What really happens to your face when you sleep in makeup


Let’s be honest. We’ve all
done it. You get home late, watch a little TV, then climb into bed. The last
thing you feel like doing is crawling out of your warm sheets to go wash your
face. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, if you do it once in a while,
it’s probably not a big deal. However, don’t make it a habit.
“Sleeping in makeup is
one of the worst things you can do to your skin,” Dr. Stefani Kappel,
board certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained MOHS surgeon, told me.
“It is important to wash your face before bed no matter how dead tired you
Sleep is a crucial time for
our bodies to rest and replenish. Your muscles need to recover from the day,
but so does your face.
“Your skin recharges from
the things it endured during the day as you are sleeping. It is in repair mode
in preparation for the day ahead,” Tiffany Crews, licensed master
aesthetician with Virginia Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center, told me.
“When you sleep in your makeup, it conflicts the skin repair
process.” Here are just some of the downsides to passing out in your
Your body will absorb your

While many of us take our skin
for granted, it’s important to remember that it is an organ, just like our
heart or lungs. It’s also our largest organ, so it some tender love and care.
Our skin is always absorbing what we put on it, so sleeping in our makeup means
we’re absorbing whatever chemicals are in those products.
“If you sleep in your
makeup, the natural oils that come out at night will absorb any product that’s
on your skin,” Shara Strand, skin expert and makeup artist in the Pierre
Hotel, told me. “When oils mix with your makeup at a rapid rate, it will
cause blemishes to appear. They may take days to weeks to disappear.”
Our skin is a serious organ,
so covering it with a foreign substance all of the time is not a good plan.
“Just like our internal organs, our skin is always at work,” Beverly
Hills celebrity dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer told me. “Skin is made up
of water, protein (like collagen, which gives your skin strength and
structure), lipids, and different minerals and chemicals. Skin is also covered
in pores, which allow us to sweat and secrete sebum, a natural lubricant that
moisturizes skin and removes dead skin cells and other irritants from our
So when we sleep in our
makeup, we block those little pores. When our pores can’t do their job of
secreting serum, the problems start.

Say hello to acne

While our skin is busy
absorbing that day-old makeup all night, it’s also preparing to launch an acne
“When you fall asleep
with makeup on, the skin sebum secretion, dead cells, and makeup debris block
pores overnight, allowing bacteria to brew acne, aggravate rosacea, and cause
sallow, uneven, blotchy skin,” Dr. Sonam Yadav, cosmetic dermatologist and
medical director of Juverne, told me.
And it happens to the best of
us, even those who know better! Makeup artist and beauty blogger Hillary Kline
told me that even she’s dealt with acne after too many nights of skipping the
face wash. “This has actually happened to me when I haven’t taken off my
makeup,” she told me. “If you’re not removing your foundation, it can
lead to clogged pores and pimples.” Take it from an expert. Clean off that
foundation every night.
Your skin could dry out

Because sleeping in makeup
prevents our skin from repairing itself every night, the result is often dull
skin lacking that youthful glow that we’re all after.
“Going to bed with makeup
on will leave you with clogged pores and bumpy dull skin,” assistant
professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Dr. Debra
Jaliman M.D. told me. “This can lead to breakouts if you’re acne prone. If
you’re prone to dry skin it can leave dry patches, especially around the nose
and eyebrows.”
If you already have dry skin,
you’re probably hesitant to wash too much. However, washing your face at night
with a gentle cleanser is still necessary. “If you have dry, flaky skin
use a hydrating cream or serum with hyaluronic acid,” recommends Dr.
You may notice white bumps

Have you ever gotten those
tiny white dots on your face? Your makeup could be to blame.
“You can also end up with
milia on the face, they are especially common around the eyes,” explains
Dr. Jaliman. “These are tiny white cysts.”
These tiny white cysts may
seem like no big deal, but they’re not going to go away on their own.
“If you develop milia
then you need to see a dermatologist to have them removed,” Dr. Jaliman
said. “This can be done with an electric needle and then extracted.”
Yikes! I’d rather wash my face, thank you very much.
Your face will absorb

As you walk around during the
day, your face is exposed to a lot. All of these chemicals and pollutants are
absorbed by our skin. “Over the course of the day, our faces are exposed
to dirt, bacteria, smoke, fumes, and environmental pollutants,” Dr.
Faiyaaz Kalimullah, MD, cosmetic dermatologist at the Center for Dermatology
and Aesthetic Medicine in Chicago, told me. “Makeup essentially forms a
film that traps and holds all of these pollutants on our skin, which long term
can lead to free radical damage and collagen breakdown.” So the longer we
wear our makeup, like by sleeping in it, the longer our skin is exposed to
these damaging substances. Give your skin a break, and cleanse away all the
garbage it’s exposed to all day.

