Resusable cotton pads are saving my acne-prone skin (and helping the planet)

Welcome to The Spot, a monthly column where we’re tackling acne and our relationships to it. We’re asking women how they approach blemishes and consulting with skin care experts to find out what really works. This month, New York-based writer, Mika Robinson, swaps her disposable cotton pads for a reusable alternative, and explains how the switch is helping her skin, wallet, and the planet. 

One of the worst feelings in the world is diving deep into your skincare routine and realizing you’ve run out of disposable cotton pads. While to some this may be a bit dramatic, for me, it’s the truth. I’ve been seeing a dermatologist for a while to help tackle my acne, and cotton pads are a crucial part of my skincare regimen—more specifically, reusable cotton pads. According to World Wildlife, cotton is the most profitable non-food crop in the world, but unfortunately, it takes about 20,000 liters of water to create just 2.2 pounds of cotton—it’s one of the reasons I began looking into this sustainable alternative.

Though I don’t claim to be the most eco-conscious person looking to save the world one carbon footprint at a time, being a beauty writer has opened my eyes to how much waste I create. Earlier in the year, I decided to cut back where I could, starting with obvious things such as makeup wipes and disposable cotton pads. The Makeup Eraser was the first step towards cleaning up my act—it has not only saved me money on makeup wipes (which I haven’t purchased in months now), but it’s gentle on my skin and good for the environment.


After seeing what the Makeup Eraser did for my skin and my bank account, reusable cotton pads naturally piqued my interest. I looked to Amazon to find reusable cotton to implement into my routine. To my surprise, there were a ton of options to choose from, and most were reasonably priced. Most recently, I purchased these organic 100% bamboo cotton pads, which comes with 20 reusable cotton rounds (about enough to get me through a week).


Shop it Available at Amazon

So, how do you use reusable cotton pads?

You can pretty much use a reusable cotton pad the same way you would use the disposable ones (i.e., with toner eye-makeup remover). I’ve found that I can use these bamboo cotton pads for way more. For example, my current go-to facial soap is The Urban Skin Rx 3-in-1 Clear Skin Cleansing Bar. Though I love this bar soap and all the benefits it has for my acne-prone skin, the bar is inside of a jar, making it almost impossible to use without some sort of pad. Also, the sponges that come with the bar are a bit rough on my skin. Instead, I’ve begun using a reusable bamboo cotton pad that feels much gentler and gives the soap a great lather when I’m washing my face.


Shop it Available at Ulta

As I previously mentioned, I have acne-prone skin, and from my experience, adding reusable cotton pads to my skincare regimen has done my skin major justice. While I haven’t experienced any adverse effects from using reusable cotton pads, I suggest slowly incorporating it into your routine and taking note of how your skin responds.

I asked Sandra Lee, M.D., aka Dr. Pimple Popper, about her opinion on using cotton pads, both reusable and disposable, on acne-prone skin, and here’s what she had to say:

I’m concerned that reusable cotton pads could exacerbate or promote acne [if not cleaned correctly]. I would think you need some pretty strong detergents to remove makeup, oils/serum well from a cotton pad, and if you don’t remove all this oil and dirt, you could be applying this oil and dirt back onto your skin, which would then promote some acne.

The cotton pads that I ordered came with a laundry bag—after you use your pads, you throw them in the laundry bag, put them in the washer and dryer, and then they’re ready to use again. If you do your laundry often, this won’t discourage you from using reusable pads. But if you’re like me and avoid laundry like the plague, you may be tempted to go back to disposable ones. Fortunately, I’ve been enjoying my reusable cotton pads so much that they’re in a way keeping me in check as far as doing my laundry in a timely fashion goes.

Although reusable cotton pads may seem like a bit of a hassle at first, using them is a small step in the right direction, both for your planet and your skin.