About a decade ago, while zooming down the endless vortex that is Google, I came across an intriguing chat on an acne thread. Now for starters, I love a good thread. But this thread was the granddaddy of threads—it had zits, before and afters, and strong! anonymous! opinions! At one point a commenter decided to lecture us dumb dumbs on appropriate post-face cleansing behavior: “Don’t ever dry your face with a towel,” they wrote, while tossing in an alarming: “towels are filled with pimple-friendly bacteria!” This triggered a lively debate that I wish I could link to but that site is dead, dead, dead. However, the sentiment lives on…in me…because I have not dried my face with a towel in years. Nope, not once. And I think my skin looks better because of it.
Now I bet you want some evidence that supports this. Happy to deliver—let’s look at the facts. When you dry your face with a towel, a towel gets wet. That’s fine for day one, but as you keep using it throughout the week, bacteria starts to grow and spread in this moist (shudders) environment. Water is basically a welcome mat for bacteria (hello, come on in!). And I’m talking all kinds of bacteria—you never know what’s going to pop up. Most of them are totally harmless, but some, like Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, can create a skin bacteria ecosystem situation that helps acne bacteria thrive. Here are some people with PhDs to explain the nitty-gritty. Not to mention that used towels are literally dirty—leftover dirt and oil can transfer to your face and clog pores. Point is that dirty wet towels are not not kind to acne-prone skin. And while I can’t in good conscience say air-drying is the only reason why my skin tends to be clear these days, I’d say it’s one of the dozen or so small steps that helps keep pimples out of my life, for the most part. Good enough for me.
So, how do I dry my face without a towel? Step one: cleanse face. Step two: rinse face. Step three: walk away… It’s so simple that you, you, and yes you in the back can do it. It takes about five minutes for my face to fully dry—a time I usually spend pulling up my pants or vigorously moisturizing my body. In the summer, I stand in front of my fan for 30 seconds. Gets the job done. In a mad rush I’ll dry with a paper towel. But usually I just let the water dry on my face naturally. Apparently a similar hand-drying method is popular in the K-Beauty world, and I’ll probably give that a try sometime soon. But tonight I’m letting my face dry like I usually do—slowly, weirdly, and for the expressed purpose of clear skin.