What's Your Skin Doing While You Sleep?


We all love slathering on serums, creams, and potions that claim to work miracles overnight, but are we forgetting about our skin cells already at work? Beautylish asks Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad to decipher this complex issue—what's really happening to skin while you sleep?

"Dehydrated skin, puffy eyes, dark circles, and sallow or ashy complexions are characteristics of a poor night's rest," says Dr. Murad. "There's a lot happening with your skin at night, and sleep enables the body to reverse everyday free radical damage through cellular renewal."

In a deep slumber, your body naturally enhances its ability to fight environmental and natural damage, which translates into a better and brighter complexion. Sleep reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), which is responsible for thinning skin, stretch marks, and discoloration (think of an apple that's been sitting out for too long—gross!). Sleep increases melatonin (the sleep hormone), which acts like an antioxidant to fight age spots, fine lines, or in the worst case scenario, skin cancer. A good night's rest can also increase the efficiency of special growth hormones that repair and regenerate collagen-producing cells, which are responsible for skin's elasticity and tightness.

But it's not just how long you sleep, it's how well you sleep, explains Dr. Murad. "While cells repair and rebuild at all stages of sleep, the majority of cell turnover and regeneration occurs during deep REM [rapid eye movement] sleep." Maintain a regular shuteye schedule for best results—no more late nights!

We know. Early bedtimes are hard to fit into our busy lifestyles. So how can you make sure your skin stays fabulous without a blink of an eye? Dr. Murad has three easy tips:

Supplement Your Sleep

"As we age, our bodies naturally produce less melatonin, which affect our skin's ability to repair itself at night. Take melatonin supplements or use topical products with melatonin to help combat decreased hormone levels. Melatonin should be used at night about 30 minutes before going to bed. This is when it serves its purpose, and helps to increase the depth and duration of restorative sleep. Restorative sleep, in turn helps accelerate and optimize the skin’s repair cycle."

Choose Moisture-Attracting Ingredients

"We naturally lose moisture during the sleep process, so it's very important to maintain healthy levels of cellular hydration topically. It doesn't hurt to moisturize pre-sleep! Look for products that include hyaluronic acid or shea butter to lock in hydration and attract moisture to the surface of the skin—on your face and body."

Hydrate Through Diet

"Topical products are important to prevent dehydrated skin while we sleep, but it's also vital to increase intracellular water levels before slumber. By snacking on water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, watermelon, and apples, your skin will hydrate from the inside out and release powerful free-radical fighting antioxidants while you sleep." 

A board-certified dermatologist, pharmacist and Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at UCLA, Dr. Howard Murad is widely known as one of the world's foremost authorities on skin health, and is a true visionary. "As a dermatologist, pharmacist and researcher, I have devoted my life to making beautiful, healthy skin attainable for everyone."

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