Acne occurs when the skin is exposed to a component in the environment that causes tiny holes on the surface of the skin, called pores, to become clogged. Acne is most common on the face, shoulders and back. During the course of the day, the epidermis of the skin (the top layer) is met with dirt, oil and toxins from the environment. Bacteria can survive for a long time on the surface of the skin, and washing only removes a portion. This bacteria can build on the pillowcase night after night and recontaminate of the skin causing increased acne breakouts.
Breakouts can occur for many reasons including hormonal changes and diet. The best treatment to prevent acne is good hygiene practices. While dirt itself is not the cause of acne, daily washing of the skin and hair is recommended to prevent the oil buildup that cause the pores to become clogged. In addition, changing the bed linens on a regular basis can prevent breakouts from occurring.
During the course of the day, the epidermis of the skin (the top layer) is met with dirt, oil and toxins from the environment. Bacteria can survive for a long time on the surface of the skin, and washing only removes a portion. During the night, the pillowcase can become filled with the bacteria and oil from the hair, skin and mucus membranes of the mouth and nose.
The epidermis is constantly shedding dead cells and regenerating new ones. Pillowcases and bed sheets are full of these cells that slough off during the night. Linens that contain high thread counts may be more comfortable, but can trap these cells in the fabric. High thread count also restricts oxygen to the skin, which can cause increased oil production, pore swelling, night sweats and irritation.
Acne is irritated by Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, also known simply as dioxins. Dioxins are common in cigarette smoke and a known irritant to the skin. Chloracne is a type of acne that is associated with overexposure to dioxins. Avoiding smoking inside the home, particularly in the bedroom, can have a positive effect on reducing skin inflammation and acne breakouts.
Another skin irritant that lives in the pillowcase and bed linens is dust mites. Dust mites are tiny bugs that feed off dead skin cells. The waste products that this produces as the mites digest and process the cells can cause allergens, which lead to allergic reactions, such as eczema. Studies show that more dust mites live in the bedroom than anywhere else in the home, and may be the most common cause of year-round allergy symptoms. Removing excess dust and regular washing of bedclothes can reduce the number of dust mites in the home.
For those with dry or normal skin, washing pillowcases and bed linens at least once a week in a liquid, non-irritating soap is recommended to reduce skin inflammation and irritation from the buildup of particles on the fabric. For those with oily skin and hair, or for those who experience night sweats, it is recommended to change sheets two to three times a week. Purchasing an anti-microbial cotton or specialty allergen-reducing pillowcase may be helpful if these measures are not enough to prevent breakouts.
Materials from the American Academy of Dermatology are used in this report.