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Sometimes after a particularly long or stressful day, the last thing you want to do is wash your face, nonetheless, perform a multi-step routine. While crawling straight into bed may sound appealing, the dull, dry, and possibly pimple-ridden skin you’ll wake up to in the morning simply isn’t worth it. Not only is sticking to a nightly regimen crucial to maintaining a healthy, youthful-looking complexion, but it’s also the perfect way to unwind before hitting the hay. We talked to top dermatologists about achieving your best beauty sleep ever, and turns out, it's totally doable, even on your sleepiest nights. Follow this recommended nighttime skin care routine.
Try double cleansing
Yes, it really is as bad as they say it is to sleep in your makeup. That’s why cleansing is one of the most important things you can do each night. “It removes all the dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells you accumulated throughout the day,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Sleeping with makeup on overnight while your skin is repairing itself weakens the skin barrier and causes rapid aging.” In addition, you’ll be more prone to breakouts, she adds.
A fool-proof way to get everything off is by double-cleansing. Start by washing with an oil-based cleanser to remove the makeup and grime. Try Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil ($32; sephora.com). Then, choose a water-based one depending on your skin type. “You can tailor the second step based on your complexion’s needs,” explains Sonia Batra, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, CA. “For someone with dry or sensitive skin, try using something that’s calming and hydrating. If you’re acne-prone, this is when you insert your anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory wash with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.”
For the serious makeup lovers, try using a micro-fiber cloth, like the Makeup Eraser ($20; sephora.com), before cleansing. They’re designed to attract all of the makeup particles from skin, really giving you a clean slate. “The one downside is that they aren’t therapeutic,” says Batra, so make sure to always follow it up with a face wash for additional nourishment.
Slather on supercharged products
Post-cleansing, the first thing you should do is apply a serum. These thin, lightweight formulas are highly-concentrated with active ingredients. “They tend to have smaller molecules, which allows the actives to penetrate deeper into the skin where the can work as effectively as possible,” explains Dr. Engelman. It’s the best way to promote cell turnover and boost collagen as you snooze.
A serum infused with plumping peptides and repairing antioxidants is always a safe and effective bet, especially if you’re on the more sensitive side. But for those looking for rapid anti-aging results, there are more aggressive options. “For younger patients, I suggest trying alpha hydroxy acids and for older ones, a retinoid, which triggers more robust cell turnover,” says Dr. Batra. While retinol, an active form of vitamin A, is an amazing way to build collagen, decrease wrinkle depth, improve discoloration, fight acne, and more, it can be irritating. Start off by using it once or twice a week before amping up your usage as skin adjusts.
Afterwards, reach for a night cream. A quality moisturizer is just as important as washing your face at night since it acts as a barrier for skin. “We lose moisture when we sleep, so a cream will help lock it in,” says Dr. Engelman. “It rebalances skin hydration and creates a permeable seal, so your serum can work underneath.” Choose a classic non-comedogenic formula or opt for a leave-on sleeping mask, like Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX ($52; neimanmarcus.com).
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Don’t forget about your eyes
They are the windows to your soul, so giving them a little extra TLC is key. Not to mention, they’re one of tell-tale signs of age. Says Dr. Engelman: “The area is forty percent thinner than the rest of your face, so it can be the first place to show signs of maturing.” Look for an eye cream with collagen boosters, like vitamin C, and line-smoothing peptides to keep the area plump and smooth. Find them in Clinique Pep Start Eye Cream ($27; sephora.com).
Keep your go-to eye cream in the fridge for optimal results. Not only does it have a cooling effect on the delicate eye area, but it also makes the underlying blood vessels smaller. Dab it onto skin from the inner corner of the eye to the outer with your ring finger for gentle application. “Or, try a product with a metal roller ball to gently distribute lymphatic build-up from underneath the eyes, alleviating under-eye puffiness and dark circles,” suggest Dr. Engelman.
Apply the finishing touches
If you have the extra time, consider the skin below your chin. The neck tends to be the most commonly neglected area. “It should be treated as a unit with your face,” explains Dr. Batra. “People tend to forget it, leading to a dull and crepe-y appearance—it’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from women.” Rub any leftover product on the back of your hands, the tops of knees, and elbows.
For anyone who wants an extra wrinkle-fighting boost, consider the Sio Beauty Pads ($25-$40; siobeauty.com): “They are made of medical grade silicone patches that firm, plump, and erase the appearance of aging lines around your neck, forehead, and eyes while you sleep,” says Dr. Engelman.
Upgrade your pillow
For the most complexion-friendly bedding, upgrade your cotton pillowcase to satin or silk. These materials cause less friction, so your skin (and hair) glides over top, leading to less creasing and trauma. Also, try to sleep on your back to avoid any compression lines.
Practice healthy sleeping habits
Wellness is a big buzzword these days, and it’s equally as important when it comes to getting sleep. We’ve all had those late nights—whether it was that extra cocktail or a screaming newborn—and without fail, we wake up looking like hell the next day. “In general, sleep is great for skin—there’s a reason why it’s called beauty sleep,” says Dr. Batra. “Seven hours is an ideal amount of time for cell renewal.” As you snooze, your body rebalances its hydration levels and repairs, and once you enter a super deep sleep, the skin’s metabolism picks up, causing increased levels of cell renewal.
Before bed, try to lay off alcohol or any unhealthy midnight snacking since it can cause bad bacteria in the body and result in dryness and flakes, discolored skin, or breakouts. “If we have an unhealthy, un-balanced gut environment, toxins can be released into the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body. Processed or artificial sugars, dehydration, and nutrient deficiencies can play a major role in skin health,” explains Dr. Engelman.
Another thing to lay-off of: your phone. Besides for the blue light disrupting your melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep, your smartphone is a breeding ground for bacteria. Keep a pack of phone wipes, like Well-Kept’s ($6; sephora.com), nearby to keep the screen clean during any late-night scrolling sessions. “People don’t wipe their screens down well or often enough,” says Dr. Batra. “Why go through this whole skin care routine only to hold a dirty phone to your face in bed?”