In recent months, the beauty sphere has been churning out a slew of products and stories that have touted sleeping in makeup for the sultry, rocker-chic effect that it tends to give. From products that boast 12, 14, or even 16 hours of wear (seriously, who wears their makeup that long) to tinted products like Dr. Jart+'s BB Night Beauty Balm made specifically for those looking for added coverage in their nighttime skin-care routine, it appears that sleeping in makeup is now in vogue. Even Charlotte Tilbury, famed makeup artist, has gone on record documenting her extensive beauty regimen that consists of applying her makeup in the morning and washing it off at day's end — only to reapply her makeup all over again before bed. But contrary to what some will have you believe, the pros have confirmed what we suspect you already knew: Sleeping in makeup is bad for your skin. "Smudgy makeup [has come to] indicate that the person was too busy to wash it off, and probably had an incredible night out," says board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. While the romanticization of the "perfectly un-done" look has certainly played a part in the adulation our culture seems to have for this type of makeup look, Dr. Nazarian makes it very clear that "it's just like images of cigarettes used to portray — [it may look cool] but sleeping in makeup is not good for you." In fact, according to Dennis Gross, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, sleeping in makeup is "one of the biggest mistakes" a woman can make where her skin is concerned. "Doing so can block pores, leaving oil trapped inside," he adds. "This leads to bacteria build up, breakouts, and enlarged pores — which are many of the reasons women wear makeup in the first place." But it's not just makeup — environmental factors come into play as well. "Pollution from each day accumulates on the skin, mixing with makeup, dirt, and oil. This combination of free radicals and environmental stress has been shown to cause premature aging of skin," says Dr. Nazarian. Plus, since skin renews itself at night, residual makeup and dirt on your skin can interfere with the skin's natural healing process and cellular turnover.
While sleeping in any kind of makeup can have negative effects on the skin, Dr. Nazarian believes the worst culprits are oil-based foundations and primers, which are "less-breathable and more pore-clogging than other products." And leftover makeup residue (especially of the oil-based variety) can also "inhibit the absorption of skin-care products by creating a barrier that prevents beneficial ingredients from penetrating the skin's surface," says Dr. Gross. But every now and then we all slip up and fall facedown on our pillow in eyeliner, mascara, and whatever else. When that happens, Dr. Nazarian suggests you nip the effects of last night in the bud by effectively removing all traces of your makeup first thing in the morning — and doing a little damage control. "I recommend using an exfoliating cleanser, soft bristle brush or washcloth, or a gentle glycolic acid cleanser to [remove] the buildup of makeup, oils, and dead skin cells," says Dr. Nazarian. After cleansing, Dr. Gross suggests slathering on a brightening serum, like his Ferulic + Retinol Brightening Solution, to improve radiance. Also, he adds that after a night in makeup, your skin will be thirsty, so don't forget to moisturize. Dr. Nazarian suggests looking for products with moisturizing and soothing ingredients like Cerave's Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM, which will help minimize the inflammation and redness that's typically induced by leaving your makeup on all night. But one night sleeping in last night's smoky eye isn't going to totally ruin your skin. "Skin is still somewhat resilient to oxidative environmental stress and makeup buildup, and has the ability to protect itself to a certain degree," says Dr. Nazarian. "However, repeated offenses will start to show signs of wear on the skin." If you're prone to forgetfulness and find that you fall asleep in your makeup regularly, Dr. Nazarian recommends opting for lightweight, non-comedogenic products that are less likely to trigger pimples (although an eye irritation or infection is still a risk). "Mineral makeup, or loose powders, are slightly better for the skin because they allow the skin to naturally interact with the environment, rather than fully covering it with heavy oil-based creams or ointments," she says. And at the very least, wash your pillowcase often, "so that you're not recycling bacteria night after night." Leaving a pack of facial cleansing wipes on your bedside table might also help you remember to wipe off your makeup before bed. So while that "I'm with the band" sexy-smoky look is certainly desirable, we'd rather achieve it with precise smudging – and without doing more laundry.