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.