Covert face recognition has previously been thought to produce only very short-lasting effects. In this study we demonstrate that manipulating subjects' attentional load affects explicit, but not implicit memory for faces, and that implicit effects can persist over much longer intervals than is normally reported. Subjects performed letter-string tasks of high vs. low perceptual load (Lavie, N. (1995). Perceptual load as a necessary condition for selective attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Perfomance. 21, 451-468.), while ignoring task-irrelevant celebrity faces. Memory for the faces was then assessed using (a) a surprise recognition test for the celebrities' names, and (b) repetition priming in a face familiarity task. The load manipulation strongly influenced explicit recognition memory, but had no effect on repetition priming from the same items. Moreover, faces from the high load condition produced the same amount of priming whether they were explicitly remembered or not. This result resolves a long-standing anomaly in the face recognition literature, and is discussed in relation to covert processing in prosopagnosia.