While You Were Seeping

I hope you're ready for something gross and kind of disturbing because I'm about to take that old adage about not airing your dirty laundry and dropkick it into the great beyond. I am about to literally air my dirty laundry, is what I'm saying. It's not going to be pretty, but it is going to be satisfying—and maybe it'll even be helpful. 

A few months ago, in early May, I started waking up in the morning to find orange stains on my pillowcase. They were faint at first, but they got worse as the days went on. After a week, it looked like I'd massacred a bunch of carrots during a terrible nightmare. It looked like I'd fallen asleep with an orange Sharpie in my mouth. It looked like I'd snuggled up close to an Oompa Lompa who'd left before dawn. Are you getting the picture of how this looked? I hope so, because I don't think you want to see an actual picture of how this looked. I debated posting one, trust me, but in the end I decided it would be better for me to keep my dignity and you to keep your lunch. 

Naturally, I figured the orange stains were being caused by something I was putting on my skin. Over the next few months, as I washed my pillowcases with Lady Macbeth-like intensity, I stopped using, in this order, my day moisturizer, my night moisturizer, my tinted moisturizer designed to make me look like I'd just got back from a week in Aruba, and my face wash. Nothing happened. The pillowcases got oranger. My condition became a joke. "Did you seep again?" Sean would ask every morning, and I'd check my pillowcase dejectedly to find another orange stain. Yep. Still seeping. 

It drove me nuts. I stopped using everything I could think of, determined to find the source of the problem. Was it my hair dye? It was not my hair dye. Was it that fake tan I used one time? It was not that fake tan I used one time. Was it my vitamins? Were my vitamins making me leak orange? I stopped taking my vitamins. It was not my vitamins. 

It was also not my Latisse. It was not my shower gel. It was not my shampoo. It was not my earplugs and it was not some bizarre reaction to the shellac manicure I'd just got (I know, I know, but I was getting desperate.) 

I googled and googled to no avail. I asked a nurse at an unrelated doctor's appointment and she wrinkled her brow. I ruined six separate pillowcases with my orange face stains, and no amount of scrubbing or bleaching would get them out. I asked my friends if this had ever happened to them and everyone said no. I brought along a dark t-shirt to put on top of the pillows when I stayed in hotels. I started thinking that perhaps I had some terrible liver condition. Or some terrible hormonal problem. Or some terrible as-yet-unnamed orange face seeping disease. At least I could probably get a show on TLC, I reassured myself grimly. It would be called The Lady Who Leaked Orange! and it would air right after the one about the people who can't stop eating dryer sheets.

After a few months of this, I was at the end of my rope. Every morning, my pillow looked like it had been face-painted by a five-year-old running wild with a pack of Burnt Sienna crayons. I decided it was probably time to make a doctor's appointment, just to make sure I wasn't about to die. I would bring along an unwashed pillowcase, I decided, for evidence. That wouldn't be weird at all. 

And then one day last week, I was browsing sleep masks online because the one I'd been using since Christmas was starting to pinch. I figured I'd buy the same one again, because it had been fine up until now, but out of curiosity I took a look at some of the one-star reviews just in case.

And this is how Sean, five minutes later, recieved perhaps the most startling instant message of his life. I HAVE FIGURED OUT THE SEEPING! I typed triumphantly, with way more exclamation points than I have included here. I KNOW WHY I KEEP LEAKING ORANGE!

The people in the reviews were complaining about stains on their pillowcases. They were mad and frustrated. They had tried eliminating things from their diets and skincare routines to figure out the staining. They had googled what was happening to them. They had asked doctors. They had ruined sheet sets. They had used a lot of bleach. And then finally—much quicker than I did, it seems—they had come to the conclusion that their sleep mask was the culprit. Many of them, like me, had used it with no issue for several months before this started happening. Some of them reported blue and purple stains—not orange, like mine—which gave me a little pause, but I wondered if maybe the manufacturer had started using a different dye (the mask itself is black.) 

Regardless, I slept without the mask that night, and again the next night. On the third day, my new mask—a different brand, obviously—came in the mail, and I wore that instead. As god is my witness, I never seeped again.

So this is my reassurance to you, dear reader, if you are currently using the Lewis N. Clark Comfort Eye Mask—which is a bummer, because it's a genuinely good sleep mask otherwise—that you are not, in fact, turning into an alien or suffering from a horrible disease, but if you're waking up with orange (or blue or purple) pillowcases, there is a very good chance that this is why. (And if you're considering it, I wouldn't. As far as alternate sleep masks go, this one has been orange-stain-free for me so far.) 

For now, I'm so darn relieved to have got to the root of the problem that I haven't even sat down to compose a strongly-worded letter to the makers of the offending  mask yet, but believe you me, I will. And for them, I'm not going to be shy about including a photograph. Oh no, I'm going to show them the crime scene in all its ghastly orange glory. Multiple attachments, I'm thinking. If they're lucky, I won't make them super hi-res. 

Sep 16, 2012

You use a sleep mask? Like, real people, actually use these? Interesting. Don't your eyelids work properly? I find this fascinating...

