered and changed every one to two days since they are used frequently and sometimes dry hands that are not 100% clean.
How often should we dry our towels?
To prevent bacterial and mold buildup, your towels should dry completely between uses. I recommend storing and drying your towel outside of your bathroom (3M hooks are life savers for making a new hook on the outside of the bathroom) to avoid the humidity of bathrooms after showering. The constantly damp towel leads to yeast buildup and a dirtier towel.
Drying towels using fresh moving air in a dry climate is ideal (not next to the shower). The goal is for quick drying and for complete drying between uses. I do recommend to prevent folding towels while drying. Here is an easy trick: reuse a department store pant hanger that has clips and hang the towel full-length vertically from a single hook.
For most people, the face towel should be changed every one to two days. Body towels can be changed less often and typically can be reused up to three to five times before needing a wash. Towels should be swapped out frequently and more often if you are prone to acne, rosacea, or skin sensitivities. If your towel has any odor or visible dirt, then it is definitely time to switch out your towel.
Anyone with concerns of the skincare or rashes should consult with their board-certified dermatologist, like myself, to see how to improve their skincare routine.