Can Your Pillow Actually Give You Wrinkles? A Top Dermatologist Weighs In
Many of us spend hundreds of dollars a year on plumping and firming skincare products to prevent or treat fine lines and wrinkles. But the secret to a more youthful appearance may be found in the bedroom—and we’re not just talking about high-quality sleep!
We all know that sleep is critical for skin health—it is called beauty sleep, after all. But the material you sleep on could also help improve your skin health.
“The pillowcase you use may have some influence on the development of wrinkles on your face,” reveals Dr. Ryan Turner of Turner Dermatology in New York City, citing fabric as the number one thing to consider before resting your head for the night.
While this revelation may come as a surprise to many of us, don’t let it keep you awake at night. There are a few very simple steps you can take to treat your face to its best beauty sleep each night and prevent premature aging.
What Pillowcase Fabric Is Best for Your Face
The first approach to avoiding fine lines and wrinkles is to invest in a pillowcase fabric that minimizes friction and is less likely to absorb the skincare products applied to your face.
“A pillowcase with a high thread count may lower the likelihood of wrinkles due to its smooth texture, which reduces friction on the facial skin during sleep,” says Turner, who suggests starting with a baseline of something extremely soft to the touch and manufactured with higher-quality materials.
“Satin is a popular option, as it is smooth and can reduce friction on the skin and potentially reduce the formation of wrinkles,” he adds. “Silk is also an excellent choice, but for those looking for a silk substitute, there are sustainable options that mimic what’s traditional.”
Sydney DeCesare, a category manager at Mattress Firm, echoes these sentiments.
“It is important to use a pillowcase that won’t irritate skin, as it’s closest to the face,” she advises. “It’s best to go for 100% cotton or silk and avoid polyester.” Natural, high-quality fibers can increase breathability without leeching back into your skin and causing pore blockages. “Polyester chemicals can also absorb into your skin,” DeCesare adds, recommending silk, linen and even tencel as the least penetrable options.
The other component of good skin health is minimal absorbency of your face creams and serums. Luckily, silk, satin and high-thread-count cotton also have lower rates of absorbency, meaning less product-leeching and acne-causing bacteria buildup.
“Different fabrics absorb varying amounts of moisture and may, as a result, absorb your nighttime hydrating products,” warns Turner. “Well-hydrated skin reduces the formation of wrinkles.” This also reduces the buildup on the fabric itself.
NiLuu pillowcases are one of Turner’s top recommendations. The product is not only vegan and biodegradable, but also thermoregulated to maintain a comfortable body temperature throughout the night. The pillowcases are also anti-static and hypoallergenic, and every purchase directly supports Turkish manufacturers who were impacted by the February 2023 earthquake.
A few of our other favorite options:
Blissy 22 Momme Silk Pillowcase
This silk pillowcase can be machine-washed in a net-like laundry bag to prolong its softness. Its hidden zipper closure makes it easy to put on and take off, and it’s available in a whopping 25 shades and patterns to augment any bedroom decor.
Madison Park Satin Wrinkle-Free 6-Piece Sheet Set
If satin is more your style, consider this affordable set with four neutral metallics to choose from. Satin is slightly more durable than silk, so these should hold up longer over time, making them an ideal investment for more restless sleepers.
Tulo Microfiber Sheet Set
Those in search of a microfiber pillowcase are in luck with this nighttime dream that is stain and wrinkle resistant, available in multiple sizes and backed by an impressive three-year warranty.
Rethink Your Ritual
Aside from upgrading your pillowcase to a less permeable alternative, there are certain steps you can take to stop its fabric from absorbing your favorite nighttime creams, serums and oils in the first place.
“It is essential to wait for skincare products to absorb after completing your skincare routine before going to bed,” Turner advises. “This ensures effectiveness of the products and may help reduce the risk of transferring product onto your pillowcase, which can later cause skin irritation or breakouts.”
Generally, it takes approximately 30 minutes for most topical products to be absorbed by the skin. Keep this number in mind as you plan your nighttime routine, including setting a consistent bedtime. Among the many considerations, you don’t want to finish washing your face too close to your head hitting the pillow.
And regardless of when you apply them, certain products can stain. “Remember that leave-on products that contain benzoyl peroxide can stain pillowcases, so the use of white pillowcases is the best practice,” he adds.
How Often to Change Your Pillowcase
While the smoothness of pillowcases and the time in between product application and sleep are top priorities when curbing the signs of aging, it’s also important to observe general skin hygiene. Breakouts can lead to blemishes and discoloration, which are also telltale signs of getting older.
“Change your pillowcase at least once every week to prevent skin irritation or bacteria buildup,” recommends Turner. “For those with oily, acne-prone skin, this may need to be more frequent, at two to three times per week, to help prevent the blockage of pores while getting outbreaks under control.” If you sweat at night, consider changing your pillowcase more frequently to maintain a clean sleep surface. Add a pillow protector, too, so that sweat doesn’t seep into the pillow itself, which can attract mites and bacteria, making for a less-clean sleep surface for your skin.
If your blanket, comforter or sheets also touch your face, it’s wise to heed this same advice and adopt a more frequent linen-swapping schedule.
How Your Pillowcase Can Affect Your Hair
Your skin isn’t the only part of your body to show the effects of inadequate pillowcase choices. Hair can also shed and tangle if you’re sleeping on a coarser fabric, particularly if you’re a restless sleeper.
“When it comes to hair, silk and satin pillowcases are often the best because they are smooth and help reduce friction,” confirms Turner. “This may help prevent hair damage and reduce tangling or breakage.”
As a general rule, you’ll also want to avoid “less-refined cotton” at lower thread counts, as this can be “rougher” on the scalp and cause the pesky friction that “leads to damage.”
What to Know About Pillowcases
Though the fabric of your pillowcase isn’t a big enough deal to warrant sleep loss, it’s always important to consider external factors that you can control to improve your overall health and well-being. Swapping that beat-up, rough-textured pillowcase is a start, since it’s doing more harm than good for your face. And needless to say, you’ll sleep a lot more soundly knowing that your actions aren’t contributing to blocked pores and wrinkles. Sweet dreams, indeed.