Over the years of doing my own laundry, I’ve learned a few things: to separate my whites and colors (RIP to all my old white T-shirts out there), to beware of dryer sheets (for the sake of my skin), and to never wash my jeans (it’s a thing). But a quick romp through the Internet led me to a startling realization: I should be washing my hats, too.
Hats—the head ornaments that cover bad hair days and shield your precious skin from the sun’s damaging rays—withstand your sweat while you’re wearing them. Because of this, they can be a sneaky cause of breakouts. “A particular type of acne called ‘acne mechanica’ is typically caused by the use of tight items against the skin, like hats, helmets, and headbands,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with New York’s Schweiger Dermatology. “The friction forces of these items against your skin, coupled with the sweat and bacteria that form underneath, can cause a breakout on your forehead.”
That’s not to say you have to immediately ditch your baseball caps so that your skin stays clear. It’s all about choosing the right fabric hats, and keeping them clean. “Prevent breakouts by wearing breathable fabrics for your hat, like cotton as opposed to poly-blends, wear them loosely rather than tight against the skin, and wash them often,” she says. Just be extra careful with your baseball caps: “They can trap sweat on the skin and prevent evaporation,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Sweat can be quite irritating to the skin, and the longer it’s left sitting, the more likely you are to trigger a breakout.”
If you’re a baseball hat person, her advice is simply to wash off your sweat as soon as you can when wearing one. “I’ve found that carrying makeup-removing wipes or facial cleansing wipes are an easy way to remove sweat,” she says. “Just wipe your skin under the hat if you’re out and about for a long time.” As for cleaning your hats, feel free to toss those that are a cotton material into your regular laundry. Just don’t forget to keep these on top of mind.
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