Is beauty sleep a real thing? I have acne-prone skin that is also partial to eczema and dullness. I'm on top of my skincare and it's working, but do I also have to get exactly eight hours to see a positive difference in my skin or is that a myth? Should I be using a special nighttime regime to help support "beauty sleep"?
Something very strange has happened when it comes to sleep. My parents' generation (and, as lovely as my mum and dad are, they are Boomers) never ever spoke about sleep, other than to comment on the occasional bad night of it. A sleepness night was considered just an occasional annoyance, not a symptom of anything untoward. Now, thanks to the wellness boom, we utterly obsess over sleep, the quality of it that we have, the "right" amount for all of us and fastidiously log and chart our sleep to reach the optimum level. Beauty sleep is a big part of this new movement, with countless products on the market claiming to "work while you sleep" or "supercharge your sleep" – Cult Beauty has seen a 121% growth in their sleep category alone. But is there really any substance to it, especially if you have a chronic skin condition?
"Your skin is regenerating constantly and during sleep there is some evidence that points to enhanced skin turnover in the early hours, provided we are getting sufficient sleep," said aesthetic doctor Dr Kishan Raichura, of The Lovely Clinic. "Our skin needs us to be asleep at night! Cellular regeneration depends on us getting sufficient sleep so this is a crucial consideration if we want our skin to be looking and feeling it's best." Essentially, we do need to be asleep, and getting good quality sleep in order for our skin to repair and recover. But we can't necessarily single out certain conditions that are exacerbated or alleviated by sleep or lack thereof.
"The epidermis and dermis (the two uppermost layers of the skin) are composed of cells that are dividing and replenishing throughout the day, and of course throughout the night as well," explained Dr Raichura. "Additionally, there are specialised cells known as fibroblasts within the second layer that produce structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, which confer unique properties in healthy skin," explained Dr Raichura. Collagen and elastin are what gives the skin bouncy, tensile strength and makes it look plump and juicy. The more hydrated and supple the skin, the better it reflects light and appears glossy and radiant. You know when you're tired or poorly and your face looks a little drawn? The opposite of that, basically.
There are some ingredients in skincare that are better suited to nighttime use, like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and retinoids, because their exfoliating power makes makeup application dicey immediately afterwards, and their sensitising properties don't mix well with sun exposure. But it's not entirely true to say that your skin has different needs at night — it's more that your lifestyle is better suited to certain products at certain times. When it comes to sleep and skin, it’s more that we need to be properly resting and rested to allow our skin to do the work it needs to do. This regeneration can help with lots of things; improving dull skin, and also supporting healing from conditions like eczema. "Efficient skin regeneration is essential for maintaining glowing, healthy skin. Ensuring good sleep is still a very much underrated strategy for optimising our skin – and of course our health," added Dr Raichura.
It's not to say that getting exactly eight hours on the nose will unlock benefits that seven hours won't – it's more that getting good sleep is checking off the "rest" tier of your skin's hierarchy of needs, allowing you to focus on more specific concerns. Consistent deep sleep no doubt improves the appearance of your skin, and also, your overall health – which has a positive correlation with how radiant your skin looks. See where I'm going with this? It's why I consider zinc to be a skin supplement: if it helps my immune system, that helps my skin, too.
Of course, getting good sleep is easier said than done. If you figure out a way to stop yourself obsessing over conversations from five years ago at 1am, let me know, okay?
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