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The Best Nighttime Skin-Care Routine

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    We’ve all seen the studies about why sleep is so important — a full eight hours keeps our bodies and brains more fit, happy, and focused. As it turns out, the effects of sleep on our skin are oddly similar to its effects on our bodies; we can actually wake up with a healthier glow after a night’s rest.

    Here’s how it works: While we lay sleeping, our cells go into overdrive to help repair the damage incurred during the day (from contact with environmental pollutants and UV radiation, for example). Our blood vessels dilate, allowing an increased flow of nutrients and oxygen to the skin, which helps stimulate the removal of toxic cellular products. Research shows that our cells even regenerate faster while we’re sleeping.

    Cells do this work whether or not we take care of our skin. But, think of the time before you go to bed as an opportunity to feed your skin cells the stuff they need to optimize healing. You can pump 'em with antioxidants to fight UV and free-radical damage, hydrate for improved barrier function and less flakes, regulate oil production to quell congestion and zits, minimize pigmentation...the list goes on. Or, at the very least (on those nights when you're not in bed until the wee hours) you can wash off the day’s grime to create a clean slate for your cellular system.

    To figure out how to optimize cellular repair for different skin conditions, we talked to Drs. Melanie Palm (a dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego) and Jessica Wu (a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face). They assured us that the only truly essential steps to late-night skin care — no matter your skin condition — are cleansing and putting on an eye cream.

    Read on for the scoop on how to optimize your skin-care routine at night, and wake up to a happier complexion.

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    Dull
    If your skin is lifeless, it’s likely not just because you’re tired. It could be that your top layer, or the the stratum corneum, is not exfoliating correctly, which leads to build-up of dead skin cells and overall dullness. To help regain that bright, glowy quality, boost skin regeneration at night by exfoliating, hydrating, and delivering a few key ingredients with this cleanser before hitting the sack.

    Korres Wild Rose Daily Brightening & Refinishing Buff Cleanser, $28, available at Sephora.

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    To help rid the skin of excess dead cells, Dr. Palm suggests using a brush and a salicylic acid cleanser to help break down the cell-to-cell barrier and lift the top layer of skin. She warns not to overdo it, though; aggressive exfoliation can cause skin to become oily, irritated, and acne prone. So, don’t cleanse with a brush more than once a day.

    Clarisonic Mia 2 Skin Care Cleansing System, $149, available at Ulta.

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    The skin’s surface isn’t its the only possible dullness factor; often, dull skin isn’t getting hydrated properly, either. After cleansing, apply products that will hydrate and brighten, such as peptides (which can help with the overall smoothness of the skin) and enzymes (which can help break down dull skin, rejuvenate, and give your complexion a glow).

    Om Aroma & Co. Pumpkin Seed Renew Serum, $58, available at Om Aroma & Co.

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    Finally, Palm suggests practicing patience. Stick with your face-brightening nighttime routine for a few weeks. It will often take that long to see true results if you're using over-the-counter products — and even longer (two to three months) if you're using prescription-strength topicals.

    Verso Skincare Night Cream, $100, available at Sephora.

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    Dry Skin
    The PM plan for dry skin is pretty straightforward: Clean your complexion of the day’s grime, pollutants, and leftover sunscreen. Then, pump it with super hydrators and lock that moisture in.

    Those with dry skin may find it helpful to perform a gentle two-step cleanse, first using an oil to remove their makeup...

    Murad Renewing Cleansing Oil for Face, Eyes & Lips, $32, available at Nordstrom.