We asked dermatologists how to improve your nightly skincare routine. Here's what they had to say
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The classic fairy-tale character Sleeping Beauty may be fictional, but the idea of beauty sleep is not. According to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, “Getting little sleep has been shown to negatively affect the skin’s appearance.” She explains that this may be because of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to break down collagen. Lack of sleep stresses the body and “the higher the stress level, the more cortisol is produced, and over time the skin’s ability to rebuild collagen and elastin will decrease,” she says. Beyond this, she notes that sleep is critical for the healing and repair of damaged tissues, skin and mind and body health.
Essentially, poor sleep results in more noticeable signs of aging due to a chain of events that leads to the body’s inability to rebalance its hydration. Your skin becomes more susceptible to puffiness, dryness and more visible wrinkles. “Nighttime is when your skin repairs itself,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach. “More blood flows to your skin at night, collagen increases and DNA repair helps repair cells that were affected by stressors during that day.”
So, as our experts describe, if you want the most of your precious beauty sleep, it’s important to reduce stress and cultivate a bedtime beauty routine that can promote the repair of damaged tissues and improve the moisture balance of the skin. “One way to think about it is to protect during the day (sun protection, antioxidants, moisturizer) and repair during the night (retinoids, growth factors, peptides, moisturizer),” says King.
Rabach recommends incorporating antioxidants and retinols into your nightly skin routine. King says that retinol in particular works to increase collagen and pore size and help dead skin turnover.
With all of this in mind, we’ve rounded up some skin care products that you should add to your routine to tackle your skin care concerns overnight. From makeup removers to overnight mask treatments, check out these dermatologist-approved picks to make the most out of your beauty rest.
If you wear makeup, it’s really important to remove it properly before starting your nighttime skin care routine, according to these dermatologists. Just soak a cotton pad with this oil-free micellar water that’s an editor favorite to quickly remove makeup and dirt. Once your skin is dry, proceed with the rest of your routine with ease.
This cleansing balm has quickly become one of our favorite skin care products. It melts your makeup right off without stripping your skin of any moisture or leaving your pores feeling clogged. If you’re into double cleansing, Day Dissolve makes a great first step in your routine. Want to buy it now?
CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser is the ultimate no-fuss, derm-approved cleansing option. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin to remove makeup, dirt and excess oil without drying out your skin. But don’t take our word for it: This all-star has over 57,000 5-star reviews on Amazon to vouch for its efficacy.
This bestselling celebrity-approved cleanser melts makeup and leaves skin clean and glowing. It has gently exfoliating fruit enzymes that help keep skin clear and soft.
We’d pick Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser again and again. It’s gentle and super creamy, which makes it good for most skin types and a great cleansing option no matter what the next steps in your routine are.
This gentle AHA mask is fragrance- and gluten-free, so it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin. Dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic, the formula delicately refines the complexion and nixes dullness while simultaneously hydrating with glycerine. Because of its exfoliating properties, it’s best to apply at night to avoid sensitizing the skin, and always remember to use SPF to protect your new baby-soft face the next day.
If Loops face masks are good enough for model and swimwear designer Emily Ratajkowski, it’s good enough for us, right? Jokes aside, we really do love these cruelty-free, jellylike masks, especially Night Shift. It’s formulated with allantoin, collagen and nutrient-rich cactus extract to hydrate, repair and replenish the skin before bed.
For a nighttime retinol-like serum, the Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Power Serum is a good choice. However, this uses bakuchiol, which is a plant-based retinol alternative, to fight signs of aging. Reviewers love its lightweight, silky texture and how it made their skin glow like never before.
The Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair is well loved to reduce signs of aging overnight. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, it’s known to smooth fine lines and reveal more radiant, even-toned skin over time. If you can believe it, one reviewer even said they’d use it until they die.
If you experience dry skin or just want to wake up with ultra plumpness, give the Neutrogena Night Pressed Face Serum a go. Formulated with hyaluronic acid to form a thick, almost creamy consistency, this facial serum seriously melts into the skin to hydrate instantly.
Reviewers of the Isdin K-Ox Under-Eye Cream say this is great for eliminating dark circles under the eye. It’s dermatologist-approved too. Rabach recommends this for your bedtime beauty routine. If you’ve been trying to combat dark circles and puffiness, this brightening cream might be worth the splurge.
