How Bad Is It to Sleep in Your Makeup?

Wearing your war paint to bed may seem harmless, but you'd be surprised at the mess it can create—and not just on your pillowcase.


We’ve all been there: You work late, go out for drinks, take an evening flight, or just doze off watching Netflix. No matter the reason, you end the day too exhausted to take off your makeup before crashing into bed. In a recent survey, one-third of women revealed that they sleep with makeup on at least two nights a week. Although it may seem harmless, hitting the sheets with a face full of war paint can do more than just mess up your sheets.

The first thing you might notice is the toll it takes on your complexion—we’re talking about acne, skin irritation, and premature aging. “Sleeping with makeup is really bad, as your pores get will get clogged,” says Samer Jaber, MD, of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City. “It can significantly increase breakouts, acne, skin dryness, and irritation.”

Your skin uses sleep as a time to recover from the various stresses and insults it experiences during the day, and to shed and regenerate its cells. By leaving a layer of makeup on, you’re creating a barrier to your skin’s natural exfoliation and replenishment process. What’s more, makeup actually clings to free radicals in the environment (often from pollution), so not washing off makeup gives these harmful impurities an even greater opportunity to damage your skin. Free radicals are known to break down collagen, which over time results in fine lines and premature aging.

Sleeping with makeup on can especially damage the most sensitive areas of your face—namely your eyes. Snoozing in full eye makeup puts you at risk for eye inflammation, infections, eyelid redness, and corneal abrasions, from makeup particles rubbing against the surface of your eye. Because the eye area is so delicate, you really need to remove your mascara, liner, and shadow to avoid waking up with a nasty stye or worse.

Dr. Jaber steadfastly recommends that women wash their face in the evening to make sure to erase all makeup from their skin. “How to wash and clean your skin is up to each individual patient, and depends on skin type,” Dr. Jaber says. “For those with more oily skin, foaming washes and wipes may be more effective. For those with sensitive skin, a gentle non-foaming cleanser may be better.” At the very least, give your face a once-over with a cleansing wipe like Yes To Cucumbers Facial Cleansing Towelettes—they’re oil-free, non-comedogenic, and they’ll whisk away dirt, sweat, and makeup (no rinse required). Check out the natural face cleansers you can make yourself.

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