What really happens when you sleep in makeup?

You don’t need a degree in
dermatology to realize that sleeping with your makeup on is a horrible idea.
It’s not good for your skin or your sheets. You might think, It’s late. I’m
tired. What’s the harm of crashing out without washing my face just this
once? Well, it causes more harm than you might think. Going to be bed
without washing your face is bad news and can have a cumulative harmful effect.
Here’s the icky stuff that happens to your skin, your lashes, and beneath the
surface when you nix removing your makeup before bedtime.
get clogged

Sleeping with makeup on is
murder on your pores. “Going to bed with makeup on will leave you with
clogged pores, since so many makeup [products] have ingredients like silicones
that block the pores,” Debra Jalman, a New York City-based,
board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From A
Top New York Dermatologist, tells me. “When the pores are blocked, your
skin gets bumpy. If you are acne-prone, it can even lead to breakouts.”
You are effectively damaging skin by neglecting to remove makeup at the end of
the day.
get acne

Beverly Hills dermatologist
Dr. Harold Lancer points to the fact that our skin never stops working, just
like our hearts never stop beating. He tells me, “Just like our internal
organs, our skin is always at work. Skin is made up of water, protein, 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 pores. When you apply
makeup, you block your pores from releasing sebum, which may lead to visibly
larger pores and acne overtime.”
Dr. J. Matthew Knight of FAAD
Knight Dermatology Institute also notes that “the mechanical pressure
of your face on a pillow can grind makeup into hair follicles, leading to
clogged pores acne.” Losing a few minutes of shut eye in favor making use
of some cold cream and face wash doesn’t seem like such a hassle when you think
of it from that perspective, does it?
damage skin cells

Skin cells are also damaged by
the practice of sleeping in makeup. Dr. Knight sums it up best, saying,
“Makeup can trap environmental pollutants and free-radicals that can
damage skin cells, including collagen, leading to premature skin aging.”
So not only does crashing out with your concealer on ultimately clog pores and
lead to zits, but it can also speed up the aging process. Ack.
skin becomes dull

Dewy, glowing, soft, and
smooth skin is usually a desired trait. Dull, sallow, or parched skin is not.
If you use a makeup product, like a highlighter, to impart some peachy pink
glow, that’s great. But sleeping in it can cause the opposite effect. “Our
skin is the largest organ of our body and it performs vital functions for our
body, like secreting sweat, excreting lipids, healing wounds and heat
regulation,” New York-licensed esthetician and makeup artist Liz
Donat tells me. 
“So it is imperative that
we cleanse and exfoliate it regularly and we especially do not sleep in our
makeup! Clogged pores and blackheads, aka comedones, are formed when dead skin
cells, oil and makeup get trapped in the pores and suffocate the skin,”
she continued. “These clogged pores are the pre-cursor to acne-like
breakouts and make the skin look dull and lifeless.” That’s reason enough
to reach for a makeup remover wipe or a washcloth, no matter how late it is or
no matter how tired you are.
interfere with the reparatory process

Our bodies regenerate while we
are at rest. The same holds true for our skin. Lancer says, “Skin repairs
itself while we sleep, so taking off your makeup at night is important because
it allows your pores to release sebum that rehydrates and protects your skin
from free radicals in the air.” If you leave makeup on, it disrupts these
critical processes.
set yourself back

As stated, when you sleep,
skin regenerates and heals itself. One night of sleeping with makeup on can and
will disrupt the delicate balance of your skin and set you back. Dermatologist
Dr. Kathy Taghipour of Savana Urban Spa tells me, “When you sleep, your
skin regenerates. When your pores are blocked, your skin can’t breathe, and thus
it can’t regenerate. The oil in your pores build-up and transform itself into a
bacteria, which can lead to various skin problems. After a night with your
makeup on, your skin will need about a week to restore its previous condition
and to balance again everything.” A whole week? It’s not worth it.
Take that makeup off, people!
can speed up the aging process, aka get wrinkles faster

Andrea Rodriguez of Chalet
Cosmetics points to another bad byproduct of this habit — premature aging!
“Sleeping in makeup clogs pores causing breakouts, dries out the skin
causing redness and sensitivity, and speeds up the aging process leading to
premature wrinkles,” she tells me.
Murat Evin, Creative Director
at The London School of Make-Up, also warns about sleeping in makeup leading to
the onset of wrinkles. “Not removing makeup before you go to bed means
that it cakes onto your face,” he tells me. “As wonderful as makeup
is, if it is not properly removed before bed, it can lead to a collagen
breakdown. If collagen cannot be produced properly, it means your skin ages
faster than it is supposed to; drying out, it creates more wrinkles and helps
to deepen existing ones.”
skin dries out

Leaving makeup on overnight,
even if you wash your face in the morning, causes flakiness, unevenness, and
dryness, according to Evin. He says, “If you properly cleanse your face at
night, and moisturize with products that include ingredients like aloe or witch
hazel, this gives your skin chance to repair and replenish itself at night.”
He continued, “Not removing your makeup will deny your skin this chance
and instead cause it to dry out. As a result, every time you wrinkle your
forehead or squint in your sleep, the impression will stay there for
He furthers his previous
point, saying, “Dry skin means a loss of elasticity… making wrinkles and
impurities more prominent than ever. If your skin continues to be neglected
like this frequently and for long periods of time, it can make wrinkles look
more like scars, they become that deep.” 
end up with an uneven skintone

