Using the same towel to dry both body and face: It's something probably all of us have done at some point in our lives if it's not something we do every day. But is it gross? Or is it OK?
"You should always be using a separate towel to dry your face—especially if you're acne-prone," says Amy Weschler, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You. "Your facial skin is delicate and sensitive, and none of the oils from your body or your hair should ever be transferred on your face."
But Dr. Weschler's not the only one advising against this practice. "The bacteria left on your skin—arms, legs, shoulders—have some specificity to those areas of the body, and if you use a towel on your body and then your face, you can transfer that bacteria and viruses and fungi onto your complexion," says Christopher Mason, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Weill Cornell's department of physiology and biophysics. So, officially gross.
Also, some people don't change their body towels enough. Even though you're "clean" when you're drying off, you might have missed some spots on your body. And it's that residue that bacteria can live on, which dirties your towel over the course of a week. (Also, do you really want to be drying off your face with the same towel you just used to dry off your bum? Think about it.)
OK, but how the hell am I going to do laundry 24/7 in order to keep the bacteria on your face at bay? you're probably wondering. Dr. Weschler says you don't have to. Simply use one side of a hand towel—a separate hand towel than the one you use to dry off your hands after going to the bathroom—for a few days on your face, then flip it over and use the other side for the rest of the week. As for your body towel, apply the same technique.
While we're on the subject of showering and using towels over and over, Dr. Weschler also suggests skipping washcloths when cleansing your facial skin. If you use a new one every day, then it's fine, but if you don't have that kind of washcloth inventory on hand, she recommends cleansing your face with your clean hands, soap, and water. If you like using a washcloth because the fabric sloughs away dead skin cells, Dr. Weschler suggests using a glycolic serum after you towel off once or twice a week. She tells her patients to try Le Weekend De Chanel, which contains 6 percent glycolic acid that slowly releases over the course of the day, so even people with the most sensitive skin can tolerate it.
To keep your body breakout-free, make sure you clean your washcloth with soap and water after each shower or bath to rid it of bacteria, recommends Doris Day, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in NYC. Hang it to dry so it doesn't get moldy. Regardless, if any of your towels (face and body) or washcloths start to have a mildew-y stench at any time Monday through Sunday, don't use it. Just toss it in the washer.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.