Improve Your Skin While You Sleep

Turns out there is such a thing as “beauty sleep.” Make it count with the right products and nighttime routine.

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 27, 2012
3 min read

Perhaps Sleeping Beauty was ahead of her time. All of those extra hours of shut-eye could have been the secret to her flawless beauty.

But is more shut-eye the new fountain of youth? Possibly. According to at least one study, sleep deprivation shows up on your face. Participants rated photos of sleep-deprived faces as less attractive, less healthy, and more tired.

Many of us aren't getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that only about a quarter of Americans get eight hours of sleep a night. Recent research shows that good sleepers tend to live longer too.

"When you're physically and mentally fatigued, then that stress shows itself," says dermatologist Susan H. Weinkle, MD. "It definitely shows on your face."

Nighttime is the best time to let your skin replenish itself and reap anti-aging benefits. Your body doesn't have to deal with daytime environmental stressors, like sunlight, pollution, and extreme temperatures. Dermatologist Amy Derick, MD, says that while you sleep, your skin gets a reprieve from the trauma of the day.

Make the most of your nighttime hours to get the beauty sleep you need.

  • Clean your face. It's important to establish a nighttime regimen to remove makeup and build-up from the day. Mascara is the biggest culprit, Weinkle says. Use a soft cloth or mild cleanser to gently wash your skin. A fresh surface will allow creams and lotions to penetrate better. Be diligent about cleaning your face nightly. "Like brushing your teeth, it has to be a habit," Weinkle says. "It doesn't have to be a lengthy routine. Just keep it nice and simple."
  • Moisturize. Facial moisturizers should be a girl's best friend. The more you hydrate, the better, Weinkle says. Pay special attention to the area around your lips -- try a lip conditioner -- and eyes. A moisturizer with caffeine can help with puffiness around the eyes, she says.
  • Use retinoids at night. If you only use one product before bed, make it a topical retinoid, Weinkle says. Applying topical retinoids at bedtime, such as tretinoin, or products with retinol, derived from Vitamin A, is recommended because they are light-sensitive and aren't as effective when exposed to UV rays or fluorescent light. Retinoic acid lightens brown spots, thickens the epidermis, makes the skin look more youthful, and stimulates collagen production, she says.
  • Take your vitamins. Dark circles under the eyes are a common complaint associated with lack of sleep. So what's a tired woman to do? One study found that women who applied an under-eye cream containing vitamin K and retinol nightly for 12 weeks saw a marked improvement in their dark circles.
  • Switch your sleep position. Sleeping regularly on your side or stomach can cause noticeable sleep lines to appear across your forehead and around the sides of the nose and chin. Sleep lines result from the pressure of lying on a pillow, Derick says. Try sleeping on your back to smooth out and avoid facial wrinkles.
  • Check your bedroom environment. Dry air from internal heat can wreak havoc on your skin, especially common during the winter months. Consider adding a humidifier to your bedroom. The extra moisture in the air will help prevent your skin from drying out. Derick recommends wearing cotton pajamas instead of polyester fabric. It keeps your skin more hydrated, she says.
  • Brew your own home remedy. Joanna Czech, an esthetician in New York City, highly recommends utilizing scrubs with oatmeal and dandelion tea bags to reduce puffy eyes. She creates her own healing mask for bedtime using a combination of oatmeal, flaxseed, and hot water. Soak your feet with Epsom salt at night and sprinkle in sage if you tend to sweat a lot. Add lavender to create a spa environment, she says.

Show Sources


Amy Derick, MD, dermatologist in private practice in Barrington, Ill.; clinical instructor of dermatology, Northwestern University.

Susan H. Weinkle, MD, dermatologist in private practice in Bradenton, Fla., assistant clinical professor of dermatology, University of South Florida.

Joanna Czech, esthetician, New York.

Derick, A. Skin & Aging, May 2009.

Elson, M. Cosmetics & Toiletries, 2001.

Axelsson, J. BMJ, 2010.

Gu, D. Sleep, May 2010.

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