Turns out, beauty sleep isn’t just an excuse to hit the hay early—it’s a core step in any anti-aging skincare routine. That’s because as you unwind after a busy day, your skin, too, is powering down into regeneration mode.
And while achieving those coveted eight hours of shut-eye may at times seem like a pipe dream, it’s the combination of a restorative evening routine and restful sleep that are key to waking up to a youthful, radiant complexion. Let’s look at the process your skin goes through at night and while asleep, and what you can do to aid it along the way.
Your skin follows a circadian rhythm
You may be aware of your body’s circadian rhythm—the internal system that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Historically, we’ve known quite a bit about how the organs power down into restoration mode at night—your muscles and kidneys, for example—which lets us sleep in peace the whole night through. This power down also ensures your body is working to restore and repair so you wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day once more.
But did you know your skin houses the same biorhythm? Or should we say, rhythms? That’s because your skin is a large, complex organ—complete with layers and mini-organ structures such as hair follicles and sweat glands. So, really, your skin has many different “clocks” working together to heal your skin and nourish your complexion with fresh blood flow and new skin cells. The good news: all that happens while you sleep!
Your skin, during the night
At night, the skin conducts a natural repairing activity to try to reverse the damage suffered during the day. This means your skin is receptive to (practically hungry for!) various different skin revitalizing ingredients such as peptides, collagen-boosters and antioxidants, to name a few.
And if you’re one of the seventy million Americans who struggles to fall asleep, you’ve surely heard of the sleep hormone melatonin. Released best in darkness—like a light cue to the brain—melatonin regulates this sleep-wake cycle, triggering sleep mode. This then sends your body and skin into rest and repair.
How so? In addition to helping us sleep, it has many other functions in our body. One of which, to your skin’s best interest, is an antioxidant effect. Acting as an indirect antioxidant, melatonin triggers enzymes which begin the repair of the oxidative stress (e.g., caused by UV rays, pollution) from the daytime. This is key here, as the free radicals from oxidative stress are what lead to signs of skin aging such as fine lines and wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
Prep your skin at night with the right solutions
An evening skin care ritual gives not only your skin but also your mind the moment they crave to relax and switch gears. An effective nighttime routine always begins with cleansing. Even if you weren’t wearing make-up, you must wash away the day’s build-up. Starting with a clean canvas also ensures all those luxurious creams and serums are absorbed at maximum capacity.
The rest of your repairing ritual is up to what your individual needs are, but here are a few tips to get you thinking:
Less sebum is secreted at night, and your skin is more susceptible to losing moisture as your temperature rises. Help maintain hydration with ultra rich creams.
Collagen, the protein responsible for helping your skin keep firm, is produced as the skin cells regenerate. The addition of peptides and hyaluronic acid-boosting ingredients to your routine helps support collagen production for firmer, plumper skin.
Melatonin concentration decreases dramatically as we age, taking a dive in production around age 30. This means less antioxidant activity to repair oxidative stress in the skin, leading to faster skin aging.
To combat this, introduce topical melatonin into your nightly routine, such as a melatonin-rich serum or night cream as the final step.
You can also give melatonin (and therefore, restful sleep) a fighting chance by tucking away all blue-light emitting electronics, which slow production, about an hour before bedtime.
Then, give your skin a dreamy oasis at night by snuggling up to a neutral room temperature: around 65℉ to 69℉.
And finally, it’s time to actually give your skin the time it needs to repair. Science shows seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal.
Sources and references:
Pilkus et al. The circadian clock in skin: implications for adult stem cells, tissue regeneration, cancer, aging, and immunity.
Matsui M.S. et al. Biological Rhythms in the Skin. Int J Mol Sci 2016
J Biol Rhythms. 2015 Jun;30(3):163-82.
Iryna Rusanova et al. Review Protective Effects of Melatonin on the Skin: Future Perspectives J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(19), 4948
Blue light has a dark side. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.