The classic fairy-tale character Sleeping Beauty may be fictional, but the idea of beauty sleep is not. According to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, “Getting little sleep has been shown to negatively affect the skin’s appearance.” She explains that this may be because of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to break down collagen. Lack of sleep stresses the body and “the higher the stress level, the more cortisol is produced, and over time the skin’s ability to rebuild collagen and elastin will decrease,” she says. Beyond this, she notes that sleep is critical for the healing and repair of damaged tissues, skin and mind and body health.
Essentially, poor sleep results in more noticeable signs of aging due to a chain of events that leads to the body’s inability to rebalance its hydration. Your skin becomes more susceptible to puffiness, dryness and more visible wrinkles. “Nighttime is when your skin repairs itself,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach. “More blood flows to your skin at night, collagen increases and DNA repair helps repair cells that were affected by stressors during that day.”
So, as our experts describe, if you want the most of your precious beauty sleep, it’s important to reduce stress and cultivate a bedtime beauty routine that can promote the repair of damaged tissues and improve the moisture balance of the skin. “One way to think about it is to protect during the day (sun protection, antioxidants, moisturizer) and repair during the night (retinoids, growth factors, peptides, moisturizer),” says King.
With all of this in mind, we’ve consulted the experts on the essential nighttime skin care steps and the best products to tackle your skin concerns overnight. From makeup removers to overnight mask treatments, check out these dermatologist-approved picks to make the most out of your beauty rest.
In order to start with a clean slate, the experts recommend starting with a makeup remover. According to Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care, this can also count as the first step in a double-cleansing routine, as many oil-based or balm cleansers will break down stubborn waterproof makeup.
If you wear makeup, it’s really important to remove it properly before starting your nighttime skin care routine, according to these dermatologists. Just soak a cotton pad with this oil-free micellar water that’s an editor favorite to quickly remove makeup and dirt. Once your skin is dry, proceed with the rest of your routine with ease.
This cleansing balm has quickly become one of our favorite skin care products. It melts your makeup right off without stripping your skin of any moisture or leaving your pores feeling clogged. If you’re into double cleansing, Day Dissolve makes a great first step in your routine.
Fragrance-free and safe for sensitive skin, Ciraldo recommends this buttery balm as a first cleanse that will give your skin a clean slate.
In order to get every bit of makeup, sunscreen, pollution and dirt off of your skin, follow up with a gel, cream or foaming cleanser. An important tip — Dr. Indy Chabra, board-certified dermatologist and advisor for Motif, says to look for a pH-balanced cleanser that will be gentle on the skin.
We’d pick Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser again and again. It’s gentle and super creamy, which makes it good for most skin types and a great cleansing option no matter what the next steps in your routine are.
CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser is the ultimate no-fuss, derm-approved cleansing option. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin to remove makeup, dirt and excess oil without drying out your skin. But don’t take our word for it: This all-star has over 57,000 5-star reviews on Amazon to vouch for its efficacy.
For a luxurious option, Motif’s pH-balanced face wash is great for all skin types and helps hydrate and brighten the skin for more even tone and texture. Chabra says it can even double as a mini face mask.
Two to three nights a week, or if you follow a skin cycling routine, Ciraldo says to incorporate an exfoliating step. This will get rid of dead skin cells, staving off dullness and keeping the skin bright and even. ”You can choose from a physical, enzyme or chemical exfoliator,” she notes.
This gentle AHA mask is fragrance- and gluten-free, so it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin. Dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic, the formula delicately refines the complexion and nixes dullness while simultaneously hydrating with glycerin. Because of its exfoliating properties, it’s best to apply at night to avoid sensitizing the skin, and always remember to use SPF to protect your new baby-soft face the next day.
This dual physical and chemical exfoliating mask is gentle yet gets the job done, leaving skin baby-smooth. Made with niacinamide, panthenol, glycerin and plant-based enzymes, apply it like a mask, leave it on for five to 10 minutes, and then rinse off to reveal baby-smooth skin.
“Serums are skin care formulas that penetrate more deeply into living layers and are great for nighttime application,” explains Ciraldo. From hydrating to brightening to anti-aging, serums contain active ingredients that target specific skin concerns.
Olay principle scientist Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson says, “Super Serum gives you five benefits in one bottle, including evening skin texture and 24-hour hydration so you can have the glazed and glowy skin we all crave.” According to Wilkerson, the blend of vitamin C, collagen peptide, vitamin E, alpha hydroxy acid and the star ingredient, a proprietary activated niacinamide, are responsible for delivering impressive results.
For a nighttime retinol-like serum, Ciraldo recommends this oil-based serum. However, this uses bakuchiol, which is a plant-based retinol alternative, to fight signs of aging.
If you experience dry skin or just want to wake up with ultra plumpness, give the Neutrogena Night Pressed Face Serum a go. Formulated with hyaluronic acid to form a thick, almost creamy consistency, this facial serum seriously melts into the skin to hydrate instantly.
This luxury skin care serum, which is made with a proprietary oxygen amplified therapy and 8% niacinamide, is a hardworking product that addresses many common skin concerns. “This product can hydrate the skin, boost collagen production and reduce pore size and hyperpigmentation, improving skin tone and texture,” says Dr. Nima Gharavi, dermatologist and co-founder of Element Eight. “It has strong antioxidant properties, which make the skin healthier overall. And with its various anti-inflammatory ingredients, it should be well tolerated for any skin type.”
