Don’t sleep in your makeup. It’s beauty advice we’ve heard over and over again. But if we’re being honest, we’ve all dozed off with at least a little foundation on before. After all, how much damage could it really cause? Well, it turns out that your body does some pretty vital maintenance work at night and doesn’t love a layer of makeup mucking up the works. So if you’re into clear skin and a youthful complexion, you might want to fight those z’s long enough to wash your face before you zonk out.
“Sleep is the body’s time to repair itself from the stress of the day,” board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Brooke A. Jackson, M.D., F.A.A.D., tells SELF. While you sleep, growth hormone stimulates renewal of all of the body’s organs, including the skin, explains Jackson. “[The growth hormone] is secreted in a cyclical manner throughout the day, but peak secretion is about an hour after the sleep cycle begins,” Jackson says. During that time, the growth hormone goes to work repairing damage in the skin that comes from the sun, pollution, and free radicals.
While sleeping in your makeup doesn’t affect the hormones themselves, it does interfere with what they’re trying to get done, board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman tells SELF. During epidermal cell turnover, new skin cells are pushed up to the surface and the old cells on the surface begin to shed. (In fact, we naturally shed about 50 million skin cells a day.) Makeup can trap dead skin cells, preventing them from sloughing off and leaving you with a dull complexion. “The very first sign of aging is not a wrinkle; it’s a lack of radiance,” Engelman says. “When we’re not exfoliating or removing those top surface cells as quickly, the light doesn’t reflect off of the skin as nicely as it does when it’s very clean and properly exfoliated. Even if your skin doesn’t break out, it is going to look older, rougher, and less radiant.”
In addition to messing with the cell-turnover process, wearing makeup to bed can trap oils under the skin, leading to breakouts. “When cells are repairing, they are also lubricating [hair] follicles,” Engelman says. “[When your skin is clean], the oil at the base of the follicles flows to the surface smoothly, but if there’s a blockage at the top of the opening, then that’s the first step for causing acne.”
You could try keeping wipes handy on your nightstand to remove makeup before you tuck in for the night. But unfortunately for those who tend to come home and crawl straight into bed, nothing beats a classic soap-and-water cleanse. “First, makeup wipes do not completely wash off all your makeup,” board-certified dermatologist Janet H. Prystowsky, M.D., P.C., tells SELF. “Second, chemical preservatives [from the wipes] will remain on your skin and can potentially cause irritation.” If you’re absolutely in a pinch, try adding a few drops of oil to a makeup wipe to double its effectiveness. But don’t let it replace traditional face washing too often.
You also need to pay close attention to your pillows, especially since wearing makeup while you sleep can stain them. Even on the nights when you thoroughly wash your face, placing your clean skin on a grimy pillow will undo all of your effort and put your skin in contact with a buildup of oils, so you’ll need to toss your cases in the washing machine at least once or twice a week.
If you really want to step up your beauty game, try swapping your cotton pillowcases for an option that includes copper ions or silk. “Pillowcases containing copper oxide—like the Illuminage ($60; nordstrom.com)—have been shown in double-blind studies to reduce the appearance of deep wrinkles and improve the overall texture of skin,” says Jackson. That’s because copper is one of the core elements that help the skin maintain its elasticity—a.k.a. its bounciness. Similarly, the soft fabric of silk pillowcases—like the ones by ShhSilk ($80; shhsilk.com)—will cut down on friction and minimize your chances of wrinkles caused by sleeping on your face. So, try not to sleep in your makeup, rotate your pillowcases at least once a week, and don’t let the bedbugs bite.