The day is over, you’re totally exhausted, and your extremely comfortable bed is beckoning. There’s just one problem—you haven’t removed your makeup yet. “No worries,” you think to yourself, “Sleeping in makeup won’t do anything that bad to my skin. I’ll just wash my face in the morning.”
We’ve all been there. Could it really be bad to sleep in makeup, anyway? But…red alert! Red alert! In addition to the fact that makeup will get all over your sheets and pillowcases while you sleep, it’s just not great for your skin to keep it on your face overnight, either.
If you’re wondering why, we’re here to help, along with expert tips and advice from Angela Lamb, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai and advisor to Veracity, and Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist, founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care and author of Glow From Within.
Keep reading to find out what happens to your skin when you don’t remove makeup before bed—and get a few product recommendations too.
Why sleeping in makeup is bad for your skin
As tempting as it is to just sink between the sheets for shuteye before cleansing your face, sleeping in makeup can damage the skin in multiple ways.
“Falling asleep with your makeup on is detrimental to skin health and may cause breakouts, premature signs of aging, and dry skin,” says Lamb. “It clogs your pores because makeup and dead skin cells are on the surface for so long.”
Vargas concurs, saying, “Nighttime is the body’s time to repair itself from your day. If you don’t wash your face before bed, you are not allowing that repair cycle to occur. This will lead to clogged pores today and loss of elasticity and older-looking skin in your future.”
Here are a few specific ways sleeping in makeup can affect your skin:
“Going to sleep with a clean face is absolutely vital if you want your skin to be healthy and avoid breakouts,” says Vargas. “Your face is dirty. Anything other than nighttime skincare, such as makeup or dirt from the day, will create the perfect surface for bacteria to cause breakouts.”
When you sleep in makeup, you’re not allowing your skin to breathe, which leads to clogged pores—and, eventually, breakouts in the form of whiteheads, pimples, and blackheads.
Additionally, Vargas says she’s “a big believer in a facial massage” while applying your evening skincare products. “If you break out a lot and your skin is irritated and patchy, then you would want to apply product from top-down—that way you’re encouraging your lymphatic system to carry away the waste so you stop breaking out as much,” she says.
Sleeping in makeup can cause inflammation overnight—which not only shows up as breakouts but in the form of fine lines and wrinkles. This is because “makeup can trap dirt and bacteria in the skin, causing irritation and stress,” explains Lamb. (Learn how sleep deprivation can lead to premature aging as well.)
While you sleep, you’re also giving your skin the chance to heal itself—those eight hours really can work wonders! Oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your skin cells while you sleep, but when you don’t remove your makeup, your skin can’t breathe, which can lead to dryness and flaking.
“Sleeping in makeup often can have a negative effect on our skin’s natural shedding process,” says Lamb. She notes that when dead skin cells can’t properly shed, this can lead to a dull and dry complexion.
The importance of a nightly skincare routine
Great skin starts with an evening skincare routine! Putting together a nighttime skincare regimen with the correct products is the imperative first step in making sure you’re taking care of your skin while you get your essential Z’s.
“When you go to bed, your skin finally gets the chance to rest and reverse all the damage that may have happened during the day,” says Lamb. Here are the essential steps for the ideal nighttime skincare routine.
Step 1: Cleanse
“Makeup traps the oil, causing clogged pores and breakouts,” says Lamb. “One way to prevent this is to make sure your skin is fully clean before going to bed.” In addition to makeup, your skin also accumulates sunscreen, excess sebum, debris, and pollutants—the sky’s really the limit on what your skin takes in every single day.
Double cleansing is an ideal way to ensure you’ve successfully removed all of the day’s debris from your skin. As the name suggests, it means you cleanse your skin twice—first with an oil-based cleanser, then with a water-based, gel, or foaming cleanser.
This ensures that you can remove the layers of makeup and other debris while at the same time helping to nourish the skin and prepare it for the rest of your skincare routine.
Step 2: Serum
Serums help deliver additional nutrients to the skin and can help with controlling excess oil, targeting signs of aging, brightening, and hydration. “In addition to washing your face before bed, sleeping with a great serum on the skin really helps the skin to rejuvenate and repair so much faster,” says Vargas.
Depending on your skin type and sensitivity, she recommends incorporating a retinol serum, like her Super Nova Hydrating Retinol Serum, into your evening skincare routine one to two times a week.
Step 3: Moisturize
Applying moisturizer before you sleep helps ensure that your skin will be nourished and hydrated not only while you sleep but when the alarm goes off in the morning. Making sure your skin retains optimal hydration levels will lead to fewer breakouts, dryness, and signs of aging. Now that’s what we call beauty sleep!
Some cleanser recommendations
Need some help selecting cleansers to incorporate into your evening skincare routine? Here are a few to try.
Take My Face Off The Mitty 4-Piece Set
This ingenious fuzzy mitt is an excellent replacement for cotton balls, wipes, and washcloths. It’s super plush and helps save the planet by not using disposables. Just apply your makeup remover or cleanser and sweep it across your skin.
Doré La Micellaire Botanical Cleansing Water
Micellar water is a type of cleanser that helps lift dirt and oils from the skin. This one is formulated with antioxidants to help remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup while soothing and hydrating.
Benefit The POREfessional Get Unblocked Oil Cleanser
This rich, sweet-smelling cleansing oil is the perfect first step in your double-cleanse routine. It’s formulated with a mix of grapeseed, jojoba seed, avocado, and plum kernel oils to help nourish and condition the skin while cleansing.
ACURE Seriously Soothing Jelly Milk Makeup Remover
A jelly-to-milk formula that moisturizes and removes makeup while calming skin? Sign us up. This one contains chamomile and hyaluronic acid to soothe and hydrate before bedtime.
Grace & Stella Cleansing Balm
The pink tub alone is enough to want to display this on your vanity. But the totally genius balm formula with synthetic beeswax and antioxidants instantly melts away makeup, dirt, and sunscreen, which makes it a true winner.
Aime The Simple Skin Set
Looking for a whole evening skincare routine? This comprehensive four-piece set has you covered. It contains face oil, cleanser, serum, and moisturizer and is ideal for all skin types.
What happens if you sleep in your makeup?
“Makeup will clog pores ultimately leading to breakouts,” says Lamb. In addition to pimples, sleeping in makeup can cause dry skin, irritation, and premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
Is it OK to sleep with makeup on sometimes?
Honestly? No. Even one night of sleeping in makeup can set your skin back. It’s always best to take a few minutes to cleanse the skin and remove all traces of makeup (which also helps remove sunscreen, debris, pollutants, and other daily aggressors). “Stress, pollution, and the sun are just some of the everyday offenders that will prematurely age you, cause breakouts and dull lifeless skin,” says Vargas.
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