Those squares of polka-dot-printed poly-whatever fabric from the bubble baths of our youths? They’re having a comeback.
Thanks to Liz Earle, Eve Lom, and other enterprising women with upmarket, monosyllable names, more and more women are using washcloths—cut from muslin, flannel, or high-tech synthetic fabrics—to cleanse and polish and remove the grime our faces accumulate throughout the day.
So should we all hop on board? Are they better than using your hands? Are they okay to reuse without a wash in between? (See: This post that ruined my life.) We asked board-certified dermatologists Dr. Hadley King and Dr. Rachel Nazarian at Schweiger Dermatology Group to deliver the good, the bad, and the just plain alarming. Here we go:
Do I *need* to use a washcloth? Are my hands not good enough?
It depends on the kind of makeup you’re wearing and what you’re trying to achieve, says Dr. Nazarian. “Newer products are much harder to fully remove at the end of the day, especially with the rise in ‘no-budge’ makeup, which clings to skin. That being said, your skin is a delicate organ and using a mechanical brush may be too harsh, stripping too much of the natural oils that help regulate skin hydration. The perfect compromise is a soft, clean 100-percent cotton washcloth, which will physically remove the sunscreen, makeup, and dirt without inflaming skin.”
If you’re looking to slough off dead cells instead of simply cleansing, try a handheld facial brush with soft bristles or glycolic acid to chemically exfoliate the skin. Once or twice a week is plenty, says Dr. Nazarian.
So…what happens to your skin when you use a dirty washcloth on your face?
Dreadful things! Because of the damp, hot environment they live in, washcloths are prime breeding grounds for bacteria and mold, says Dr. King. “When used, germs [on a dirty washcloth] are then spread or reintroduced to the skin, which can cause irritation and even infection. To minimize the growth of bacteria and mold, hang the washcloth so that air circulates around it, drying it faster. Sonic brushes are not immune to bacteria and mold either, but they typically dry faster and are less porous, so it’s less of a problem.”
How often do you need to wash washcloths?
This is where our experts differ. Dr. King advises throwing them in the washing machine at least every 3-4 days, while Dr. Nazarian is kind of scarily adamant about tossing them in the hamper after every. single. use. Her rationale: “You’d never re-use toilet paper right? If your purpose is to CLEAN, you need to start with a clean product. Treat your face no differently—a clean washcloth for each use.”
*hangs head* Okay, Dr. Nazarian. Starting at about $6 a pop, it’s not *too* much of an extravagance to shell out for a sink-side stack. Plus, just think of all the fungus you’re not rubbing on your face.
You should also check out:
32 Surprising Things That Ruin Your Skin
The 8 Worst Things You Can Do to Your Skin
7 Easy Steps to the Glowiest Skin of Your Life