Avoid making these common beauty missteps, and you’ll be on your way to maximizing the benefits of beauty sleep.
How you treat your skin at night affects how you look and feel when you wake up in the morning.
For all the assaults your skin takes during the day — from the sun, pollution, and makeup — the chance for your complexion to restore and renew while you sleep is important for maintaining youthful skin as the years go by. It pays off: Sleeping well has been associated with less skin aging compared with poor sleepers, and those who lacked shut-eye were more likely to have a compromised skin barrier (which keeps irritants out) and say they were less satisfied with their appearance, per a study published in January 2015 in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology.
All that to say, beauty sleep is a real phenomenon, and you can help make the most of it by practicing good skin-care habits at night. “Your skin is in repair mode every night. Unlike the day, you’re not sweating off what’s on your skin, so products can be nicely absorbed,” says Deirdre Hooper, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans and an associate clinical professor in the department of dermatology at Louisiana State University and Tulane University.
But don’t get in your own way by skipping critical anti-aging ingredients, slathering on products meant for the daytime, or increasing your risk of irritation. Here are the nighttime mistakes experts say could be contributing to skin problems:
1. You’re Not Washing Your Face Before You Hit the Sheets
It’s been a long day, you’re dog-tired, and all you want to do is face-plant into your pillow. Please wash your face first. “I don’t think you need to wash your face in the morning, especially if your skin is sensitive or dry, but it’s an absolute must at night,” says Dr. Hooper. Washing removes the dirt and pollution that’s accumulated on skin throughout the day, something that can contribute to acne and accelerate the aging process, Hooper says. If washing at the sink is too big of an ask, then — at the bare minimum — keep micellar facial wipes on your bedside table and do a quick wipe-down in bed.
2. You Gave Up on Your Retinoid Regimen to Fight Signs of Aging
If you go to the dermatologist in hopes of starting a routine to delay signs of aging, the doc will most likely advise using a retinoid or retinol. The vitamin A derivative revs collagen production to fight fine lines and wrinkles, according to according to Harvard Health Publishing. Thing is, retinoids also boost skin cell turnover, and they can leave you with irritation, past research has noted. That irritation may convince you that your complexion can’t tolerate them, causing you to stop completely. Not so fast!
If you’re seeing a bit of peeling, redness, or your face stings when you wash it, back off for a night or two, advises Charisse Dolitsky, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group practicing on Long Island, New York, and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, New York. Once your complexion calms, resume use. Always apply a small (pea-sized) amount.
While prescription retinoids are more powerful compared with those in over-the-counter anti-aging products, Dr. Dolitsky steers patients toward over-the-counter formulas to reduce the chance of irritation. Follow up with a moisturizer on top to improve hydration.
3. You Forget to Apply Your Retinoid on a Regular Basis
Speaking of retinoids, it can be tough to use it consistently when you’re not using it every day. And just like exercise, consistency is key to results, Hooper says. In fact, Harvard points out that you’ll see the best anti-aging results after 12 months of using a retinoid.
Hooper recommends applying your retinoid daily to the bridge of your nose and forehead, two places where most people can tolerate regular application. Over time, begin to apply on your cheeks and chin (avoid the area close to your eyes or mouth) twice a week. By reaching for a retinoid nightly, you’re less likely to forget.
4. You’re Relying on the Wrong Antioxidant at Night
Some antioxidants are best saved for the morning, most notably vitamin C, Hooper says. “These neutralize free radicals that assault skin all day,” she says. Free radicals are substances that attack and damage healthy cells, contributing to disease throughout the body, according to a review published in the journal Pharmacognosy Review.
A good vitamin C serum can be pricey, so don’t waste your money by using it at night where your skin won’t get the most out of it. But if you’re going for a nighttime antioxidant, apply a serum containing resveratrol. (One to try: SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E, available at DermStore.com.)
Resveratrol is inactivated by the sun and doesn’t do well in the morning, Hooper says. “If you have time [and the budget], applying multiple antioxidants is a good idea, as a variety offers more well-rounded protection. It’s like eating a variety of vegetables for a diverse array of nutrients,” she says.
5. You’re Scrubbing Your Skin Too Hard and Too Often
Just like you don’t want to be too hands-off with your nighttime habits, you don’t want to get too enthusiastic, either. Resist the urge to scrub or exfoliate routinely, especially if you’re already using a retinoid, says Dolitsky. For one, it’s redundant — a retinoid is already doing the work stimulating cell turnover. Combining a retinoid and scrub also increases the risk of an irritation flare-up. Once a week is likely safe for your skin, she says; any more often is overdoing it. All that’s left to do is wake up more beautiful tomorrow.