Glad you found your culprit.

Sep 17, 2012

That is hilarious! But I'm also fascinated that real people use sleep masks.

Sep 17, 2012

Love that you used a Macbeth reference! And so glad you figured out what was causing the seeping!

Holly P.
Sep 17, 2012

You've already ordered a new eye mask, however if ever in the future you need a new brand...or if anyone else is in the market for an eye mask, I highly recommend Bucky Blinks eye masks. I searched FOREVER until I found this one. It's super light-weight, it is slightly raised over your eyes so they don't feel smashed, it has an adjustable velcro strap and it keeps the light out. Oh, and it doesn't leak orange. :0

Sep 17, 2012

That would drive me CRAZY! I also use a sleep mask ( that's what 2 and 3am shifts do to you! Too much light!) but so far so good on the seeping. Thanks for the review on the new one, it has to be better than the target dollar bin one I've been clinging on to for far too long. Oh and I can't wait to hear the response you'll get from the sleep mask company!

Sep 17, 2012

I'm so glad you figured out what was wrong! That must have been incredibly frustrating, despite how hilarious it is to read about later. I'm actually in the market for a sleep mask, and I hadn't even thought about this possible side-effect...glad to have a recommendation that will keep my pillowcases safe!

Staci M.W.
Sep 17, 2012

This was a fun/funny read.
But! One question:: why would the sleep mask not automatically stick out as the obvious culprit? I mean, it's the only foreign thing in the mix of the sleeping habits of an otherwise healthy person.....

Sep 17, 2012

Alicia: Yes, I like to practice Total Sensory Deprivation when I sleep, so a mask and earplugs it is. I wrote about it a little bit here: http://nothingbutbonfires.com/2012/03/three-uncool-things-changed-my-life

Staci: That's a good question and I just DON'T KNOW WHY I didn't think of the sleep mask being the culprit before. It just seemed entirely impossible that it would be. I mean, it's a black mask. It was never DAMP or anything when I woke up. I was convinced the orange was something coming out of my skin. I couldn't even figure out HOW a black mask would make orange stains on a pillow (still can't, really) so I never even thought to question it. Crazy, right? It seems really obvious now that it was the one thing I didn't change.

Sep 17, 2012

I'm fascinated by this. How did the mask leak color onto your pillowcases but not your face?

I can relate to this a little bit. About 15 years ago, I started noticing a weird itchy allergy around my eyes and chin that would pop up randomly after a night's sleep. My eyes and chin would be red and inflamed in the morning, then dry out during the day, so I had these awful dry patches and saggy baggy upper eyelids that would peel. This would happen for 3-4 days at a time, then stop, then come back two weeks later, then not happen for a month, etc. It didn't happen anywhere except for my face, and primarily around my eyes. I started cutting things out of my diet, went to the doctor, to no avail. Finally, I went to a dermatologist, he asked me like two questions, then said, "nail polish. Have you changed your nail polish recently?" And in fact, I HAD. I had started using some super crazy chemical top coat, and apparently I slept with my hands near my face at night. The eyes are usually the most sensitive area, so they reacted first, followed by the chin, and then clear up as soon as I took the nail polish off. DUH! It was such a relief to find out, I was so excited the mystery was finally solved.

Weirdly, the new nail polish must have triggered some allergy in me, because I couldn't use ANY polish for years without the same thing happening. I literally sported bare nails for about 10 years straight, up until a few years ago when I started dabbling again, and - knock on wood - the allergy seems to be gone! Either I don't sleep with my hands by my face anymore, or my skin has gotten more tolerant with chemicals. I do notice I get the familiar itch when I use a retinol too often, though.

Anyway, sorry for the novel. TL;DR - I can relate!

Sep 17, 2012

Interesting... I'm such a heavy sleeper that it never occurred to me to use a mask or ear plugs. Yay! I learned something new today!

I'm TOTALLY going to take ear plugs the next time I fly. I hate Chatty Cathys!

Sep 17, 2012

OMG! I have those blue and purple marks on my pillowcases and use that very eye mask! I haven't spent much time dwelling on it--I assumed it was my fault and had occurred in the laundry. This is the most useful post ever.

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 17, 2012

Chiara: YES! This makes me so happy. If I have solved just one other person's Stained Pillowcase Mystery, my work is done!

Debbie in the UK
Sep 18, 2012

I am with Alicia, I didn't realise people used sleep masks ! I use ear plugs, so maybe I should give it a go ?

Sep 18, 2012

First of all, gross, in the best possible way. Can you talk more about Latisse? I just ordered Lilash off eBay (which I'm sure is a GREAT idea) and I am all about hearing people's eyelash serum stories.

Sep 18, 2012

Question I've always had for people who sleep with earplugs and eye masks -- How do you wake up in time for work/school/etc.? I would assume that the sensory deprivation would also block out alarm clocks... So curious!

Staci M.W.
Sep 18, 2012

I love being able to just about hear you when you write. I am breathing a proverbial sigh of relief for you!!