Jennifer Yen, an actress and
beauty expert who founded purlisse, tells me that in addition to the aging
factor and lack of hygiene, “skipping out on proper skincare can also make
an already uneven skin tone worse. This is because your skin regenerates at
night as you sleep, so depriving it of ingredients known to combat pigmentation
means that any recourse for skin damage has been removed. The same principal
applies to age spots/dry spots too.”
cell regeneration is interrupted

Sleep doesn’t only rest our
bodies and our bones — there is more at play. “Cell regeneration happens
overnight when you sleep,” Lauren Ing, the president of SMD
Cosmetics, a natural skin care from South Korea, tells me. “So sleeping
with makeup on interrupts this process and clogs pores! It literally prevents
cell turnover, which you need for youthful skin, thus you look old, tired, dry
and unhealthy. Skin is an organ and most makeup is full of toxic chemicals, so
it’s a MUST to wash your skin before you sleep.”
eyes get irritated

Puffy and irritated eyes can
be a result of sleeping in makeup, as well. Donat says, “Eye makeup, like
shadows, kohl liners, and mascara, must be washed off every single night before
bed. Otherwise, the eye area will respond by being puffy and red. Lashes
protect our eyeballs from dust, pollen, and environmental pollutants. So when
we don’t wash them thoroughly, that debris, mixed with makeup, will trigger our
immune response to kick in to fight off a possible infection. The result:
swollen, red, irritated and tired eyes.” Long, curled, and voluminous
lashes pair best with smoky eyes or a cat-eye flick, not irritated, bloodshot,
and puffy peepers!
can break off

Another negative result of
sleeping in your eye makeup, like mascara and eyeliner, is that the product can
rub into your lashes, causing breakage. That’s why it’s important to take it
all off, per Lancer. Rodriguez of Chalet Cosmetics concurs, saying,
“Failing to properly remove eye makeup causes lashes to break.” Use a
gentle remover. Your lashes will thank you.
can get styes

“Sleeping with mascara on
can not only cause your luscious lashes to become brittle and break off, but
can also clog your lash follicles creating styes. Yikes,” Sydney
Ziverts, Health & Nutrition Investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, tells

Eczema is a common skin issue
for many, but on the eyelid? Yep! “Failing to properly remove eye makeup
and leaving shadows,liners, and mascara on could result in causing an irritant
dermatitis, essentially eczema of the eyelid areas,” Dr. Robin Evans of
Southern CT Dermatology tells me. “It could result in a rash, scaliness,
itching, and sometimes a burning sensation in the area. Treatment with a dermatologist
would be indicated if this occurs, usually using a low potency topical
can scratch you corneas

Brendan O’Brien, Vision
Direct’s Chief Operations Officer and former optometrist, broke down the deeper
damage that sleeping in makeup can cause. “Removing eye makeup, especially
mascara, before you go to sleep is important both for general hygiene and your
eye health,” he tells me. “Mascara tubes are prone to the build-up of
bacteria and the constant push and pull of the wand can make this worse. It’s a
good idea to change your mascara every three months to avoid bacteria from
growing in the tube and ending up in your eyes.”
But beyond that, O’Brien says,
“Repeatedly sleeping in eye makeup may also lead inflammation in the eyes
as it can block sensitive pores and glands such as the Meibomian Gland pores.
When left on overnight, mascara can dry up and cause your lashes to break or
fall off. This is problematic as eyelashes are essential for protecting our
eyes from any dust and debris. A broken eyelash could also end up getting in
your eye and scratching your cornea, so it really is important to remove your
mascara before going to bed.”
make a mess of your sheets

Sarah Brown, a sleep wellness
expert with Mattress Firm, realizes that it’s somewhat common knowledge that
going to bed with makeup on can cause wrinkles and dry skin. But there is a
bigger problem. “When you wear your makeup to bed, you’re actually
spreading the problem. Not only are you causing dry skin and wrinkles, but you’re
leaving behind makeup residue on your bed. This is a nasty cycle because on
nights when you do clean your skin, you’ll be resting it on bacteria filled,
makeup covered, pillows and sheets. Think of it like walking the streets of New
York barefoot and then crawling into bed.” Ick! Gross! If you
needed another reason to never break your routine of washing your face and
removing makeup before bed, you just go it.
get chapped lips

Chapped lips are the
worst. They are painful. Plus, cracked, flaky lips are not the
surface you look for when applying gloss or lipstick. So if you fall asleep
with lipstick on, they suck out the moisture and lead to chapping, according to
break with routine

Routines and regimens are
critical for your skin’s health. Cynthia Bailey, MD, dermatologist and founder
of DrBaileySkinCare.com, stresses the importance of keeping your routine
and not slipping into the habit of sleeping in makeup. She also offered these
tips for how to take the best care of your skin and how to remove your makeup.
“Your face should be
washed twice daily to remove oil, dead cell buildup and product that’s mixed in
with the oil and cells,” Bailey tells me. “When we look at facial
skin biopsies under the microscope, you would be shocked at how much makeup and
product gets stuck in pores and between dead skin flakes,” she says.
“This ‘gook’ makes your complexion look dull and pores look even more
clogged that normal. Eye makeup will also irritate eyes and clog the many oil
glands around the lash line with particulate matter from product, pigments and
mineral particles.”
She concludes, “Night
time is the best time for retinoids — anti-wrinkle fighters that also help
improve uneven skin pigment, fight clogged pores and acne too. Retinoids, like
retinol, break down with light, so apply them before turning off the light for
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.