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Cotton as a skin care ingredient: Hip or hype?

Cotton is known for many things: Breathability. Softness. Comfort. Hayden Panettiere. Now, aspects of the fiber are making their way into our skin care products as ingredients that supposedly calm, hydrate and repair our skin. With few studies to back these claims, we went straight to the experts to find out if beauty products laced with cotton outperform our cotton-free favorites.

“Natural oils have become very popular, either as the natural oil or as an ingredient in a product,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research, Department of Dermatology, Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Cottonseed oil in particular is a versatile oil to use: It’s reasonably manufactured and can easily be mixed into other oils and topical combinations (which is pretty much a dream come true for beauty companies).

According to the National Cottonseed Products Association website, as advances in science and technology continue, they expect the trend of using cotton in products like soaps and cosmetics to grow. Among its many talents: “Cotton and its derivatives are high in vitamin E, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which are all anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe skin and calm redness,” says Dr. David Bank, dermatologist and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking her Best at Any Age. “They also fight free radicals, which have been known to inflame skin.”

So does this mean we should start stocking up on cotton-spiked skin care products? Not necessarily: While cotton has good hydration and anti-inflammatory properties, there are other ingredients that can also produce these effects. There’s really no way to tell if cotton-infused skin care products are “better” than the rest, since products have to be judged based on their ingredients as a whole and how they co-mingle. “Cotton-based skin care isn’t necessarily ‘better’ — just different,” says Dr. Purvisha Patel, owner and dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Associates.

Regardless, if the presence of cotton in my beauty products means it might help prevent a fine line or two, I think it’s well worth taking the plunge. Here are a few cotton-infused product recommendations, courtesy of Dr. Bank and Dr. Debra Jaliman, M.D., dermatologist and author of Skin Rules:

Beauty products made with cotton

1. Napoleon Cotton Butter Lip Balm

The neutral shades of Napoleon Cotton Butter Lip Balm are uber-versatile, while cottonseed oil and vitamin E keep lips soft and hydrated. Best of all, there’s no sharpening required. It’s like doing your makeup with a jumbo twist-pen. (, $45)

2. Supreme Cleansing Oil by Sephora

Supreme Cleansing Oil by Sephora is a gentle makeup remover suitable for all skin types. It contains cottonseed oil, as well as vitamins A and E. It’s also easy to use: Just pump into your hands and rub onto dry skin, or add water to change the oil into a lotion. (Sephora, $15)

3. Murad Age Balancing Night Cream

Murad Age Balancing Night Cream contains a blend of essential fatty acids and shea butter, which offer intense hydration to dry, dull skin. (Sephora, $75)

4. Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Formulated with coconut and fatty acids to protect your skin’s balance, Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser eliminates impurities and excess oil without causing irritation. (Sephora, $23)

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