On any given day, I’d estimate that I go through three cotton pads for the sake of my beauty routine. I’d never really thought that much about it, until I did the math: In the course of a single year I throw away upwards of 1,000 cotton pads. That, multiplied by the span of a lifetime, is a *lot.*
While I’d like to think the rest of my routine is fairly sustainable (thanks in large part to the strides the beauty industry, in general, is making in that direction), the cotton ball conundrum still needs to be hacked. And though I know reusable cotton pads exist, I’ve always been skeptical: Because how safe is it, really, to recycle and reuse something that’s sole purpose is to get dirt, grime, and bacteria off of my skin?
When I found out just how nasty it is to double dip with a makeup removing wipe, I had to know for sure. So I checked in with New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, who let me know that despite what I’d initially believed, reusable cotton pads (like these bamboo babies) are A-okay—as long as you wash them. A lot.
“Reusable facial cotton rounds are a great way to help sustain the earth, but you must make sure to clean them properly,” he says. And no, he doesn’t mean “wash them” the way you probably wash your makeup brushes (AKA never)—he means that they really, really need a regular rinse and lather.
“As you use them, they become soiled—in some cases heavily soiled—with oil, dirt, and makeup,” he says. “Look at them like mini towels, and treat them as you would treat any towel or wash cloth. Use them only once, and wash them along with your other linens.” He suggests sticking with fragrance free detergent, like Tide Free (which, bonus, has a neutral pH to make it gentle on the skin) and using a minimal amount when you wash. “Make sure not to overload your washer with detergent, as overdosing can cause detergent to get trapped within the fibers of your fabrics can cause direct irritation of the skin.”
While tossing reusable cotton rounds in the wash instead of tossing them in the trash (or keeping them around for multiple makeup removals) may add one more step to your beauty “to-do” list, it’s got double duty benefits for your skin and the environment. And what could be better than that?
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