We recently watched this YouTube video where Chriselle Lim was doing her skin care routine and used toilet paper as a cotton pad because she was traveling. It got us wondering: Will your skin be OK if you substitute toilet paper for a cotton pad? Here’s your answer (because we know you’ve also wondered this).
Let’s paint the scene: You’re standing at the vanity in your hotel bathroom—makeup kit stashed next to the tiny shampoo bottle and the improbably small tube of body lotion—ready to start your nighttime skin care routine.
You’ve got the perfect travel cleanser stashed in your bag (the Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick) and maybe even a sheet mask, and now you just need to sweep on your toner and… Oh no. Your fingers dip into the side pouch of your overnight bag where your go-to Klairs Toner Mate 2 in 1 Cotton Pads are stashed and you find nothing but air. Halfway through your carefully honed cleansing routine and you’re suddenly stuck, all because you forgot to pack your cotton pads. Now, of course, you could just skip over that one step and move on with your life—a little less clean, a little more disappointed—or you could turn to that convenient little roll on the other side of the bathroom.
Yep. Toilet paper.
It’s something that most of us have done at one point or another, if we’re honest. Tear off a few squares of TP, wad it up, and splash your product onto it as a makeshift cotton pad. Not ideal, sure, but after a seasoned beauty pro like Chriselle did it in her video we started to wonder about another point: Is using a paper product not designed for your face actually safe?
“I find it hard to believe that occasional use of toilet paper as a cotton pad replacement would pose any risk to your health,” assures cosmetic chemist and The Beauty Brains founder Randy Schueller. As he points out, while toilet paper might not be specifically manufactured with faces in mind, it is made for another very sensitive area; the kind of place that additional chemicals or other irritants would get a lot of negative attention quickly.
Dermatologist Annie Chiu agrees. “In a pinch, there is no issue in using toilet paper, but it’s all about how the fibers are weaved. Cotton pads are meant not to have little lint fibers that might otherwise stick to the skin, which is more annoying than truly ‘unsafe’,” she says, Safety aside, though, she warns that toilet paper (and facial tissues) are not designed to be as absorbent as a typical cotton pad, meaning that whatever product you might be using them to apply won’t be held or delivered to your skin as efficiently as they would be with the real-deal.
Given all of that, we wouldn’t recommend skipping out on your usual pads altogether (when it comes to getting the job done, there’s really no substitute) but if you get into dire skincare straits, don’t stress. “The ideal is a cotton pad,” says Chiu, “but when you are traveling and without it, it’s definitely OK to sub toilet paper or Kleenex if needed! I’ve done it myself.”