8 Common Sleep Habits That Are Ruining Your Skin
Are your biggest beauty slip-ups happening during snooze time?
You know how important sleep is to your beauty regimen—especially when you look in the mirror after a night of tossing and turning only to see a puffy and droopy-eyed gal with frizzy-hair staring back in your reflection. But what you might not know is how many other beauty consequences your snooze habits might be costing you. Good news: Gone are the days of walking around feeling (and looking) like Godzilla’s little sister. We asked top sleep and skincare experts to shed some light on the most common night-to-morning beauty mistakes you might be making in your sleep.
1. You’re a stomach or side sleeper.
Of all the various angles and positions we wrangle our body into for maximum comfort, drifting off on your stomach or side can have the worst consequences on your physical appearance. “Sleeping on your stomach not only causes back pain, but leads to wrinkles as well,” says Breus. “This is because you’re placing your face directly on the pillow, which causes friction on the skin.” In fact, stomach sleepers often see more pronounced forehead lines—marks that even heavy retinol can’t cure. Sleeping facedown on the pillow can also leaving you with breakouts the following day.
The position causing the second-most amount of damage to that precious mug of yours is sleeping on your side. “Side sleepers often see deeper wrinkles or creases on the side of their face that they naturally turn to each night, as well as vertical creases down their cheeks and chin,” says Schlessinger. Both experts agree that your best bet is to conk out face-up—a.k.a on your back. “This position keeps everything off your face, including dirt and oil from the pillow and grease from your hair, and prevents any friction to the skin that can stretch collagen fibers and lead to wrinkles,” says Breus. If you’re lucky enough to sleep naturally on your back, be sure to keep your head elevated. “Sleeping in a flat position allows fluid to gather around the eyes, giving them a puffy appearance the next day,” says Schlessinger. More incentive to steal all the pillows!
2. You continually forget to remove your makeup before bed.
Another bit of information your mom’s been telling you since your tween years is just as important—if not more so— to put to use as an adult. “The makeup, oil, environmental pollutants, and harmful free radicals you’ve gathered on your skin after a long day of work seeps deeply into your pores causing breakouts and speeding up the aging process,” says Schlessinger. “It can also cause dryness, irritation and infection.” Whether you’ve innocently fallen asleep on the couch watching Netflix or were out partying until the break of dawn, remember: two minutes in the bathroom could help with damaged skin in the future.
3. You’re not getting enough sleep.
And you’re certainly not alone: 40 percent of Americans report getting less than seven hours of sleep a night—the recommended amount—according to a new Gallup poll. “In addition to looking tired the next day, poor sleep causes your skin to swell and even accentuates a deep reddish-blue color under your eyes known as dark circles,” Michael Breus, M.D, clinical psychologist and author of The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, tells SELF.
“Your body needs rest where you’re not moving to go through the natural repair processes of recovery,” Joel Schlessinger, board certified dermatologist and RealSelf advisor, tells SELF. “This process includes making new collagen, improving circulation, and reducing under-eye puffiness.” Score better sleep by aiming for seven to nine hours and establishing a consistent bedtime routine. “Sleep in a dark, quiet room where you won’t be distracted by lights or electronics, and try turning in at the same time each night,” says Schlessinger.
4. You rely on a drink of alcohol to help get you ready for sleep.
That glass of vino might be calling your name, especially after a hard day’s work, but resist if you want to sleep soundly and wake up looking refreshed. “Drinking any alcohol too close to bedtime is one of the major causes of disrupted sleep cycles,” Nancy H. Rothstein, the Sleep Ambassador and Director of Circandian Corporate Sleep Programs, tells SELF. “If you know you’ll be going out with friends or attending a work function where alcohol will be served, switch to water about three to four hours before you know you’ll be trying to fall asleep.” The same goes for caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda. “Caffeine has the ability to stay in your system for up to 12 hours and may impact your ability to fall asleep and get the optimal sleep you need to look and feel your best,” she says.
5. You’re not washing your sheets and pillowcases often enough.
If we sleep on average around eight hours a night, that means we spend the other 16 collecting oil, grease, dirt, and grime. Pretty nasty, right? When you place your face and body down on the same sheets repeatedly, you’re leaving the day’s residue there to fester and produce even more bacteria. “Your skin and hair leave oil and buildup that can cause breakouts, inflammation, and irritation,” says Schlessinger. “You should aim to wash your sheets at least once a week to avoid this transfer of bacteria, oils, and other impurities.”
If you don’t have the time to do a full load, at least change your pillowcase, which traps the most amount of residue, he says. To take your snooze care one step further, Schlessinger recommends investing in a silk pillowcase. “This smooth fabric prevents creasing and wrinkles on your complexion and creates less friction than cotton so your skin meets less resistance as you sleep.” Added benefit: Silk adjusts to your room’s temperature, keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter!
6. You don’t wear your hair up while you snooze.
It might feel nice to let your hair down—literally—while you rest up, but doing so might mean waking up with breakouts. “Your hair’s natural oils—in addition to any product you might be using (even shampoo and conditioner)—can clog your pores and cause irritation,” Schlessinger says. Ideally, you want to wear your hair in a loose ponytail or bun and not up too tight, which can cause damage to your strands. If you have curly hair, sleeping with a satin cap can help prevent breakage while keeping your curls intact. “The smooth fabric leads to less breakouts, tangles, static, and frizz,” he says.
7. Your room temperature is too high or too cold at night.
Whether your living space is reliant on an old-school heating system controlled by your building owner or you own the latest and greatest technology to ensure your room’s temp stays a certain degree, your sleep atmosphere can make a big difference in your sleep quality. “Cranking up the heat on cold winter nights can be very drying on your skin,” says Schlessinger. One way to counteract this is by using a humidifier. “This handy machine replaces some of the moisture in the air, helping you sleep better and preventing dry skin.”
Another benefit to lowering the heat: A study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that people sleep more soundly when laying on a cool surface. Aim for around 66 degrees Fahrenheit, but take cues from your level of comfort. “If you’re cold enough to be shivering, you’re not going to sleep deeply enough for a full night’s rest,” says Schlessinger.
8. You’re not applying skincare products before bed.
If you’re skipping this all-important step in your nighttime routine, you’re snoozing on the easiest opportunity to rejuvenate and refresh your appearance. “Nighttime formulas are specially formulated to support your body’s natural renewal processes and also contain higher concentrations of anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients that target areas of concern while you sleep,” says Schlessinger. This is also the ideal time to layer on a heavy lip balm—especially during the winter months—because you won’t be talking, drinking, or eating for hours. “And don’t forget to apply a neck cream as part of your routine,” reminds Schlessinger.