An eye cream with retinol? Say no more! With nearly 3,000 5-star ratings at Target, this formula by RoC clearly works well to make your eyes look younger by helping reduce dark circles.
We love First Aid Beauty because it works gently on skin. Not only does this eye cream contain retinol, but it also includes hyaluronic acid and the brand’s skin saver complex (a combination of ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, aloe and ceramides) to hydrate, calm and soothe even sensitive skin while fighting signs of aging.
Reviewers say that the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream was moisturizing and left their skin silky smooth for bed. Formulated with retinol, niacinamide and picolinamide, you can expect this to improve skin’s firmness, radiance and hydration over time.
The Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer features hyaluronic acid to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and brighten and rejuvenate your skin. What a steal for less than $20!
A sleeping facial like this one by Korres sounds dreamy. “With a delicious fragrance and rich texture, this product contains a stabilized form of vitamin C to help diminish discolorations, brighten the complexion and protect the skin from free radicals,” says King. The formula also includes wild rose oil, which reduces redness and works to plump the skin by morning.
Versed calls this “the shortcut to glowier skin.” It’s a leave-on exfoliating mask that uses a blend of lactic acid, glycolic acid and vitamin A to break down dead skin and brighten your appearance overnight. However, King doesn’t recommend combining retinols with acids, so use this on a night when you aren’t using any retinol products.
If you’d prefer an overnight mask that’s super gentle, the Fresh Black Tea Firming Mask is intensely moisturizing without any harsh ingredients. Rich in antioxidants from black tea, blackberry leaf and lychee seed extract, this can help improve skin elasticity and suppleness.
Not a traditional overnight mask like the others on this list, this cult-favorite lip sleeping mask is known to give you baby-soft lips as you sleep. Available in five flavors, the mask aims to surge moisture into the lips without being sticky and works as a miracle worker to flakiness and dryness.
The Maya Chia Straight A Serum “contains retinol, bakuchiol and vitamins C and E, in a base of chia seed and buriti oils, to support the skin barrier and lock in moisture,” which is why it’s King’s pick for overnight face oil. Apply this splurge-worthy oil as the last step in your skin care routine solely at night to nourish your skin, improve the look of fine lines and even reduce hyperpigmentation.
A wallet-approved face oil? Here you go. We’ve been loving PSA Skin Midnight Courage because it contains retinoid and bakuchiol to help reduce the look of dark spots, even skin tone and deliver intense moisture overnight without blowing the bank.
Formulated for acne-prone skin and those who usually avoid face oils, this noncomedogenic face oil nourishes the skin with jojoba, rosehip seed and evening primrose oils. Plus, a boost of broad-spectrum CBD calms and soothes the skin overnight.
Jenny Patinkin’s Rose on Rose Face Roller is made of rose quartz to help reduce inflammation and boost circulation, especially after refrigeration. This handmade tool is made in a petite size to effectively roll under eyes, on eyelids or on lips. King recommends gently rolling under the eyes from the midline toward the sides of your face to decrease fluid accumulation.
Looking for a more budget-friendly roller? We’ve been obsessed with the Esaroroa Ice Roller to reduce puffiness, relieve headaches and calm skin. We like to keep it stored in the freezer for whenever we need it.
“A humidifier in the bedroom overnight in dry weather is helpful for decreasing the amount of transepidermal water loss,” says King. This basically means that a humidifier like this one, which we named as the best humidifier for bedrooms, helps prevent too much water passively evaporating through the skin barrier. TLDR: You want to surge your skin with as much moisture as possible while you sleep.
If you want a truly luxurious sleep session, give Lunya’s Washable Silk Sleep Mask a try. Available in five colors, it’s made of a plush silk that’ll block out any light (without being too heavy) and even doubles as a headband once you wake up. Save 15% off orders of $100 or more at Lunya with code FOR-CNNSLEEP15 at checkout through March 18.
According to King, most of us have deeper wrinkles on the side of the face we sleep on. Although shocking, this makes total sense. Grab yourself a set of these satin pillowcases (which are a much more budget-friendly alternative to popular silk pillowcases) to prevent sleep creases because the soft material is less likely to crease your skin.
However, King does advise that “the effectiveness of silk for this purpose has not been proven.” Better safe than sorry! Rabach recommends washing your pillowcases twice a week, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.
To decrease sleep wrinkles, King also recommends the Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Defy Pillow. It has a “unique U-shape design that cradles the face so that it does not become creased with pressure like a standard pillow.”