Towels Can Cause Acne
Reuse your towel?
According to a survey by Business Insider in 2019, about 20% of people wash their towel after 1 or 2 uses, leaving 80% of others using it 3 or more uses before washing it.
That leaves about 260 million people across the U.S. exceeding guidance.
That doesn’t mean that a 1 use towel doesn’t have bacteria on it however, as pointed out by CBS in an “Inside Edition” story a couple of years back, studies have shown that in 24-hours, a towel could harbor 260,000 microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi etc.) This could be fecal bacteria or MRSA, as well as E.coli.
What does this cause?
According to several dermatologists; the experts on skin, the things that harbor on our towels can often cause acne flares or acne spread, as well as being a potential initial causer of the issue. As shown by MD Acne, acne effects over 50 million people around America every year and is most common in 18-26 year old’s. As pointed out by the American Academy of Dermatology, 85% of American’s have had acne at some point in their lives.
This is a quote by esteemed dermatologist Sejal Shah to Byrdie: "Bacteria, fungus, dead skin cells, oils and other debris can collect on the towel," ...which can become the culprit of skin "infections, acne flares, and irritation.". As she points out, dead skin cells and oils get caught among fabric polymers on a towel. For context here, Healthline.com talks about how we have 19 million skin cells and 650 sweat glands on every inch of our bodies, so there is a lot of potential here for contamination. If bacteria can live on our skin, it can also live on our dead skin too that is stuck in the yarns. MRSA can live for 9 weeks on a towel and multiple months on our dead skin, it can even survive for 7 months on dust as Millersville University says, this dust flies around our bathroom’s. Once certain bacteria gets into our pores it can cause acne.
How does it get there?
- We do not wash 100% perfectly that is for sure. This 2020 article by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital shows how only 5% of people wash their hands properly, which will likely cause contamination.
- We do not wash our towels on a high enough heat to kill the harmful stuff. As pointed out by University of Westminster Senior Lecturer of Microbiology Manal Mohammed; we need to wash on a “hot” setting, ideally 140 °F (60°C) and that the ‘hotter the better’ to kill harmful microbes.
- Bathroom conditions allow for the perfect environment. The warm, lack of sunlight, and humidity is the perfect habitat for bacteria to colonize & duplicate. Fecal bacteria is super common in bathrooms. People shower after us which prolongs the dry time. While a towel is wet, that is when the bacteria is growing. Do you keep your towel close to your toilet? Pee splashes quite far.
- Bacteria works in almost an aerosol effect, as Dr. Sean Gibbons, Assistant Professor at Institute of System Biology points out, e.g. As we lift a toilet seat up, bacteria can land on damp, dark places. Did you know? Traces of fecal bacteria has even been found on toothbrushes in bathrooms, according to Bathroom City.
- High-bacteria zones like Hospitals and Dish Cloths mean we catch bacteria and pass them onto other towels. As this 2014 University of Arizona study showed, 89% of 82 household kitchen towels (taken from separate states) showed coliform bacteria on them. They also detected high cases of E.coli in 25.6% of those towels. College bathrooms show high cases of MRSA, HPV (warts), HSV (herpes), & Salmonella, as pointed out in this journal regarding a study by Applied and Environmental Microbiology in 2014. This problem is everywhere.
What solutions are out there?
Epiphany Towel Spray – a liquid antimicrobial built to not only be easy to use and effective at removing those harmful things, it smells good and is super affordable. It is quiet and looks great in your bathroom. It can hang right next to your towel so you remember to spray it down while drying towels 150 times faster, including tightening those fabric yarns so the towel feels fresher. People love this spray because it makes you feel great when using a nice-smelling towel. Don’t worry, the formula is built to break off and not remain on a towel. Check it out here – com
Separate face paper towels - For women, to take their make-up off with so they don’t have to keep reusing the same dirty towel. This is starting to gain traction through education online.
- Washing more frequently – this is an option... but not recommended, if you care about the environment, laundry releases 5.6lbs of emissions into the air we breathe and 250,000 microplastics into the water we drink and could be a cause of the diseases we develop. Laundry costs $1.27 per load on average and increased amounts will definitely hit your wallet, laundry costs have risen over $30 in the last 10-years. Lastly, do you want more laundry to fold? I know most people we spoke to didn’t, they pointed towards that being the biggest deterrent for them when deciding whether to use their towel more. We would always advise you to follow expert guidance of using your towel no more than 3 times but if you can have a cleaner towel on that 2nd or 3rd use or even if you can’t do laundry that week and use it 4, 5, 6 times, there is a product to help you.
CBS Inside Edition - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7NFBP51DJc
American Academy of Dermatology - https://www.aad.org/media/stats-numbers#:~:text=Acne%20is%20the%20most%20common,to%2050%20million%20Americans%20annually.&text=Acne%20usually%20begins%20in%20puberty,experience%20at%20least%20minor%20acne.
Millersville University - https://www.millersville.edu/athletictraining/mrsa/faq.php
Comanche County Memorial Hospital - https://www.ccmhhealth.com/national-handwashing-awareness-week/
TIME Magazine - https://time.com/5514669/bacteria-germs-bathroom/
University of Arizona - https://experts.arizona.edu/en/publications/bacterial-occurrence-in-kitchen-hand-towels
American Society for Microbiology - https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/aem.03117-14