Get Beautiful in Your Sleep
By Valli Herman
Get beautiful in your sleep. In the movies, the heroine always wakes up looking perfectly
refreshed and gorgeous. Sure, she may have Hollywood magic on her side,
but the rest of us have a potent beauty weapon too: sleep!
It turns out, there really is such a thing as beauty sleep. “Sleep
allows the body to go into several stages of non-REM and REM cycles for
restoration of body functions,” says Dr. Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell, a
research dermatologist. Further, the emerging science of chronobiology
— the study of the impact of biological rhythms and their effects on
the body — has uncovered subtle differences in skin behavior at night.
The skin is more permeable; it expends fewer defenses against the
daytime’s free radicals, pollution and sun damage; and oil production
is lower. All these changes help active ingredients absorb more
effectively at 2 a.m. than at 2 p.m.
Here’s a guide to the types of treatments and products that work their magic in the dark.
Sometimes called “deep conditioners” or “reparative masks,” these
temporary leave-on hair products can work even better when they’re
allowed hours, not minutes, to absorb deeply into the hair shaft.
Before bedtime, massage the mask along the ends and mid-shaft of dry
hair and comb through. Rinse and style as usual in the morning.
Quick-absorbing, lightweight hydrators with built-in sunscreen are
perfect for protecting the skin during the day and providing a satiny
base for your makeup. Nighttime is when you’ll want to slather on the
thicker, richer, more emollient moisturizers that may look greasy but
provide more reparative moisture benefits. This deeply penetrating
moisture can have a carryover benefit into the daytime.
Dermatologists suggest that patients use over-the-counter and
stronger prescription retinoids (tretinoin, tazarotene, adapalene) only
at night because these topical forms of vitamin A can degrade in light
and make the skin more vulnerable to sun damage and more likely to
burn. “They have become the gold standard of what dermatologists
recommend to help exfoliate, lighten brown spots, stimulate collagen
production and clean out pores,” says Dr. D’Anne Kleinsmith, a Michigan
Active Treatment Products
Many treatment products work best when they’re not competing with
layers of cosmetics and sunscreen, says Dr. Patricia Farris, a
Louisiana dermatologist. What’s more, active ingredients such as
salicylic acid, which exfoliates dead skin cells, as well as peptides
— tiny proteins that stimulate collagen to help reduce the signs of
aging — are most effective when they’re not being diluted by
perspiration or fending off daytime environmental stressors like
pollution and sunlight. The increased blood flow to skin at night,
along with nocturnal water loss, may help these ingredients better
penetrate the skin’s barrier layers.
Products made to soften rough skin on the feet or hands are likely
to get the best results if they’re applied at bedtime. Many include
alpha hydroxy acids (lactic, glycolic and citric acids) that penetrate
the outermost layer of skin to promote exfoliation. Or, try this
softening treatment suggested by Dr. C. Ralph Daniel III, clinical
professor of dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical
Center: Soak hands and feet in room-temperature water for up to five
minutes. Apply an extra-thick moisturizer, such as shea butter or
petroleum jelly. For the best overnight penetration, pull on a pair of
light cotton gloves or socks.
Some extra-strength antiperspirants are specially formulated for
nighttime use, but a regular formula can also be more potent during the
night’s optimum conditions. “For people who have problems with
excessive perspiration, it makes a lot of sense to apply an
antiperspirant before you go to bed,” says Kleinsmith. “When you’re not
already perspiring, you can block the sweat glands more easily and let
the medication work more effectively.”
Valli Herman is a
veteran journalist. With a
passport and scads of beauty products in tow, he has covered international
fashion, beauty and travel for the Los
Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, and other print and online publications.