Everything You Need to Know About Muslin Cloths For Skin

muslin cloths

 Liz deSousa for Byrdie

Cleansing your skin might seem like the easiest part of your skincare routine, but that might be because you're not putting the effort into it that it deserves. Case in point: Have you ever cleansed with a muslin cloth? If your answer was "no" or "what's that?" you're not alone. In fact, many people don't know what muslin cloths even are. To help shed light on the cleansing cloth, we chatted with a dermatologist and celebrity esthetician to uncover the benefits of adding one to your routine, how to use them, and who they work best for. Keep reading to school yourself on the skincare staple you might just want to make room for in your regimen.

Muslin Cloths

Type of product: Cleansing cloth

Main benefits: Gently exfoliates, deeply cleanses, and reduces inflammation

Who should use it: It is recommended for people of all ages and skin types, especially those with easily irritated, overly sensitized skin.

How often can you use it: It can be used daily, morning and night, so long as it's used with light pressure.

Works well with: Gel, oil, and balm cleansers

Don’t use with: Exfoliating scrubs

What Are Muslin Cloths?

If you've ever used Eve Lom's Cleanser, then you've likely had the pleasure of using the accompanying cloth for application. And, chances are, your mom likely used them on you as a baby, given the ultra-gentle nature of the super-thin fabric.

“Muslin is a soft, woven, 100-percent cotton multi-layer cloth popular for baby cloths and blankets because the fabric is so gentle and absorbent, and it gets better and softer with more use,” says celebrity esthetician Jeannel Astarita of Just Ageless Beauty and Body Lab in New York City. “They also happen to be a great addition to a solid skincare routine.”

Benefits of Muslin Cloths for Skin

  • Gently exfoliates: "Because they are so soft, you can get a gentle but thorough exfoliation from nose to toes," Astarita says, noting that you're able to determine the perfect amount of exfoliating pressure, as well.
  • Increases collagen production: "Exfoliation buffs away dry skin and dramatically refines skin texture," notes board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "It is very effective in breaking down skin cells and also increasing collagen production because of the removal of dead particles."
  • Deeply (and simply) cleanses: Unlike high-tech cleansing brushes, muslin cloths are meant to deeply cleanse skin with their tightly-woven fabric that whisks away dirt, impurities, and excess oil.
  • Reduces inflammation: Engelman says that by stimulating the lymphatic system with exfoliation, blood increases in that area and eliminates waste, which can reduce inflammation.

Side Effects of Muslin Cloths

There's only one notable side effect to be aware of when adding muslin cloths into your routine: over-scrubbing. “As with any cloth, over-scrubbing with a muslin cloth can irritate the skin,” Astarita notes. “It’s important to be gentle with skin, regardless of what you are using on it.”

Engelman notes that while muslin cloths are very unlikely to negatively affect your skin, they will if they're not clean. "Using a dirty muslin cloth with bacteria can spread germs around the face," she explains. That said, instead of letting your cloth hang in the shower between washes, hoping that the mere exposure to water and soap will self-cleanse the cloths, Astarita says to hand- or machine-wash the cloths and allow them to thoroughly dry between each use to prevent bacteria from building up.

How to Use Them

Given their simple, washcloth-like nature, as you might have imagined, they're incredibly easy to use.

“I like to massage in an oil cleanser and then wipe off until the cloth comes away clean,” Astarita says, noting you can use them on your face and body. “Use with a cleanser by lathering and then wiping gently until the cloth comes away clean."

Beyond cleansing, you can use muslin cloths as cold compresses. “Muslin cloth is ideal for use as a cold compress because it’s so soft and absorbent,” Astarita says. To use as such, she says to wet them, wring them out, individually freeze them in storage bags so that you always have them on-hand in the freezer. “These baby soft cold compresses are the ideal way to cool off post-laser treatments or even after a workout or whenever your face is hot and flushed,” she adds. “The cotton actually pulls the heat out of your skin and into the cloth.”

The Best Products to Use With Muslin Cloths

While you might be inclined to pair muslin cloths with all of your favorite skincare products, Engelman says they're best paired with cleansers (especially oils and balms) and toners. "You would not want to use with a lotion or cream," she adds, noting that doing so would waste the product absorbed by the cloth.

Muslin Cloths vs. Washcloths

If, after all this, you're wondering how muslin cloths are that much different than super-soft washcloths, keep in mind that even the softest terrycloth is rougher than muslin. Astarita says that this simple fact makes it easier to scrub too hard, which can irritate and inflame the skin.

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