You’ve Been Using Your Bath Towels All Wrong, According to a Dermatologist

updated Jul 6, 2022
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Whenever I can wear less makeup and give my skin a breather, I relish the chance to devote some extra time to leveling up in the skin care department. Typically, that means paying extra close attention to the products and water temperature I use — but until I consulted a dermatologist, it hadn’t occurred to me just how much my towel usage played a role in my skin’s TLC.

Exactly how much does the quality of our towels, and how often we use them, affect our skin? Well, it turns out the answer is quite a lot. Dr. Howard Sobel, founder of Sobel Skin and attending dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says a common mistake people often make is using the same bath towel for both the face and body. Because bacteria and even mildew can be easily transferred through an overused towel, “You should use a separate towel for your face, and another one to dry your body after a shower,” Sobel says. “The products you put on your body, such as fragrances and hair products, should not also come in contact with your face.”

Another piece of his advice is that changing out your used towels for clean ones is paramount: You should only use a bath towel three to four times before throwing it in the wash. For towels used exclusively to dry and clean your face, its more like one to two times. “When bath towels are too old, they are no longer as efficient,” Sobel explains. “They will not dry you properly and may collect germs and bacteria [over time]. That’s also why you should replace your towels every other year.”

So which towels are actually ideal to use for both your body and your face? Sobel says you can’t go wrong with quality cotton. “A cotton or cotton blend washcloth or hand towel is preferred for the face,” he says. “Quick-drying options for washcloths are also a great option as some work to help with exfoliating dead skin cells. Turkish cotton is a great option for your body. Because of the extra-long fibers, the towels are softer, plush, and more absorbent.”

Ready to step up your towel game? Shop the best towels for the face and body below.

Face Towels

1 / 5

Light as air and super quick drying, the Ultralight Hand Towel by Brooklinen is a superior pick to use for drying your face fresh out of the shower. It's also a great option for those wth sensitive skin.

2 / 5

Many of the finest hotels and spas around the world incorporate Hamman linen washcloths and towels into their services, and its easy to see why. They are ultra soft, made with 100 percent genuine Turkish cotton, and get fluffier with each wash.

3 / 5

This 100 percent cotton cloth is lightweight, absorbent, and quick drying. Its waffle-tiled texture also helps generate a lush lather as you clean.

4 / 5
Grove Collaborative

For a little extra exfoliation, try these muslin cleaning cloths by Grove Collection. Made from 100 percent organic cotton, they'll leave your face feeling fresh and clean without the harsh scrubbing.

5 / 5

You'll be amazed at how soft and gentle Havly's beloved fast-drying Wünderweave hand towels are. Made from 100 percent sustainably sourced Aegean cotton, these hand towels are perfect for your face.

Body Towels

1 / 6
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These buttery-soft towels come in a variety of colors and are all you'll want to see fresh out of the shower. Plush and super absorbent, they'll do right by your skin.

2 / 6
Bed Bath & Beyond

These affordable, low-linting cotton bath towels from Bed Bath & Beyond's Simply Essential line are perfect for those who want maximum absorbency but not too much plushness. They're available in five colors and, according to several reviewers who've tried them, hold up after several washes.

3 / 6

Coyuchi's popular Temescal Organic Towels have tons of five-star reviews from their customers, who fell in love with the naturally soft, plush fibers and light-as-air comfort.

4 / 6
Bed Bath & Beyond

Incredibly soft and absorbent, the Madison Park Signature Turkish cotton bath towel set is perfect for a household that wants to do a complete towel overhaul. You'll be pleased to see that the thick, soft material holds up after multiple washes.

5 / 6

Made with 100 percent combed Turkish cotton, these medium-weight bath towels from Kassatex are perfect for those who aren't looking for something super-plush but are just as absorbent. They also come with a built-in loop for convenient hanging.

6 / 6

You can't go wrong with Weezie's tried-and-true piped-edge bath towel, which makes every day feel like a spa day. Its gorgeous trim comes in a variety of colors, and its hypoallergenic, low-linting cotton material is great for those with sensitive skin.