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Are Bleached Cotton Pads Bad For Your Skin?

Cotton pads: cute, useful, come in many shapes and textures. Some are expensive (ahem, Cle de Peau), some are a grab-and-go item at Duane Reade, some are bleached, and some aren’t. So what’s really the difference?

Before we go on a tirade about bleached pads vs non-bleached, let’s get down to the fundamentals of the cotton pad. Cotton pads are made from, well, cotton (but sometimes they can include rayon, polyester, and polypropylene) and used frequently in skincare to absorb and apply different lotions and potions. Many people prefer cotton pads to hands when removing makeup or applying toner because they spread the product more evenly on the skin as opposed to hands. But those fluffy white clouds may be hiding more than you think.

As consumers, we are very invested in the brand newness of things whether we can admit that to ourselves or not. We like things to look fresh and clean, and brands know that. Enter the bleached cotton pad. It’s perfect, it’s fluffy, it’s pure snow white. Companies harvest the cotton that has often been sprayed with pesticides, bleach it with chlorine to get that perfect look, add in some fillers like the rayon, and press it into pads.

Your skin is very absorbent. Everything you put on will be zapped right in through the epidermis, so any traces of pesticides or chlorine that are applied to the skin will shimmy in, too. Chlorine is highly drying for skin. Think back to swim classes and that taught feeling you had after drying off. That’s chlorine sucking your youth (it’s probably not that deep, but it feels personal). Pesticides contain dioxin, which is a carcinogen that can cause abnormal cell growth and disruption in hormones.

Luckily, there are many alternatives. If a cotton pad is a must in your routine, consider an organic, unbleached alternative. Amazon has many to choose from (including these high-rated ones) and many K-Beauty cotton pads are clean as well like these ones from Klairs. If you really want to make an impact (who among us doesn’t?), go one step further and eliminate the wastefulness. Cotton is one of the most environmentally impactful crops. It takes tens of thousands of liters to produce enough cotton to make a t-shirt and the chemicals used in growing non-organic cotton can pollute water sources. You can make the switch to reusable pads and cut down on your environmental impact! It’s only $11 for a pack of 16 on Amazon, and they’ll last you. When they’re dirty, put them into the laundry bag included and throw them into the wash. Super easy, and prevents you from losing them in the wash...unlike your socks.

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