“Always, always, always thoroughly remove the day’s buildup of makeup, sunscreen, and sebum from your face before going to bed,” says Christine Choi Kim, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California. Not doing so can lead to breakouts, dullness, and even eyelash breakage from leftover mascara. Unlikely to hit the sink before hitting the hay? Leave a package of no-rinse cleansing wipes beside your bed so you can easily swipe before you sleep. Here's what people with great skin always do before bed.
Use the ultimate anti-ager
“Retinoids are every dermatologist’s secret weapon,” says Dr. Kim. “They have anti- acne and anti-aging properties and have rigorous scientific research to support these claims.” The one downside to these vitamin-A derivatives, which speed exfoliation to rev radiance and boost production of skin-smoothing collagen, is that they can be drying and cause irritation. To minimize side effects, Dr. Kim recommends starting with an over-the-counter product that contains retinol, a mild form of the ingredient, to get your skin acclimated. Once you can tolerate retinol every night without irritation, ask your doctor about switching to a prescription form like Renova. Read more anti-aging secrets that dermatologists don’t always share.
Opt for a mega-moisturizer
The latest beauty trend, the sleep mask, is worth using if you want to wake up to a more radiant complexion, says Dr. Kim. Designed to be applied before bed, these products (available for under $20 at the drugstore) are super-concentrated but much lighter than traditional night creams, so you can wear them without messing up your hair and pillowcase. To maximize your sleep mask's benefits, wear it over your anti-aging cream to help it penetrate better.
Switch sleeping positions
Snoozing on your stomach or the same side of your face every night pushes your face into your pillow for long periods of time. “After years, this can manifest as more lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Kim. Sleeping on your back is your best bet for avoiding skin crinkles, but if that’s not comfortable, at least alternate which side of your face you sleep on during the night.
Change your pillowcase
Invest in a cover fashioned of silk or sateen and your complexion will thank you. “You can totally tell the difference on your skin,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “Softer pillowcases are less abrasive and minimize inflammation, which is one of the root causes of skin aging.”
Steam up your boudoir
If your skin tends to be dry, using a humidifier at bedtime can help keep it hydrated and supple, says Dr. Kim. This is especially important during the winter, when cold, dry air saps moisture from your skin. But since air conditioning can also dry out your dermis, adding moisture to the air via a humidifier can help keep skin glowing in summer too.
Stick to a single glass of wine
“Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, making skin imperfections look worse,” says Arielle Kauvar, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Plus, even though alcohol can help you conk out, it often causes you to wake up after a few hours as it starts to wear off—and no one ever looks their best after a night of tossing and turning.
Hide the salt shaker at dinner
Too much sodium, especially before bedtime, can cause your eyelids to retain excess fluid, says Dr. Kim. For added protection, try sleeping on an extra pillow, which allows you to slightly elevate your head and prevent fluid from pooling in your skin. Also, keep your diet low in sodium by learning to spot sneaky sources of salt in your food.
Tackle trouble spots
Remember to moisturize your lips and your hands before bedtime, advises Dr. Kim. “During the daytime, it’s difficult to keep moisturizer on these body parts with all our eating and drinking and constant hand washing, so take advantage of these eight hours to replenish much needed hydration.” Follow these everyday habits to help your whole body look younger from head to toe.
Catch enough zzzzzs
“Beauty sleep is a legitimate scientific thing,” says Dr. Gohara, who explains that nighttime is when the skin naturally regenerates itself. Getting too little shuteye impairs this process, resulting in everything from a lackluster appearance to the accentuation of fine lines. Adding insult to injury, skimping on sleep causes a surge in the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to the breakdown of collagen. Research published in 2015 found that women who slept 7 to 9 hours a night looked younger, had more hydrated skin, and were happier with their appearance than those who only slept 5 hours. And another study reported that sleep-deprived women had twice the signs of aging (think wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging) of those who scored enough sack time.