Serious Question: When Should You Use Cotton Balls Versus Cotton Rounds?

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It's safe to say that cotton rounds, swabs, and balls all fall into the category titled: "I forget how handy these are until I run out." Between removing nail polish, applying skin care and makeup, and countless other household uses—doubled-over toilet paper just doesn't do the trick.

When it comes to skin care, though, one option reigns supreme, says Sarah Akram, celebrity master esthetician and owner of Sarah Akram Skincare.

"I’m a fan of lint-free cotton aesthetic wipes and cotton rounds you’d find at the drug store," Akram says. "I find that cotton balls absorb too much of the product, don’t dispense as much as the flatter cotton pads, and tend to fall apart."

"I’m a fan of lint-free cotton aesthetic wipes and cotton rounds you’d find at the drug store."

Plus, cotton balls can leave traces of cotton on your skin, which kind of defeats the purpose when you're using one for applying micellar water to, you know, clean your face. Cotton rounds, on the other hand, are specifically created for use in your skin-care and beauty routines, Akram says.

"Cotton rounds are really versatile," Akram says. "Their main uses are for applying products like toners, removing impurities with micellar waters and makeup removers, and emulsifying makeup around your eyes by leaving moistened pads on your closed lids."

But that doesn't mean you should swear off cotton balls entirely. They're perfect for anything you'd want to use a little extra product to do—like soaking off stubborn glitter nail polish, saturating with essential oils for a DIY diffuser, or creating a home remedy for itchy bug bites.

And what about on those days you realize you're out of both? Akram says you're better off using that doubled-over toilet paper than applying a skin-care product with your hands.

"Your hands are constantly touching surfaces throughout the day, getting exfoliated and abraded," she says. "So, if you’re using an exfoliating toner you don’t necessarily want to chemically exfoliate your hands every day. Beyond that, using hands to apply some of the thinner products can actually be less efficient and require more product use than an absorbent cotton pad."

So that settles it. Cotton rounds are the big winner for your skin-care routine, while cotton balls are better for more specific uses that require more product. BRB, going to go order a 200 count of both.

Sponsored by Cotton

Photo: Stocksy/Leandro Crespi Studio

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