Sep 18, 2012

SarahinBoston- I wondered this too until I started wearing earplugs myself. My alarm is loud and right next to my head, and I always hear it when it goes off in the morning. I think that those of us who are drawn to earplugs are relatively light sleepers by definition, so the beeping alarm clock can still be heard and is not something we'd sleep through. However, if I used a clock radio, or a less jarring alarm, I definitely think I'd have a problem.

Anna Louisa
Sep 18, 2012

1. one of your best blog titles yet.
2. I'm equally baffled by "real" people sleeping with sleep masks...it sound like the other Holly (Golightly)!
3. (In a glamourous way...not a lady of the night sort of way :).


Sep 18, 2012

Sarah in Boston: Yes, exactly what Erin said! I'm a pretty light sleeper anyway, so I always wake up to the alarm -- even with an eye mask and earplugs (which just kind of muffle sound, like you're underwater, rather than blocking it out completely) I think I'd be incapable of ever sleeping through it! Haven't yet anyway...

Sep 18, 2012

SO glad that you solved this mystery! When things come so out of left field they can be very difficult to figure out. I'm so glad that it was not some horrible biological problem which was my fear from the get go so I read this whole post kind of holding my breath waiting to hear what was leaking out of your ears. SO relieved that it was your eye mask!! Breathing smoothly now. Sleep tight.

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 18, 2012

Anna: I got my Latisse on something of a whim, mostly because I was sick of spending money on mascaras that didn't work, and I have to say that I've been really happy with it. It hasn't made my eyelashes DRAMATICALLY longer (they were pretty puny to begin with) but I can definitely see the difference. I'm pretty lax about applying it every night -- I'd say I probably manage every other night, if that -- and it's still worked pretty well for me. No side effects either (knock on wood...)

Sep 19, 2012

have you seen this from last Sunday's New York Times Magazine?? Fascinating when colors show up on skin....


Sep 23, 2012

I got some free earplugs on facebook (Hearos) and never had to use them until they decided to replace the water main on our street this summer. I would hear the trucks start up at the crack of dawn, pop those babies in, and go right back to sleep. I couldn't hear the trucks which were literally 25 feet from the house, but I could hear my alarm go off. It was bliss.

Sep 25, 2012

" At least I could probably get a show on TLC, I reassured myself grimly. It would be called The Lady Who Leaked Orange! and it would air right after the one about the people who can't stop eating dryer sheets." That part cracked me up! I am very fascinated/horrified with the show where people are obsessed with eating weird things.

I too am a very light sleeper- always have earplugs by my bed in case I can hear too many things in the night. But the light doesn't bother me- in fact I think that sleeping with something on my face would bother me more.

Sep 25, 2012

I am baffled by the amount of people on here who are baffled by sleep mask usage! Sleep masks are saviors to us light sensitive / not great at sleeping - type people.

Also: I need to give an extra shoutout to bucky.com's sleep masks as one of the other readers did. I have tried a few brands as well and they are awesome. They are super cushy and don't smash your eyes in like a lot of other brands do. Highly recommend them!

Jan 01, 2013

Thanks for figuring this out. I have the same issue with the exact same mask. Thought I was dying w/ liver disease... Probably am now thanks to the effin dye in this mask.

Jan 05, 2013

Bless you! I have been having the exact same problem. Will order a new mask right now.

Feb 04, 2013

Oooooh! I just got a script for Latisse, and didn't even THINK about my sleep mask. Is it safe to use Latisse and wear my sleep mask? Do you? Please please tell me tell me! I can't give up my mask... But I also want long lush lashes!

Feb 20, 2013

I had the same problem with the same brand mask. I ruined linens in multiple places.

Apr 17, 2013

The orange stains happen to me, too! But I don't use a sleep mask. I used to drink a lot of diet soda; and am now starting to drink more (a lot more) water. This is when my problem started....

Jun 19, 2013

Omg - thank you thank you thank you for posting this!!!! At this very moment I am staring at my orange stained pillow cases with my Lewis and Clark mask in hand - annoyed, but so grateful to finally have an answer. And why didn't I think of this before?! I just took the mask and lined it up with the stains - it's a perfect match. How totally annoying. This has caused me to ruin a lot of good sheets! I am throwing away this godforsaken mask immediately.

Btw - I use a sleeping mask and earplugs every night. It's not weird. What's weird is how judgy people seem to be about something so benign!

You are the best, NBB!!

Dec 02, 2013

OMG I love this post ! I had my hair dyed a month ago and thought my hairdresser had decided to ditch me as my pillow cases were turning purple every night , thought he had a special dye to turn me off ??? I know sounds weird and chemically impossible ! I too started to wear an eye mask months ago( my husband says I have eyelids made of cling wrap , the slightest bit of light or sound wakes me ( does not help that he wakes at 5 am ). Have worn the eye mask ( airline brand ) for months with no stains until now ! I guess they use one fabric on the eye side ( hoping it is safer ) and one on the outer side. Will experiment . good luck all

May 19, 2016

You are so awesome for helping me solve this myyesrt.

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