Turns out, beauty sleep is not a myth —it’s a core step in any anti-ageing skincare routine. That’s because as you unwind after a busy day, your skin, too, is powering down into regeneration mode.
So just what is beauty sleep, anyway, when it comes to your skin? While achieving those coveted eight hours of sleep may at times seem like a mystic 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 various skin revitalising ingredients such as peptides, collagen-boosters, and antioxidants, to name a few.
And you may have 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.
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 ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
Prep your skin at night for beauty sleep benefits
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 night-time routine always begins with cleansing. Even if you weren’t wearing make-up, you should 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 ageing.
You can also give melatonin / aka restful sleep a real chance by keeping 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 give your skin the time it needs for the full beauty sleep benefits—namely rejuvenation and repair—to work their magic. 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, ageing, 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.
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