It’s Time to Ditch Your Cotton Pillowcases For Good
Your pillow and its case are arguably the surfaces that your skin and hair will come in contact with the most. Pillowcases are a necessity, and, like most things, they need to be replaced every now and then. The market for pillowcases is filled with countless fabric options all claiming to benefit you. Cotton is the most commonly used fabric for sheets and pillowcases, and for good reason. It's long-lasting, breathable, soft, easy to care for, and relatively inexpensive. Cotton pillowcases might seem to be your go to option, but there are a few things you should consider.
- Cotton pillowcases seem to be the fabric go to, but there are quite a few negative skin, hair, and environmental impacts to be aware of.
- Cotton can aggravate wrinkles and acne on your skin, as well as cause hair breakage from friction.
- Most importantly, the production of cotton is not environmentally or socially sustainable, which is the main reason you should consider a different fabric.
Impact on your skin and hair
In recent years, the beauty industry has been a huge promoter of silk pillowcases. Ditching your cotton pillowcases makes sense, and here are the reasons why:
The friction between the roughness of the cotton and the skin of the face can cause undesirable wrinkles and creases over time. Sleeping on our side/face causes 'crush wrinkles,' which may be reduced by sleeping on silk. Friction from tossing and turning develops wrinkles in the skin, according to studies, but a silky smooth surface can lessen this impact over time. The theory is that switching to a fabric that pulls less on the skin helps prevent morning wrinkles from becoming lifelong wrinkles.
Cotton pillowcases can actually draw in moisture from your hair and face, potentially bringing allergens and bacteria, drying out your skin, irritating it, and making it more prone to acne. Silk can be a great option for someone with sensitive skin, and it can be much easier on the skin than cotton pillowcases.
Damages your hair
"Cotton fibers' coarse texture causes friction and can snag and irritate sensitive hair follicles, resulting in knots, frizz, and flyaways," explains Jennifer Horsley, MECCA's haircare and make-up education manager. Silk pillowcases might help you say goodbye to "bed head."
The downside to silk is that it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, some even costing $100 per case. If you do decide to splurge on your pillowcases, make sure you are buying real silk, as many polyester blends (which are coarse and stifling) exist on the market to cut costs.
The environmental impact
Cotton is one of the most environmentally hazardous textiles to create and use since it uses a lot of water, energy, and toxic chemicals. Let's take a deeper look at how cotton affects the environment and why making little conscious decisions (like not using cotton pillowcases) may build up to a more sustainable future.
According to WWF, it takes more than 5,283 gallons of water to produce just one kilogram of cotton, which roughly equals one T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Cotton is largely grown using irrigated water in semi-arid water-scarce areas, worsening water scarcity around the globe. Actually, cotton accounts for 3% of all agricultural water usage. At present, many of the key cotton-producing countries are under high water stress, including China, India, the US, Pakistan, and Turkey.
Pesticides, insecticides, and chemicals are huge contributors to groundwater and soil contamination, and all are used in cotton production. According to A New Textiles Economy Report, cotton production uses 2.5% of the world’s arable land but accounts for 16% of all pesticides used. Three of the 10 most acutely hazardous insecticides are commonly used chemicals to grow cotton. Many of these chemicals have been directly linked to severe health issues in farmers.
Cotton production can also use a large amount of oil depending on the extent to which cotton growing is mechanized to run the farm machinery and to fuel the planes for aerial spraying, adding to air pollution.
Around 350 million people rely on cotton agriculture for their livelihood. Workers benefit when the market is thriving, but when the market experiences depression or a harvest fails, all these workers face great suffering. Incomes, which are already low, are constantly threatened and may continue to decline. For example, in the season 2001/02, when international cotton prices fell by 40%, rural poverty in cotton-growing districts of Benin, increased by 8%.
Poor working conditions, the prevalence of child labor, and forced labor are still at large in certain major cotton-producing nations. Global trade structures are generally unfavorable for farmers. And many farmers are in debt due to the heavy use of costly inputs (including GMO seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers). This stress has been linked to the 270,000+ farmer suicides that have occurred since 1995.
Overall, switching out your cotton pillowcases probably won’t affect your appearance much. While there is evidence that silk (and other fabrics) can reduce friction and have a lower absorption rate, sleeping on your back would do more to reduce the issues of wrinkles and acne. The environmental and social impacts of cotton, however, are grave issues for the world. By making a switch from cotton to more sustainable materials, we can consciously support our world, the people impacted directly by farming practices, and all of us who face the pollution created by cotton.
Written by Kiana St. Onge