“Night time is when skin is healing over many hours, so it’s a good time to do anything with rejuvenating efficacy like applying a retinol or other topical treatment,” says Chabra. “I recommend the Motif Power serum, which is full of potent antioxidants offering brightening and plumping benefits to the skin. While the serum can also be used in the AM, overnight there is an opportunity for prolonged exposure.”
Finding a reliable nighttime moisturizer that you enjoy applying is one of the easiest ways to wake up with plump, hydrated and healthy skin. Whether you’re oily, dry, acne-prone or a combination, all skin types can benefit from a quality moisturizer.
Taking into account the environmental stressors on the skin, such as light and pollution, this antioxidant-rich moisturizer protects and supports the skin. To streamline your routine, you can use it both night and day.
Because the ingredient can cause photosensitivity, Ciraldo recommends using retinol products at night. Reviewers say that the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream was moisturizing and left their skin silky smooth for bed. Formulated with retinol, niacinamide and picolinamide, you can expect this to improve skin’s firmness, radiance and hydration over time.
Another retinol option, the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer also features hyaluronic acid to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and brighten and rejuvenate your skin.
Ciraldo likes this top-rated silky night cream which aids the skin’s rest and recovery. In fact, it delivers an antioxidant recovery complex, which supports the skin’s overnight renewal process.
Made for all skin types, this lightweight night cream features potent botanicals like lotus and peach leaf extract. Not only does it smell as beautiful as it sounds, but it will leave you with plump, glowing skin.
An optional step but highly encouraged for those wanting to target crow’s feet and dark circles, eye cream helps the delicate area stay properly hydrated, and can also reduce the appearance of puffiness and tired eye bags.
Reviewers of the Isdin K-Ox Under-Eye Cream say this is great for eliminating dark circles under the eye. It’s dermatologist-approved too. Rabach recommends this for your bedtime beauty routine. If you’ve been trying to combat dark circles and puffiness, this brightening cream might be worth the splurge.
Providing ample hydration with peptides and skin barrier-supporting vitamins, this lightweight eye gel absorbs quickly and is a great option for those who don’t like a heavier cream or any greasy feeling.
We love First Aid Beauty because it works gently on skin. Not only does this eye cream contain retinol, but it also includes hyaluronic acid and the brand’s skin saver complex (a combination of ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, aloe and ceramides) to hydrate, calm and soothe even sensitive skin while fighting signs of aging.
Another step that you may want to add to your nighttime skin care lineup once or twice a week, an overnight mask offers another opportunity to add actives and “reset” your routine. Some masks can be used instead of your usual moisturizer, or you may want to layer the products together.
A sleeping facial like this one by Korres sounds dreamy. “With a delicious fragrance and rich texture, this product contains a stabilized form of vitamin C to help diminish discolorations, brighten the complexion and protect the skin from free radicals,” says King. The formula also includes wild rose oil, which reduces redness and works to plump the skin by morning.
Versed calls this “the shortcut to glowier skin.” It’s a leave-on exfoliating mask that uses a blend of lactic acid, glycolic acid and vitamin A to break down dead skin and brighten your appearance overnight. However, King doesn’t recommend combining retinols with acids, so use this on a night when you aren’t using any retinol products.
If you’re looking for a rich mask, the Youth to the People Superberry mask is thick and hydrating. Packed with vitamin C, squalane and antioxidants this can help improve skin dullness and texture.
Not a traditional overnight mask like the others on this list, this cult-favorite lip sleeping mask is known to give you baby-soft lips as you sleep. Available in five flavors, the mask aims to surge moisture into the lips without being sticky and works as a miracle worker to flakiness and dryness.
Looking for a more budget-friendly roller? We’ve been obsessed with the Esaroroa Ice Roller to reduce puffiness, relieve headaches and calm skin. We like to keep it stored in the freezer for whenever we need it.
Jenny Patinkin’s Rose on Rose Face Roller is made of rose quartz to help reduce inflammation and boost circulation, especially after refrigeration. This handmade tool is made in a petite size to effectively roll under eyes, on eyelids or on lips. King recommends gently rolling under the eyes from the midline toward the sides of your face to decrease fluid accumulation.
“A humidifier in the bedroom overnight in dry weather is helpful for decreasing the amount of transepidermal water loss,” says King. This basically means that a humidifier like this one, which we named as the best humidifier for bedrooms, helps prevent too much water passively evaporating through the skin barrier. TLDR: You want to surge your skin with as much moisture as possible while you sleep.
If you want a truly luxurious sleep session, give Lunya’s Washable Silk Sleep Mask a try. Available in five colors, it’s made of a plush silk that’ll block out any light (without being too heavy) and even doubles as a headband once you wake up.
According to King, most of us have deeper wrinkles on the side of the face we sleep on. Although shocking, this makes total sense. Grab yourself a set of these silk pillowcases — our pick for the very best out there — to prevent sleep creases because the soft material is less likely to crease your skin.
However, King does advise that “the effectiveness of silk for this purpose has not been proven.” Better safe than sorry! Rabach recommends washing your pillowcases twice a week, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.