You’ll get more wrinkles

As if sealing pollutants into
your face wasn’t gross enough, get ready for this. Those pollutants are making
you look older! Sleep is the magical process that repairs our skin and systems.
However, if your makeup is blocking that restoration from happening, you’re
going to look older in the morning.
“When you sleep the body
recuperates, relaxes and all the anti-aging processes happen,” Dr. Yelena
Yeretsky, an internationally renowned physician specializing in anti-aging and
aesthetic medicine and founder of Clinique YFT, told me. “When it comes to
anti-aging, every cell in the body is programmed to work a certain way. So when
something like makeups stresses our skin, the process slows down.”
Give your skin the best chance
it has to look younger on its own by washing each night. It truly makes a
“Sleeping in makeup
covers and congests our pores,” explains Dr. Yeretsky. “And are you
ready for this? It doesn’t allow cell turnover to happen. If it does, it
happens very slowly. So yes, you are aging yourself every time you sleep in makeup!”
Tiffany Crews agrees.
“When your makeup is not washed off, those pollutants and free radicals
are left on your skin to cause further damage to your skin as you sleep,
resulting in premature aging of your skin,” she said. “It’s like
going to bed with a film of toxins on your face, which suffocates the skin and
leads to a rapid aging outcome.”
I recently had an anti-aging
facial that was meant to remove those damaging free radicals and restore my
skin to health. I have been a big makeup-sleeping offender, and the facial made
a huge difference in my skin’s complexion. You could also try some
over-the-counter creams. “If you develop fine lines from pollution, then
choose a serum or cream with antioxidants like resveratrol,” explains Dr.
Jaliman. “You can also use peptides or retinol.”
You’ll be at risk for

Part of the problem with
leaving your makeup on all night is its ingredients. If your makeup contains
chemicals that you’re not familiar with, don’t smear it all over your body’s
largest organ 24 hours per day.
“Your skin is subject to
inflammation, rashes, and infection if you leave your makeup on all night
long,” says Hillary Kline. “More times than not, many products have
perfumes or dyes in them so that can cause skin irritation.”
And it’s not just the makeup.
As we’re exposed to chemicals throughout the day, our makeup works hard to seal
in those damaging elements.
“Natural environmental
pollutants like pollen, mold, and spores can cause skin irritation,” board
certified dermatologist Dr. Daniel Ladd told me. “Chemical pollutants like
automotive exhaust can actually create free radicals and inflammation that can
promote premature aging and wrinkling of the skin.” The only way to remove
these irritants is to wash your face with a gentle cleanser every night.
Maybe it’s not so bad

Now that I’ve officially
scared you into washing your face every hour on the hour, take a deep breath.
Not all dermatologists believe sleeping in your makeup is such a big deal.
“Most women think
terrible things will happen to their skin by not taking off their makeup before
bed, and the reality is, it’s usually not much of a problem,” Dr. Neal
Schultz, New York City dermatologist, host of DermTV.com, and creator of
BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz, told me. “Think about it this way: What’s the
difference between wearing the makeup on your skin for the eight hours that
you’re sleeping as opposed to the 12 hours that you wear it when you get up in
the morning at 8:00 and take it off when you get home at 8:00 at night?”
Moral of the story? If you slept in your makeup last night, don’t sweat it. But
you should probably wash your face tonight.
A lazy girl’s plan

Most of us probably plan to
wash our faces at night. Of course we don’t want premature wrinkles from
caked-on pollutants, but once 10 p.m. rolls around and you’re exhausted from
the day, face washing doesn’t sound so important. If you’ve been too lazy in
the past, make a game plan now.
“Too tired or too lazy to
make a trip to the bathroom sink and wash your face?” asks Hillary Kline.
“I like to buy makeup wipe removing cloths from the drugstore to remove
any makeup residue.”
Dr. Yeretsky agrees with
planning ahead. “The best thing to do is create rituals,” she says.
“Daily, simple skincare rituals that you are actually going to complete
with pleasure and purpose. Find skincare products you enjoy and actually want
to use.”
How to bounce back

