Is it really that bad to sleep with your makeup on? Doing it once or twice in a blue moon obviously won’t turn you into a toad, but too many nights in a row can take a (visible) toll on your skin’s health.
Turns out, there’s a reason they call it beauty sleep: a 2013 study in the Journal of Sleep found that people rated pictures of sleep-deprived adults as looking “less than their best” — with bloodshot eyes, paler skin, dark under-eye circles, and more visible fine lines — compared to photos of the same people, well-rested.
This is no wonder, since sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself (think tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release). So when you don’t get enough of it, or when you sleep with makeup on, you do mess with this natural process – and the results are right there, on your precious face.
According to one NYC-based dermatologist this is how it works: “During the day you accumulate a lot of oxidative stress … When you sleep in your makeup you are not giving your skin a chance to recover, which can lead to premature aging … free radicals from the environment (often in the form of pollution) remain on the skin when you do not clean your face properly at night. Free radicals cause collagen breakdown over time, which results in the development of fine lines and prematurely aged skin.”
So, sleeping with your makeup on exposes your skin to free radicals in the environment, which cling to your makeup, and cause the breakdown of collagen. Also, makeup also clogs the pores while you sleep, which builds up and results in pimples, blackheads and / or inflammation.
If you’re wondering how bad the damage you’ve done really is, consider that the heavier coverage makeup often causes the more intense stress inflicted on your skin. Foundations and oil-based primers are (not surprisingly) the worst offenders, preventing a large surface area of the skin from breathing at night and also clogging pores in a major way, causing blackheads, acne and overall dullness of complexion.
If you don’t wear foundation but tend to rock a smoky-eye, you’re probably better off if you fall asleep without washing your face, but not completely. Sleeping in eye makeup repeatedly can, over time, clog the small hair follicles and oil glands along your eyelids, leading to inflammation, irritation, and falling-out lashes.
If you’re in the habit of falling asleep with a dirty face, here’s a hack: stash some makeup remover pads or wipes in your bedside drawer so you can clear your face at least a little better than nothing at all before you pass out. (Or, just commit to doing effective damage control the next day – see our 5 tips to wake up tired skin now.)