We’re all aware that not getting enough sleep can have an impact on our health, but did you know that a lack of shut-eye can also wreak havoc on your skin? ‘Fine lines, dark circles, dehydration and increased pore size are all visible signs of a lack of sleep,’ says Dr Christopher Hensby, skincare expert for CeraVe. Scary stuff.
Luckily though, we’ve uncovered ways in which a well thought-out beauty routine before bed can help you wake up with a more glowing complexion. This is because your skin goes into recovery mode at night, helping prime it to make the most of whatever you slather on.
‘Normalising sleep patterns is useful,’ explains Dr Hensby. ‘But using tailored products in the evening, when the skin’s barrier permeability is better and delicate processes such as cell renewal are less likely to be interrupted, will help significantly.’
It seems consumers are cottoning on. Night cream use in the UK has risen from 39% to 48% in the past year alone, with skincare fans also starting to invest in overnight treatments such as masks and peels.
Of course, it’s no coincidence that, as our collective interest in overnight options grows, a whole new batch of night-time skincare ranges are being launched that are designed specifically to tackle skin concerns while we’re in sleep mode. So if you haven’t been getting the results you want from your day cream, it could be time to shine the spotlight on your evening routine instead.
Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Whichever you are, the reason lies in your circadian rhythm (unique body clock). And in 2017, scientists discovered that it was also responsible for how well your body can repair and heal itself at a cellular level at certain times. ‘Studies found that animals without a normal circadian rhythm in their skin stem cells aged prematurely,’ explains dermatologist Dr Ronald Moy. ‘This suggests human skin stem cells have an internal clock that allows them to know when to perform functions in order to best protect from cellular damage.’ In other words, your skin cells do certain tasks at specific times.
"Skin stem cells have an internal clock that allows them to know when to perform the best functions"
‘During the day, the skin is in protection mode and focused on counteracting the negative effects of factors such as UV radiation,’ says Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation. ‘But at night, the skin cells work differently and help to repair any damage that’s been done earlier on in the day.’
So it makes sense that if you tailor the products you use, depending on whether your skin is in protection or repair mode, you’re more likely to get better results.
At night, for example, cell turnover (the rate at which dead skin cells are shed for newer, younger skin ones) and collagen production increase. And so does melatonin production, which helps neutralise free-radical damage from pollution and UV that your skin’s been subjected to all day. Meanwhile, the stress hormone cortisol, known for contributing to flare-ups of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, pigmentation and even spots, actually decreases, to help you fall asleep.
Exactly when you should start your evening skincare routine is still up for discussion, especially as some research suggests that skin actually begins its healing process in the late afternoon.
But the real key is consistency, says consultant dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite. ‘I’d opt for whatever works best with your schedule. So if you prefer to go through your skincare regime all at once just before bed, it’s just as effective as doing the steps at different times,’ she says. Talking of which, don’t overcomplicate things: cleanse, apply your ‘active’ ingredient (retinols or alpha-hydroxy acids), then follow with a hydrating serum, oil or moisturiser.
Don’t like the rich texture of traditional night creams? No worries: advances in skincare formulas mean that if you prefer a lighter product, it’ll be just as effective as one with a heavier texture. ‘Masks or peels, as well as a dedicated eye cream, can be added several times a week to target specific skin concerns,’ adds Dr Granite.
So which ingredients should you be looking for come nightfall? Our skin naturally loses water as we sleep, which means it can struggle with dryness, causing itching and irritation. So superhero hydrator hyaluronic acid is a must. We like Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Booster Face Serum, £24.99/2,499 points (30ml), and Bare Minerals Skinlongevity Vital Power Sleeping Gel Cream* £35/3,500 points (50ml), which are also lightweight and sink easily into skin.
Alternatively, Olay Regenerist Overnight Miracle Firming Mask, £29.99/2,999 points (50ml), is a great leave-on option. It’s also non-greasy and fast-absorbing, so there will be no residue left on your pillow.
Need to cheat well-rested skin? Then try This Works No Wrinkles Dose Mask And Pillow Spray*, £36/3,600 points (75ml). Pop on the mask for 10 minutes to prep tired skin, or leave on overnight for a smoother complexion come morning.
Another key ingredient to look out for is vitamin A, the experts’ ultimate go-to when implementing new nocturnal skin habits.‘Also referred to as retinoid or retinol, vitamin A can help improve the appearance of skin’s texture,’ says Dr Wedgeworth.
Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum*, £72/7,200 points (60-pack), is a great addition to your bedtime routine. Not only do the capsules help the serum retain its potency, but you only need one a day to smooth over your face and neck. Or try No7 Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multi Action Night Cream Boots Exclusive £25/2,500 points (50ml), which combines the retinol derivative retinyl palmitate, with hyaluronic acid and peptides (small protein chains that help rebuild collagen). If you have sensitive skin, our fave is Avène Triacnéal Expert, £23/2,300 points (30ml). Containing retinaldehyde – a gentle retinoic acid (which is what retinol breaks into before it can be used in your skin) – it can help unblock pores while you catch some zzzs.
Meanwhile, Vichy Slow Age Night Cream, £32/3,200 points (50ml), contains a vitamin A derivative, resveratrol, from Japanese knotweed. It can be used nightly as a leave-on product, or applied twice a week as a treatment mask if your skin is sensitive.
Prompting your skin to start its natural exfoliation process and allowing for that all-important cell turnover to begin, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) have also started to appear in night-specific skincare. Origins has reformulated its High Potency Night-A-Mins Oil-Free Resurfacing Cream*, £30/3,000 points (50ml), to include naturally derived AHAs from grapes and sugar beets.
Meanwhile, Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Night Peeling & Serum, £38/3,800 points (30ml), is a clever, two-phase system that includes a glycolic and lactic acid-filled lotion to help lift away dead skin, plus a serum packed with hyaluronic acid to ensure that no moisture is lost in the process. It’s best applied before your overnight moisturiser.
As with all active ingredients, some acids can overstimulate sensitive skin types, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the AHA action. L’Oréal Paris Revitalife Laser Renew Anti Age Glycolic Acid Peel Pads, £22.49/2,249 points (30-pack), can be used as a simple step in your evening cleanse routine, while Nip+Fab Glycolic Scrub Fix Extreme, £12.95/1,295 points (75ml), which contains 6% glycolic acid, is an ideal wash-and-go option.
As the primary function of vitamin C is to protect skin cells from UV damage, you can be forgiven for thinking it would be redundant as part of your bedtime routine. But you’d be wrong! Vitamins C and E can help to rebalance moisture levels overnight. YourGoodSkin ProVitamin Overnight Cream Boots Exclusive £7.50/750 points (50ml), contains a blend of vitamins to nourish and support skin as you sleep.
Beauty brands are starting to develop evening-specific skincare for eyes and lips. Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex Synchronized Recovery*, £45/4,500 points (15ml), an eye gel containing yeast extract, can help to reduce the appearance of dark circles.
Dr Wedgeworth suggests that bedtime is the ideal opportunity to give lips some TLC, as any products you apply won’t be wiped off by eating or drinking.
‘Lanolin-based balms are great for helping to improve hydration and reducing the appearance of fine lines,’ she says. You can find your fix in Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm, £10.99/1,099 points (17.5ml); CYO Overnight Lip Primer Night Feed Boots Exclusive £4/400 points (10ml), which also contains shea butter to nourish; or Clinique Pep-Start Pout Restoring Night Mask*, £16/1,600 points (10ml), which tackles dryness while you snooze.
Alongside hi-tech actives, overnight products often boast a blend of essential oils to help ease you into a more relaxed state. A good option if you’ve had a busy day and need a little help to chill is Sanctuary Spa Beauty Sleep Recovery Mask* Boots Exclusive £12/1,200 points (75ml). With soothing lavender and orange flower oil, it can be left on instead of your moisturiser. Fans of skincare oils should turn their attention to Boots Lft Instantly Gorgeous Dramatically Hydrating Night Oil, £12.99/1,299 points (30ml). Bursting with nourishing sunflower, shea butter and Abyssinica seed oil, it helps nourish with essential fatty acids for a plump-looking complexion.
Just massage in the oil using your fingertips and you’ll not only help to relax any tight muscles around your jawline and forehead, but it’ll also warm your skin, so those all-important ingredients can sink deeper into the cells (which is true for all your products, so always massage in your serums and moisturisers). Here’s to looking like you’ve enjoyed a solid eight hours’ sleep – however much you’ve had!
It’s not just your face that can benefit from a nightcap
Leave-in hair treatments are becoming increasingly popular. We love Charles Worthington Moisture Seal Overnight Ultimate Hair Healer Treatment Boots Exclusive £6.99/699 points (200ml), and Grow Gorgeous Balance Split Ends Serum 150ml £23/2,300 points (150ml).
Dr Wedgeworth also recommends slathering on a good-quality hand cream before bed, so it has more time to penetrate your skin. We like CeraVe Hand Cream, £5.50/550 points (50ml), which contains the same hard-hitting combination of hyaluronic acid, glycerine and ceramides that you’d find in their face-care products.
Even teeth and gums are being targeted in bed. Containing higher levels of fluoride than the daytime alternatives, Listerine Nightly Reset Mouthwash, £5.60/560 points (400ml), gets to work overnight without being interrupted.