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Night creams- do they really beautify as you sleep?

Is a Solution for:
Sagging Skin
March 17, 2011 Reviewed by TIA Community Member 5 Comments
Doesn’t skin soak up ingredients more effectively at night than during the day? Isn’t there a reason that companies create separate night and day creams? Or is it true that your skin cannot differentiate between night and day, and cosmetic companies are not only in on that dirty little secret but also using it to their advantage? More products mean more money, after all. So the question is, do those serums and creams that promise to repair your skin while you sleep really work, and do they work differently from creams you wear during the day?

According to Kristine Cryer, vice president for product development at StriVectin, “At nighttime, skin does its repair. It’s not working hard like it’s working during the day.” Companies associate nighttime with renewal – and “regenerating, restoring and resurfacing,” all terms that imply that your skin is a “new blank canvas” come morning.

This might just be a clever marketing ploy, but it is actually true that the skin does go through some changes as night as you sleep. Its metabolic rate increases and “cells show increased production and a reduced breakdown of proteins,” which is all good news for those who desire beautiful, healthy skin. Also, blood flow seems to be higher at night and when blood flow is increased to the skin, the area of absorption (of whatever serum you put on at night) increases too.

Skin, like other organs, has a circadian clock. For example, our sleep patterns are linked to a circadian clock; in a roughly 24-hour period, we fall asleep at about the same time and wake up at about the same time everyday. Similarly, skin may actually be able to differentiate between night and day. There is evidence that points to skin cells following a circadian rhythm: the cells divide consistently in order to make up for dead ones.

Still, while there does seem to be a certain clock gene at work when it comes to our skin, the author of the study that found the gene says she does not “know whether the synchronization of clock genes may enhance the repair process of the skin.”

And as much as the skin does at night in order to repair itself naturally, there is no scientific evidence that the process that skin goes through at night is significantly different from what it goes through during the day. According to one dermatologist, “We are constantly repairing our skin and responding to stressors. Our skin doesn’t wait for nighttime repair.” In an interview with Cosmetics Magazine, Dr. Lisa Kellet, a dermatologist, says, “ Repair processes in the skin are an ongoing process occurring throughout the day. Otherwise, night shift workers would have a problem!”

There is no doubt that sleep itself is important for your skin’s health, but it has not been proven that using certain serums while you sleep increases their efficacy. However, there are some important reasons to use products with specific ingredients at night. For example, retinoids should always be used at night, as skin is more prone to burning when layered with retinoids and exposed to sunlight. In addition, certain ingredients tend to degrade when they are exposed to sunlight and may be most effective if used when it is dark. And if you are religious about applying sunscreen and makeup each day, it might be beneficial to use some anti aging serums at night when they won’t have to interact or compete with the other things you apply to your skin. These are all great reasons to use specific nighttime creams, but they really have little to do with sleep’s relation to the efficacy of products and more to do with lifestyle (what kinds of products you use) and sunlight exposure.
  • January 30, 2015

    by Samantha

    Sometimes I get my eight hours of sleep during the day.. I always make sure to wash my face and put on my night facial products before I do, and I don't know if I'm correct in doing that.. I've heard that you're never supposed to sleep wearing SPF, and all of my day-time products contain some form of it.. But really, who knows.

  • March 25, 2014

    by Marta

    Hi Ricky, personally I prefer antioxidants and peptides to retinol. If your anti-aging regimen really needs kick-starting, then retinol can be helpul. But it is really just an exfoliator and there is a limit to how much stripping the skin can take. Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. But to mend existing wrinkles, peptides are best as they signal cells to repair or produce more collagen - that is Matrixyl etc. Be aware that the ones you mention include Argireline and Syn-Ake, which do not repair, but are supposed to inhibit expression lines from forming. There's more on what different peptides do here:

  • March 24, 2014

    by Ricky

    Hi I have a quick and hopefully a not so complicated question. Which is better for the skin as far as anti-aging, products that concentrate on the use of Retinol, or products that concentrate on the use of Vitamin C ( Acsorbic Acid, Magnesium Ascorbyl Palmitate ) or productss that concentrate on the use of Peptides ( Matrixyl, Matrixl 3000, Argirline, SNAP-8, Syn-Ake, etc....
    I " think " there are prodducts that do have ALL 3 in their serums, moisturizers, but they do basically concentrate on ONE of the 3 ingredients I mentioned.
    Maybe this is a better way to pose my question, which ingredients, " Retinol, Vitamin C or Peptides " are better to help rid the looks of fine lines, wrinkles and also help to firm the facial skin in helping with the production of Collagen...???
    Whenever anyone has the time to send me a reply I would appreciate it very much,
    Thank you for your time.
    Ricky Guevara

  • November 18, 2013

    by JustD

    Really enjoyed this article, very informative and eye opening. Reading this reminds me to make more informed decisions regarding what products I should use, how and when. It stands to reason also, that as we age our bodies are changing in various ways and usually whether it's menopausal, thyroidal or some other issue that make affect us, as Oksana mentioned earlier, it helps to understand how some of these products will or won't actually be able to give us the results we are hoping for based on some of these underlying reasons. It's a lot to recall, for me anyway, I'm always looking for that silver bullet or the absolute anti-aging grail. Still it makes sense to realize that no matter what we may strive to do topically, day or night for our skin, what's going on inside of us usually has a more pivotal say in the final outcome, more so, than what we slather on... Great read!


  • March 17, 2011

    by Oksana

    very interesting point!
    it is important to consider the fact that almost every process in our bodies is subject to circadian rhythms (blood pressure, liver metabolic function, respiratory function,etc.). Chronotherapy is widely used in asthma treatment, as well as in chemotherapy administration in certain cancers to reduce overall toxicity and potentiate desired effects on a patient.
    there is also a fact, that the age of 30 is "as good as it gets" in r/t health, body/system functions, vitality. After age 30 everything starts slowing down - cell turnaround included on all levels (start taking your calcium/vitD and weight bearing exercises!). It's a natural process of aging.

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