rescue sleep deprived skin

I am a champion sleeper. Or I was until recently. I am hoping that it’s a temporary menopausal thing, but it got me to do some research on sleep deprivation and I found some surprising facts on how it ages you. Lack of sleep has a profound effect on the skin that goes way beyond sallow cheeks and puffy eyes.

Deprived of a decent eight hours, the body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol breaks down collagen, leading to wrinkles and less elasticity.

In 2013, researchers at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center looked more precisely at how sleep quality impacts skin function and aging. The study, commissioned by Estée Lauder, trialed women between the ages of 30 and 49 and revealed that poor sleepers had increased signs of skin aging and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors, such as disruption of the skin barrier or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Poor sleepers also had worse assessment of their own skin and facial appearance.

Sleep-deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin's ability to recover after sun exposure. A Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) test was used at various time points to determine the ability of the skin to serve as an effective barrier against moisture loss. 72 hours after a skin barrier stressor (tape-stripping), the recovery of good quality sleepers was 30% higher than poor quality sleepers, demonstrating that they repair the damage more quickly.

Poor quality sleepers showed increased signs of intrinsic skin aging including fine lines, uneven pigmentation and slackening of skin and reduced elasticity.

Discovering this was quite a wake-up call. So I did a bit more thinking about some essentials for rescuing sleep-deprived skin and there are four key approaches: collagen boosters to counteract that nasty cortisol stuff, skin repairers, sun protection and, of course, some quick fixes for the morning after the night before.

1. Boost collagen

A reliable active is Matrixyl 3000 that has two peptides working synergistically to mimic the appearance of this broken down collagen, causing your skin to react by producing more collagen, as well as elastin.  In 2013 University of Reading researchers found that Matrixyl can nearly double the amount of the protein collagen needed to give skin its elasticity.

Products featuring Matrixyl 3000:

Medik8 Firewall ($145 in the shop). When I first reviewed this I wrote: “I am just going to cut straight to the car chase. Medik8 Firewall works. It really works. It really, really works.” As well as Matrixyl 3000, there are other important actives that pack Medik8’s punch including copper and niacinamide.

Your Best Face Control ($160 in the shop) is a peptide fest with, as well as Matrixyl 3000, several that firm sagging skin.

Copper peptides have been shown by studies to promote collagen and elastin production. An independent 2002 study on 20 women showed that it increased collagen in 70%, compared to 50% for vitamin C and 40% for retinoic acid.

Products featuring copper:

Benir Beauty BV-9 Platinum Provectus Super Serum ($195 in the shop) is formulated to stimulate collagen and relax fine lines and wrinkles with a combination of seven different peptides, antioxidants and bee venom, as well as Matrixyl 3000 and Syn-Ake.

Another useful peptide in the collagen department is a rice protein peptide that protects the skin from collagenase activity (collagenases are enzymes that break peptide bonds in collagen) and reinforces the natural lipid barrier of the skin.

Products featuring rice protein

Skinfinite Peptide Repair Serum ($69 in the shop) has this moisture binding peptide as well as plenty of antioxidants in a formula that punches well above its dollar weight.

2. Repair wrinkles

The best wrinkle repairers are epidermal growth factors (EPG). They have earned their stripes in wound healing and come with a ton of research. They work in complex ways, signaling to skin cells to do useful things such as treat lines and wrinkles.

Products featuring epidermal growth factors:

Arcona Peptide Firming Complex ($72) is a firming serum that also binds moisture to the skin with hyaluronic acid and promotes both collagen and elastin production with epidermal growth factors.

ReLuma Facial Serum ($145 in the shop) is a potent treatment for wrinkle repair using a complex formula of growth factors to signal skin cells and produce new collagen.

AQ Skin Solutions Active Serum ($149 in the shop) has a 40% concentration of growth factors that stimulate the skin to repair age spots and wrinkles.

Stemulation Facial Serum ($135) is formulated with Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (HMSC). This line smoother comes with vitamins and a collagen boosting peptide.

Medik8 Growth Factor ($160) uses sh-Oligopeptide-1, a recombinant human peptide encased in liposomes to help penetration into the skin. A pared back formula focusing on this potent EGF gives great results and is suitable for sensitive skin.

E’shee KI Therapy ($189 in the shop). As well as the FGF epidermal growth factor, this serum (one of my absolute favorites) has Far Infrared Powder as a key ingredient.  Far infrared waves are the longest rays in the light spectrum and easily absorbed by the body to a depth of up to 3 inches. There they can do useful things — wound healing being one of them. Findings also revealed greater collagen regeneration.

3. Protect from the sun

Our sleep-deprived skin is less likely to repair sun damage, so we want our sunscreens to come packed with antioxidants, which also make the SPF more effective. Good choices are:

Prana Reflect Antioxidant Skin Cream SPF 45 ($39 in the shop) has alpha lipoic acid, which protects cells from sun damage and destroys damaged collagen.

Skinfinite Platinum 30 SPF ($32.50) is a zinc oxide sunscreen with red algae and antioxidants to protect against sun damage and free radicals.

Amarte Ultra Veil Sunscreen ($45) has a formula that contains plenty of antioxidants, including ginkgo biloba, potentilla extract and rooibos, and even an epidermal growth factor to help counteract a potential free radical issue.

4. Quick fixes for dull skin and puffy eyes

Collagen boosting, wrinkle repair and sun protection is all very well, but you also need to deal with those puffy eyes and the sallow skin before you venture into the day.

Prana SpaCeuticals Precious Fluids ($135 in the shop) has a cooling roller ball applicator that I like, and it firms and smoothes the skin around the eye with high levels of potent actives, such as lipid ceramides, Haloxyl, stem cells, peptides, amino acids and Matrixyl 3000.

Sciote Antioxidant Scrub & Masque ($65 in the shop) will wake up your skin with exfoliating glycolic acid (5%) and lactic acid (2%), coenzyme Q10 to neutralize free radicals, peptides, and kaolin clay to draw out impurities.

Moana Instant Lifting Mask ($106 in the shop) utlizes nutrient-rich red seaweed and manuka honey to immediately lift and tighten skin, enhance tone and minimize lines.

Note: This article was last updated on March 10, 2015.