8 Easy Steps to Sleep Your Way to Better Skin
Consider this your dermatologist-approved guide to making every non-waking hour count.
We do so much to make our skin look great in the morning, but what if we said the biggest secret to better skin is what happens while we snooze? Well, it's true—experts say that the hours you put in overnight has the most direct correlation to your skin health.
"We know that the skin undergoes daily circadian rhythms, where specific activities occur in the morning and others in the evening. However, the night is the prime time to rest and repair the damage that occurs to the skin during the day as a result of environmental and other stressors," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Consistent and sufficient R&R is obviously important for a healthy, glowy complexion (there's a reason they call it beauty sleep, after all), but there are additional practices you can implement to maximize your sleeping skincare routine and help your skin reach its healthiest state. From which products to use to how to position your snooze, we asked experts to break down some of their top tips for sleeping your way to better skin.
1 Perform a proper cleanse.
First up: be sure to wash the day away, as sleeping with makeup on can wreak havoc on your skin, leading to acne, allergies, infections, and beyond. "You want to make sure your face is clean by washing off not only your makeup, but also oils, pollution, and debris that pile up during waking hours," says Wendy E. Roberts, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in California. The trick is to use a gentle yet moisturizing cleanser that will provide a proper clean without stripping the skin of natural oils.
2 Don't forget to hydrate.
According to experts, skin hydration levels decline in the evening, making this an optimal time to pile on the moisture. "This is especially true if you have dry skin. Opt for a rich emollient crème packed with lipids and ceramides, as they will be highly absorbed into the clean and receptive skin," says Dr. Roberts. And don't stop there! "I always apply a good eye cream, neck cream, and petrolatum-based ointment for my lips," adds Jenny Liu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Minnesota.
3 Embrace an overnight treatment.
For added hydration and anti-aging benefits, Dr. Liu recommends integrating a retinol serum into your routine three to four times per week. "I then replace that one to two times weekly with an AHA overnight treatment for a dose of exfoliation," she says. For hydrating benefits, consider adding an overnight mask to your routine at least once a week. More concentrated with skin-loving, youth-boosting ingredients, it's a choice way to really make the most of those precious hours of shut-eye.
4 Mind your mane.
Similar to your skin, experts advise against going to bed with overly greasy and dirty hair, ideally keeping it away from the face. "If you're acne-prone, you'll want to be especially mindful of hair oils and styling products that could transfer to your pillow or skin and lead to acne," advises Dr. Liu. "That doesn't mean you can't sleep with a hair mask or leave-in conditioner. but you'll ideally want to sleep with a towel or shower cap as well."
5 Change your position.
Unfortunately, Dr. Zeichner points out there are frictional forces at play while we sleep that accelerate aging and cause fine lines to appear. "With respect to skin aging, the best way to sleep is on your back. This means that none of the skin is pushed up against a pillowcase to potentially become wrinkled or folded," he says. According to Dr. Liu, chronic side sleeping can not only lead to wrinkles, but also uneven volume loss.
6 Switch up your bedding.
And that friction doesn't stop with the face. "You want to diminish tension both on skin and hair," says Dr. Roberts. "I tend to find satin/silky fabrics are best. A cradle-type pillow also prevents side sleeping, which leads to skin lines and wrinkles." While she points out that it's a personal preference, Dr. Liu adds that natural fibers tend to be more soothing, especially for those with sensitive or eczema-prone skin.
7 Clear the air.
When it comes to your skin, Dr. Liu recommends keeping temperatures on the cooler side. "Not only can it help you sleep better, but heat can exacerbate itching sensations and aggregate those with eczema," she explains. "A humidifier can also be helpful for dry and eczema-prone skin." (Browse some of our favorite humidifiers here.)
8 Make it count.
Last, but certainly not least, you'll want to make sure you're actually getting enough sleep. Our metabolism slows down when we're sleeping, allowing the body to direct all of its energy to healing everything (similar to not walking on a broken foot)," explains Dr. Roberts. "Eight hours is the minimum and 10 hours is golden." (Need a little help? Check out this roundup of shuteye-enhancing picks.)