Are silk pillowcases good for acne-prone skin?

Megan Dominion

Are they really worth the hype?

There are three products in my collection of beauty items that fall into the “non-essential but can’t go without them” category. A jade facial roller I keep in the fridge, a magnetic face mask, and a silk pillowcase. None of these is strictly essential, but now I have them in my routine, I’d rather not be without them. There are countless benefits to silk pillowcases for your skin especially for those of us suffering from acne.

As a long-time member of the acne sufferers club, I will try pretty much anything to rid my skin of the red, inflamed spots that have sat on my skin since my teenage years. Two rounds of Roaccutane, dermabrasion, many facials and a lot of research later (and trial and error). I’ve honed down a skincare routine that works for me. One thing that I have added recently is a silk pillowcase – so are they worth the hype?


Acne Triggers

So, what causes acne? Regrettably, there is no one factor which causes acne and there are several triggers which varies from person to person. Hormones, stress, medication, genetics, and environmental factors are just some of the reasons people have acne flare-ups.

Acne is defined as when hair follicles in the skin become blocked with sebum mixes with dead skin cells to form a plug in the follicle, which can create whiteheads and blackheads. Bacteria can contaminate these clogged follicles, which over time will enlarge producing a bump, known as a papule (the horrible, under the skin red spots that never seem to go away).

As the acne enlarges it can rupture, causing inflammation and a build-up of pus. If this occurs near the surface of the skin, it produces a pustule. If it is in the deeper layers of the skin, it can become a papule or a cyst in the more extreme cases.




So what’s the deal with silk pillowcases and acne? 

First off, we’re going to give it to you straight: as much as we’d love to say silk pillowcases are the end all be all, it’s not quite that simple. There’s no definitive scientific evidence that silk pillowcases can stop your acne breakouts forever. But it can make a difference if you suffer from regular flare-ups, and it is a better option than cotton. If you’re prone to breakouts, whether it’s because of hormones, genetics, or stress; they can exacerbate an already delicate situation and cause micro-irritation.

It’s important to note that not everyone will suffer from acne and breakouts due to their pillowcase. But, when your pillowcase isn’t washed or changed regularly, a build-up of bacteria, oil and dirt can get transferred back to your skin, which can add to the problem. If you are currently using a form of topical acne treatment, the last thing you want is for this to get soaked into your pillowcase and not your skin.

Picture your pillowcase as a sponge. Anything you put onto your face, good and bad, will get absorbed by your cotton pillowcases. This includes makeup residue, oils, creams, serums, and sweat. It’s also worth noting that anything you put on your hair will also get soaked into your pillowcase. Many of which contain ingredients such as oil or silicone which can cause inflammation and breakouts. The moisture that can be pulled into your pillowcase can also draw in bacteria and allergens, which can cause breakouts.




What are the benefits of a silk pillowcase?

There are many benefits of a silk pillowcase for your skin; and it’s best to think of it as the cherry on top of your skincare routine. If you suffer from hormonal acne, no pillowcase is going to stop breakouts. But using a silk pillowcase can help to minimise the problem by making for a healthier, cleaner sleeping environment. Silk is a much better option than cotton, as it is a natural fibre that won’t clog your pores or absorb moisture or products – making it healthy for the skin in general.

As silk is a smoother, tightly woven fabric, it will be softer on your skin and cause less friction and rubbing, which can help to reduce redness. If your skin is particularly sensitive, it will help to reduce puffiness and swelling. It’s not the end-all-be-all for acne-prevention but it can help in preventing it and relaxing facial skin altogether. Think of it as an extra step to your skincare routine.

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Preventative steps you can take

  • Wash your face every night. It sounds obvious, but this will help to prevent dirt, grime, and makeup from getting onto your bedding. Be sure to consult a dermatologist first for them to assess your skin and recommend the best cleaning treatment. Take off all your make up every night.
  • Resist the temptation to squeeze. this can make symptoms worse as you are aggravating and puncturing your skin, which can spread bacteria. If you have cysts or nodules under the skin that are causing pain, see a dermatologist who, if necessary, can perform the extractions safely.
  • Wash your pillowcases every two to three days. Even if you are sleeping on silk, ensure it is laundered regularly in a PH-neutral detergent to keep it fresh and avoid sleeping on any pooled moisture.  Avoid using fabric softener on your pillowcases. Fragrance-free fabric softeners aren’t any better — in this case, it’s the softening agents that are a problem for acne-prone skin.

Do I think a silk pillowcase has made a difference to my breakouts? I’m not going to sit here and tell you my skin is completely cured. However, the painful spots on my jawline are disappearing and becoming much less prominent; and the one spot I get every month without fail, well, it still pops up every month. But instead of lingering for 2 weeks, it’s gone in a few days.

The only change I have made? My silk pillowcase.

Read our other articles on the benefits of silk including ‘6 reasons why you should sleep on silk’ and ‘how to prevent frizz

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.