So if you’re sitting here
thinking, “Oh no, I’ve seriously damaged my face from never washing,”
don’t despair. Sure, it’s important to start washing nightly, but there are
some other things you can do to help your skin get back to glowing and
“The best remedy is to
cleanse well when you realize this has happened and to stay hydrated [by]
drinking plenty water,” says Dr. Sonam Yadav. “Use scent-free
soothing moisturizer and pop a vitamin C pill to offset some of the antioxidant
Shara Strand agrees that while
we can’t totally undo the effects of sleeping in makeup, there are still
strategies to help our skin recover.
“There’s really no
guaranteed way to reverse the effects of sleeping in your makeup,”
cautions Strand. “But a good cleaning, as in a facial, would be helpful.
Even exfoliating in the morning and hydrating with lots of oil-free moisturizer
and eye cream would help.” Try skipping your makeup routine the following
day to allow your skin to breathe.
Replace those antioxidants

Once you’ve exfoliated, add
nutrients back to your sin with some gentle products.
“If you do fall asleep
with your makeup on, be sure to wash your face thoroughly with a gentle
cleanser in the morning. If you find your skin is breaking out, using a
medicated cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help unclog your
pores and reduce acne-causing bacteria,” says Dr. Kalimullah.
“Applying a good antioxidant serum (containing vitamin C, vitamin E,
retinol, resveratrol, or green tea extract) can help prevent additional
free-radical damage from UV radiation and environmental pollutants.”
You could also try a gentle
cleanser that removes some of that dirt and oil.
“If you have slept with
your makeup, in the morning you must start with a cleansing with micellar
water,” Savana Urban Spa dermatologist Dr. Kathy Taghipour recommended to
me. “After that, apply a hydrating mask because during the night the
makeup will surely dehydrate your skin.”
Micellar water is water with
small balls of oil in it meant to draw away dirt and oil.
Always moisturize after

Wearing makeup 24/7 is
stressful for your skin, so once you start washing again, don’t forget to add
back some moisture with a gentle cream or lotion.
“You can undo the damage
that has been done if you currently sleep in your makeup by using an
alcohol-free makeup remover or wipes to remove makeup,” says Tiffany
Crews. “Then be sure to double cleanse the skin with a pH balanced
cleanser to ensure that all the makeup has been thoroughly removed [and] apply
a vitamin A product such as a retinol or Retin A to repair the skin texture,
unclog pores, and reduce signs of aging. Then follow suit with hydrating serum
or moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid to restore the skin.”
Crews recommends the Alchemy
Aesthetic Institute Moisture Surge Hyaluronic Acid Serum by Virginia
Dermatology for a gentle, hydrating product. According to her, it’s like a
drink of water for your skin!
“If you are wearing
makeup on the heavier side, you should double cleanse before going to
sleep,” recommends Dr. Yeretsky. “But if you have dry skin, you
should not. The dryer your skin, the less water you should put on your face.
Make sure to completely rid your face of makeup before going to bed.”
Do I still need to wash if I
don’t wear makeup?

Now all of the crunchy ladies
are probably sitting here thinking they’re in good shape, face wash or no face
wash. If you don’t wear makeup everyday, there’s nothing to wash off, right?
Not so much.
“Having a dirty, sweaty
face in general is bad policy,” board certified dermatologist Dr. H.L.
Greenberg, M.D. explained to me. “It’s always best to wash your face at
the end of the day and then to apply an anti-aging product and then a good
moisturizer before going to sleep. Dirty faces may be a good place for bacteria
to look for a home.”
Makeup or not, our skin is
exposed to a lot during the day.
When it doubt, wash it out

So it turns out that washing
your face every night is pretty important. Not only does it prevent acne and
premature aging, it saves your body from absorbing some nasty pollutants.
“If you park your clean
car outside and wipe your finger over the windshield the next day, you will see
the same debris that accumulates on the skin during the day,” explains Dr.
Kappel. “This can clog pores, cause acne, and age the skin.” Treat
your skin better than your car and wash up tonight!

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.