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Sleepless night? Here’s how to wake up your skin.

By Lindsay Tigar
Updated February 25, 2020
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For whatever reason, last night wasn’t your night. You did everything you could think of to fall asleep—a meditation sesh, some chamomile tea, reading a book—and yet, no dice. We all know what our brains feel like when we aren’t well-rested: mushy, slow, and exhausted. Unfortunately, our skin also takes a hit when it doesn’t benefit from quality Zzzs.

So what happens when we don’t have our date with Mr. Sandman? As Ashley Magovern, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and owner of Manhattan Dermatology in Manhattan Beach, Calif., explains, when we don’t sleep, our rest doesn’t get to go into its nightly ‘fix it’ mode. “Like the rest of our body, our skin repairs damage and inflammation that has wreaked havoc during the day,” she explains.

Even if your body has adjusted to little rest, your body is still experiencing stress. This type of pressure leads to inflammation throughout your system, increasing the likelihood of red patches and acne breakouts, says Dr. Magovern. And unfortunately, it can actually make you look older, too. “Stress hormones also break down collagen, which is a key hormone for keeping the skin young and healthy-looking," she says. "Breaking collagen down by lack of sleep will contribute to premature aging."

When we sleep, our bodies work to stimulate cell regeneration and repair DNA damage. Because of this, a lack of sleep shows on our faces, according to Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at MCDS: Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Centers in New York City. In fact, one study revealed that poor sleep can have an effect on our appearance, including hanging eyelids, swollen eyes, dark circles, paler skin, and more wrinkles or fine lines.

Now that we got the bad news out of the way, here’s a bit of good news—there are some things you can do about it. If you’re in for a sleepless night, read on to find out how you can make up for it the next morning.

1
Drink lots of water.

When the alarm clock blares and you’re still wide awake, getting out of bed is your first uphill battle. Before you even think about going into the office, do a little damage control from home. Jeannel Astarita, esthetician and founder of the Just Ageless Body Sculpting and Beauty Lab in New York City, suggests drinking two to three glasses of water per day to help hydrate your skin and plump it up. And don’t worry about a fancy filter or juice—according to Astarita, good ol’ fashioned H20 does the trick. If you want, just add some cucumbers for extra taste and antioxidants. “It adds a refreshing flavor that helps me feel more awake and reduces my cravings for sugary drinks that will make me feel sluggish later in the day,” says Astarita.

RELATED: You're Probably Not Drinking Enough Water—Here Are Two Simple Ways to Check

2
Don’t skip your nighttime routine.

Whether someone is going through a demanding period at work or just welcomed their baby home from the hospital, people often go through bouts of insomnia. If you’re going through a time when sleep is a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need,’ Dr. Magovern says it’s still important to maintain a nighttime skincare routine. In fact, it’s the best way to combat the impact. “This will really help over the years and allow you to have a sleepless night once in a while,” she says. “Using an antioxidant, like a Vitamin C serum, and a retinol-containing product is critical to allow your skin to regenerate and repair itself. Then, layer your favorite moisturizer to keep the skin barrier strong, smooth, and hydrated.”

3
Press cold spoons or cucumbers under your eyes.

Whether you pick cold spoons from the freezer, frozen cucumbers, or tea bags, Dr. Garshick says anything that’s cold to the touch can make a difference. Not only will these compresses reduce swelling and puffing, but you will likely find them relaxing and soothing, too. You can also use a cold spoon to apply your go-to eye moisturizers, giving a much needed pick-me-up to the sensitive under-eye area.

4
Don’t exfoliate or scrub.

When you’re taking your morning shower and attempting to feel more human, resist the urge to exfoliate your skin. Though the scrubbing may feel nice and leave you feeling more alert, McGovern says it could aggravate your already-inflamed skin. Instead, she suggests using a gentle product with ingredients that fight puffiness, like aloe, green tea, licorice root extra, vitamin B3, and resveratrol.

RELATED: Exfoliation Is the Secret to Glowing Skin—But Only If You’re Doing It Right

5
Try a gua sha stone massage.

If one glance in the mirror reflects puffy cheeks, eyes, and/or neck, Astarita suggests giving yourself a facial massage. Even better, use a cold gua sha stone—like the Mount Lai Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool ($28; sephora.com)—to release tension and fluid. To do this, start at your neck to stimulate the flow of lymph away from your face. Then, with gentle pressure, follow the contours of your face in an upward motion to help lift and de-puff. “Add in a botanical massage oil and use this as an opportunity to pamper yourself so you have something to look forward to in the morning.”

6
Grab the caffeine.

No, this doesn’t just mean your daily cup of coffee. Skincare products that include caffeine are super effective in fighting under-eye circles since it’s known to vasoconstrict the blood vessels, making them less visible. “Because the under-eye skin is so thin, dark circles can, in part, be related to the visibility of the blood vessels underneath the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. “By making them less noticeable, the under-eye area can appear brighter and more refreshed.” Some of her top picks include First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple-Remedy ($36; sephora.com) and The Ordinary Caffeine Solution ($7; sephora.com).

7
Do a quick workout.

When sleep isn't on your side, your face may look more dull, pale, or lifeless when morning rolls around. To add color to your cheeks and help your tired mind prepare for the day, Astarita suggests getting your heart rate up. “Even a brisk walk or five to 10 minutes of stretching will help bring blood and oxygen to your face for a healthy, rosy glow,” she says. “Not to mention that it will help warm up your muscles, so you feel more well-rested in your body as well.”

8
Use a hyaluronic acid moisturizer.

Fun fact: Hyaluronic acid attracts up to 1,000 times its weight in water, according to Dr. Garshick. This means it’s your best friend for dehydrated, sleepless skin. Look for moisturizers containing this superpower ingredient to help you tackle the day ahead. “Transepidermal water loss is greater at night, so the skin loses more water. It’s especially important to add that moisture back in the morning,” she says. Her favorites include Neutrogena Hydroboost SPF 50 ($15; ulta.com) and Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel ($83; dermstore.com).

RELATEDHyaluronic Acid is the Anti-Aging Ingredient You Need for Glowing Skin