Is there a reason that beauty brands create separate creams for day and night? Or is it common sense that your skin cannot differentiate between the two? Do those serums and creams that promise to repair your skin while you sleep really work — and if so, how do they work differently from the creams you wear during the day? All of these questions are making me tired. But there is one simple answer: While you are sleeping, your skin is hard at work and night creams are specially formulated to enhance the skin’s natural process.
Our sleep patterns are linked to a circadian clock and the skin, like other organs, follows along. In roughly a 24-hour period, we fall asleep at about the same time and wake up at about the same time every day. 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. Sadly, napping doesn’t help. Daytime sleep will not compensate for loss of nightly 'beauty sleep,' because apparently the energy needed for tissue repair is being used by the body on other things.
Once we do doze off at night, we drift into what is called an anabolic state in which energy conservation, repair and growth take over. Ironically, during the night, the skin isn’t snoozing at all — quite the opposite. During deep sleep skin's metabolic rate speeds up and many of the body's cells show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins. Proteins are the building blocks of cells — including skin cells — and they assist with repairing damage from ultra violet light encountered during the day, so this process is vital. Using restorative antioxidants and peptides has been shown to aid in the skin’s natural repair process.
Blood flow intensifies at night, and when blood flow is increased to the skin, the area of absorption (of whatever you have applied) increases. Below is a solid skin care regimen to consider before bed. Follow this simple, four-step routine to look well rested and younger come morning.
The best — and most obvious — starting point is a great cleanser. In order to keep skin healthy, you must wash away all of the makeup, oil, dirt and airborne toxins it acquired throughout the day. A good face wash is LIFTLAB's Purify + Clarify ($65 in the shop), as it has some interesting exfoliating ingredients (including a derivative of red caviar) and, as explained below, the process of exfoliation is enhanced by the skin’s nighttime metabolic rate.
The top layer of the skin is made of closely packed dead cells, which are constantly shedding during the day. During deep sleep, the aforementioned speeding up of the skin’s metabolic rate increases this turnover. Thus, exfoliating products will be more effective at night. I have always relegated retinols and AHAs to use at night, because these ingredients increase the skin’s sun sensitivity. And that is a good reason in and of itself. However, in researching this article, I now also understand that the skin increases cell turnover during the night and, therefore, these ingredients will work more efficiently.
Nighttime is a good time to use Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peels ($88 in the shop) with alpha hydroxy acids, which take all of two minutes. A new addition to my night regimen is Ao Skincare Rewind Retinal ($119.95 in the shop). This wonderfully gentle retinol serum is also very effective on fine lines, and I just gave it my Best of 2016 award for a best night treatment.
In a recent post on whether night creams really work, we noted that there is evidence skin cells follow a circadian rhythm; the cells divide consistently in order to make up for dead ones. This could be why serums with actives that signal to cells — such as peptides and growth factors — are often recommended for use at night, too. A wonderful serum that is especially formulated for nighttime with a slew of peptides is Your Best Face Restore ($130 in the shop). At night I also like to use growth factors and really love my new find Lifeline Stem Cell Skincare Recovery Night Moisture Serum ($190 in the shop).
Finally, nighttime is a good time to consider facial oil. Although topnotch oils should not be oily, they can still take a little while to absorb. Not only do they provide mega-moisture, but they also create a very useful barrier for the skin when those side sleepers amongst us are in danger of stamping our faces with pillow creases. Your Best Face makes one specially formulated with a sleep-inducing scent appropriately called Slumber ($80 in the shop).
What is your favorite nighttime treatment? Let me know in the comments below.