A new cream from Orlane called Serum Nuit Extreme Anti Wrinkle Regenerating Night Serum ($325) got me thinking about my beauty sleep in a whole new way. I’ve never been very big on night creams (mostly on the grounds that my beauty routine is complex enough each morning). But Orlane was saying that chronobiology has come  up with new research to demonstrate that antiaging creams – well, specifically Orlane’s – should work the night shift to do their job really well. I decided to take a look.

Many living organisms have some form of an internal clock. Our bodies follow very specific timelines, such as the 90 minute REM cycle. Chronobiologists study how they work, what causes internal rhythms to be thrown out of whack, and whether they can be leveraged therapeutically.

Orlane says chronobiology measurements show that the skin’s physiology is most adapted to receive an anti-aging treatment at night. And Orlane has proven this using a device called SenseWear®. This surprised me somewhat, since this is an armband made by BodyMedia that records calories burned, energy expenditure and sleep patterns. BodyMedia makes a consumer version called the BodyBugg (which we reviewed on Truth In Slimming) that is sold as a gadget to help you lose weight.

According to Orlane, the device showed that heat dispersed by the skin increases during the night and that this in turn leads to a decreased barrier function. Ergo, active ingredients are more deeply and more rapidly absorbed.

I couldn’t really find any research by independent chronobiologists to back this up. However, there is a general consensus that many skin functions are circadian rhythmic. According to the American Society of Chronobiology and Chronotherpeutics, the proliferation of skin cells varies by up to 30-fold in the 24 hours, being greatest at midnight and least at noon. Oil production by skin glands is twice as great at noon than between 02:00 and 04:00. The skin is more acidic during sleep than around midday and its temperature is higher in the evening than morning.

That seemed pretty interesting. However, in the next breath the Association quotes a study on French women who self reported that they thought their skin looked worse at night, but then much better after using a Lancome product. Some more unconvincing research from France (at least the abstract isn’t very persuasive) claims (without any backup) that at night the skin increases its renewal and diverse metabolic processes. Another research paper, claiming that there strong chronobiological effects on the skin was sponsored by Cognis, which (you won’t be surprised to hear) has a moisturizer to take these effects into account.

There is decent research showing that cell proliferation occurs more abundantly at night, as do pro-inflammatory cytokines (source). Scientists have been experimenting with timing therapies to take the circadian clock into account. There also seems to be evidence of sebum, pH, temperature and water loss conforming to circadian cycle (source).

While I’m not sure that I am hugely convinced by all of this to get a night cream, one thing I am certain of is that at $325 Orlane Serum Nuit Extreme Anti Wrinkle Regenerating Night Serum is daylight robbery.

Its formulator seems to have been convinced that bacteria get busy at night given the relatively high doses of harsh preservatives such as phenoxyethanol, ethylparaben, sodium benzoate, with three additional parabens to boot. There are plenty of fillers and bulking agents in the form of siicones, polymers and even soy flour.

I laughed out loud when I saw acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester. This acts as a desensitizer. It is actually used in products to prevent premature ejaculation. At least you can be sure that none of the irritants (eg sodium benzoate) will bother you during your sleep cycle.

As lonely as a night watchman is cyperus esculentus tuber extract, a botanical ingredient used to treat skin disorders.

Ingredients

Water, glycerin, dimethicone, alcohol denat, hydrolyzed soy flour, butylene glycol, hydroxethyl acrylate/sodium acryloydimethyl taurate copolymer, dimethiconol, phenoxyethanol, ethylparaben, sodium benzoate, cyperus esculentus tuber extract, laureth-3, methylparaben, caffeine, hydrolyzed wheat protein, sorbitan isostearate, polysorbate-60, hydroxyethylcellulose, sodium hyaluronate, escin, fragrance, acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester, artemia extract, ehtylhexylglycerin, oryza sativa (rice) extract, potassium sorbate, propylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, linalool, limonene, alpha-isomethyl ionone, potassium sorbate