You don’t have to be a beauty enthusiast to appreciate the importance of beauty sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults (ages 18 to 60) should get at least seven hours of shut eye a night (news flash: most don’t). And it's not just about quantity — it's about quality, too. Good sleep quality is essential to health and wellbeing, with poor sleep linked to chronic conditions like obesity, coronary heart disease attack, stroke, asthma, and more.
So, it should come as no surprise that catching an adequate amount of zzzs also impacts the skin. It’s not an illusion that you wake up looking refreshed and rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep, and we’ve asked the experts to explain how it affects skin from a physiological perspective. Plus, they share their tips for how to maximize your beauty sleep with a personalized skincare routine.
How Your Skin Changes Overnight
From a physiological standpoint, there are several changes taking place in your skin at night. The first is that your skin is at a higher temperature. “As the sun goes down, your body starts to cool, but your skin actually heats up as your body releases heat,” says aesthetician and eponymous brand founder Renée Rouleau. Your skin’s barrier is more permeable, as well. “Now that your skin isn’t facing an onslaught from the outside environment, its barrier starts to become more permeable,” she explains. And there’s higher cell proliferation. “Cell division preferentially occurs in the evening,” says New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “There is data showing that DNA replication peaks in the second half of the day.” As a result, it is thought that most of the skin’s growth and repair occur in the evening, he says.
While we may associate nighttime with sleep, many of the body’s processes are more in tune with the environment than we might realize. “We used to think that repair processes in the body and skin only occurred at night while we slept,” Rouleau says. “We now know that these processes actually kick in as soon as the sun goes down, even if your body isn’t in rest mode yet.” Because repair processes are synced with circadian rhythms, the loss of daylight signals to your body that it’s time to start winding down — even if you haven’t gone to bed yet. “This may mean it’s actually beneficial to do your nighttime routine earlier in the evening rather than waiting until right before you go to bed,” Rouleau notes.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Adequate Sleep
There is no doubt that getting enough sleep every night offers a variety of skin benefits. “Most noticeably, a lack of sleep can make the skin appear dull and lacking a glow,” Rouleau says. “When you are in an upright, vertical position throughout the day, gravity pushes fluids and blood flow downwards away from the face.” Not getting enough shut eye means there is less time for the skin’s circulation and fluids to correct themselves. The result? Tired-looking skin and dark circles. “Because a lack of sleep compromises your body’s circulatory system, you get stagnant blood in the vessels under the eyes that haven’t properly drained,” Rouleau explains. Depending on the cause of your dark circles (not all are caused by sleep deprivation), sleep can reduce them, she says.
Just as poor sleep can exacerbate chronic health conditions, so too can it exacerbate chronic skin conditions. “Lack of sleep and increased stress can aggravate all skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis,” Rouleau says, which makes skincare all the more important in the overnight hours.
Daytime skincare routines are curated by skin type and concern, and nighttime regimens can also be customized to fit your needs — albeit with one universal necessity: a moisturizing night cream. Since skin hydration levels naturally decrease throughout the day, Dr. Zeichner says it’s important to apply a night cream to restore those levels when we know they are at their lowest. He typically recommends finding a moisturizer that also contains collagen-stimulating ingredients. “Increasing collagen production at a time when it is already most active can make it a more efficient process,” he says. One to try: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask.
While a hydrating night cream can be the final step in any nighttime skincare routine, there are plenty of other products that can be applied beforehand to treat more specific needs (think: uneven skin tone and texture, clogged pores, etc.). Below are the best ingredients to treat some of the most common skin types and concerns:
For Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, Dr. Zeichner says to look for ingredients like ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol. “These natural fats fill in cracks between skin cells in the outer skin to help repair the skin barrier,” he says. He recommends Kate Somerville DeliKate Cream, which is gentle enough for dry and/or sensitized complexions. “It combines skin-repairing ceramides with botanical extracts and an anti-inflammatory peptide,” Dr. Zeichner says.
For Combination Skin
If you have combination skin (i.e. dry in some places and oily in others), consider moisturizers that are rich in emollient oils to soften and hydrate rough cells on the surface of the skin. Dr. Zeichner likes Schaf Moisturizer, which combines hemp, avocado, grape seed, and pumpkin seed oil. “It can be used on dryer skin areas like the cheeks, along with the T-zone without making the skin greasy,” he says.
For Oily Skin
It’s important to understand that skin oil and skin hydration are two separate issues. “Even if you are oily or acne-prone, you may suffer from dry skin,” Dr. Zeichner shares. Oily skin types can benefit from products that contain hyaluronic acid because, he says, “it acts like a sponge to pull in hydration to the skin, but won’t leave you feeling sticky or oily.” One to try: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. “It delivers high concentrations of skin-plumping hyaluronic acid in a light gel base that won't weigh to skin down,” he explains.
For Breakouts and Clogged Pores
If acne, clogged pores, and oily skin top your list of skin concerns, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are hands-down the best option for you, Rouleau says. “Salicylic acid is the only BHA available in skincare and is naturally derived from willow bark,” she explains. It’s a great ingredient for dissolving keratin plugs inside pores, plus it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It should be noted, however, that the exfoliant can be drying. “Salicylic acid can cause dryness in some people, so you’ll want to look for a formula that includes hydrating ingredients,” she says. For someone prone to breakouts and sensitivity, Rouleau recommends her Renée Rouleau Skin Correcting Serum.
For Brighter Skin
If you are looking for an overnight radiance boost, Rouleau advises using a product with vitamin C — specifically tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. “Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is one of the most stable and effective forms of vitamin C and is, therefore, generally tolerated better by those with sensitive skin than water-soluble forms of vitamin C,” she explains. And it’s not just for nighttime. Using tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate with your daily sunscreen will increase protection against harmful UV rays, she says, recommending her Renée Rouleau Vitamin C&E Treatment.
For Fine Lines and Wrinkles
For aging skin, Dr. Zeichner recommends ingredients like bakuchiol or retinol. “These ingredients stimulate receptors within skin cells to rev up production of collagen,” he says. He likes Burt's Bees Renewal Firming Moisturizing Cream. Additionally, Rouleau says that those concerned with fine lines and wrinkles should use anti-inflammatory products geared toward repair and exfoliation. “Renée Rouleau Firm + Repair Overnight Serum is loaded with all the best ingredients that your skin needs for optimal nighttime skincare restoration and skin firming,” she says, noting it is safe for all skin types. For smoothing fine lines around the eyes, try the brand’s Overnight Eye Serum.
It’s not just about creating a skincare regimen with the right products for your skin’s needs. Your sleep set-up and evening routine matter, too. Consider upgrading your pillow (we like the Purple Harmony Pillow) and adding a silk pillowcase (like this one from Slip) to keep your skin smooth and hair healthy. If you are having trouble falling asleep, nutritionist Keri Glassman, RD, CDN, recommends taking SugarBear Sleep Vitamins with a cup of chamomile tea. Another tip? Swap screen time for a book or meditation. “It’s important to put your phone away before bed,” she explains. “The blue light emitted from the screen can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and confuse the body's internal clock.”
At the end of the day (pun intended), it's all about finding a ritual that works for you. “Establishing a sleep routine that’s as regular as possible by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day will also help your body’s internal clock,” Glassman says.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
More Related Articles
‘Try on’ aesthetic procedures and instantly visualize possible results with AEDIT and our patented 3D aesthetic simulator.