The Best Bedtime Skincare Routine
There's more to a nighttime skincare routine than just removing our makeup before bed. As we sleep, our skin goes a "repair mode": repairing wounds, replenishing fluids, and shedding dead skin cells. It's important to choose our PM skincare products thoughtfully to support the skin and keep this process running in tip top shape.
So when it comes to building a PM skincare routine, where do we start? We answer all your questions below, including what ingredients to use, what order to apply your nighttime products, and the best bedroom rules to follow for healthy skin.
What Happens to Skin While We Sleep?
Our complexion is quite busy! The skin spends all day defending itself from environmental aggressors and free radicals, things like the sun, blue light, pollution, bacteria, etc. The daytime is also when our skin produces the most oil, which is why many choose to a lightweight moisturizer in the AM like Dew Point.
Once the sun goes down, however, skin starts repairing any damage from the day. The body triggers the release of melatonin (this hormone that makes us sleepy also acts as an antioxidant) and a human growth hormone (HGH) which stimulates cell turnover, shedding off old, dull skin cells and replenishing its supply of fresh ones. Skin also loses a ton of water while we sleep, which is why thicker creams, hydrating serums, and facial oils can be especially beneficial during the PM.
The Importance of a Nighttime Skincare Routine
Should there be a difference between your morning and nighttime routines? Science says yes. Your body runs on an internal clock: During the daytime, it's focused on protecting the skin; during the nighttime, it's repairing the skin.
The ideal skincare routine will use this schedule to its advantage. Apply products that target oil and boost skin's protective abilities (such as sunscreen and ferulic acid) during the AM and at night, focus on ingredients that moisturize and repair damage, such as our Recovery Mode Advanced Night Cream.
Plus, pre-bedtime is the perfect opportunity to pamper yourself with creams and treatments that are best enjoyed after the sun goes down (talking to you, retinol) or to use those bonus products like masks and peels that you simply don’t have time for in the a.m.
How to Layer Your PM Skincare
For the most part, you'll layer your PM skincare routine pretty much the same way you order your AM products. The biggest change is focusing on the ingredients you’re better off using after dark (like retinol and facial peels) and skipping sunscreen, of course. While everyone's skin is different, here is the product order we recommend during nighttime:
Step 1: Makeup Remover and/or Cleanser
No matter how exhausted you are or how late it is: Never go to bed without taking your makeup off first. Between the beauty products, dirt, and bacteria that find their way onto your skin during the day, you want to make sure these pore-cloggers don’t have the opportunity to sink in overnight—which is why it’s so essential to cleanse your skin before nodding off. We suggest Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm either alone or part of a double cleansing routine.
Step 2: Hydrating Toner
Sweep toner across the skin to removing any residue and hard water leftover from cleansing and reset skin's pH. We particularly recommend Baby Cheeks Hydrating Milk Toner to get ahead of that overnight moisture loss.
Step 3: Retinol Serum or Exfoliating Mask
This ingredient for acne and aging skin can break down in sunlight and make the skin more sensitive to the sun, which is why we always recommend saving it for nighttime. Plus, retinol's ability to speed up the cellular turnover rate coincides with skin's repair mode, making it an ideal time to apply this active. Our Gentle Retinol Serum can be applied every single night without irritation, but if you're looking to switch things up, this is also a good time to apply a mask like Doctor's Visit (just don't use both in the same night).
Step 4: Eye Cream or Balm
An effective eye cream works overnight to keep the undereye area smooth and fend off signs of aging, such as crow's feet. For best results, look for one formulated with ingredients that moisturize and strengthen, such as Smooth Landing Advanced Retinoid Eye Balm.
Step 5: Spot Treat (Optional)
If you're breaking out or focused on hyperpigmentation, cover pimples and dark spots with a spot treatment to help heal the skin overnight. For whiteheads and blackheads, use a clay-based cream like Game Over. For dark spots, opt for a Dark Spot Gel.
Step 5: Night Cream
Top off your routine with a rich night cream designed to retain skin's moisture and smooth fine lines and uneven texture. Have an oily skin type? Don't skip this step; instead, apply a gel moisturizer that helps control sebum. Note: If you applied a spot treatment in step 5, just avoid applying moisturizer to those areas.
Step 6: Facial Oil
If skin's on the dryer side, apply a facial oil as the final step in your skincare routine. Oils take longer to absorb, thoroughly coating both the outer and inner layers of the skin with a thick layer of moisture that will last all night long.
Step 7: Overnight Mask (Optional)
Some products, like our Overnight Facial, are leave-on formulas meant to be applied as the final step in your skincare routine. These typically contain moisturizing ingredients (such as lactic acid or vitamin E), so you don't need to follow up with a cream or oil afterwards.
Bedtime Habits for Healthier Skin
Get Your Optimal 7-9 Hours
We know you’ve heard it before, but your body really needs a full, good night’s sleep in order to function properly—and that rule applies to your skin, too."Skimping on sleep also increases levels of inflammation and stress hormones, which can destabilize your immune system, aggravating skin problems like acne, psoriasis, and eczema”, The National Sleep Foundation reports. Trade your Netflix for a paperback, invest in light-blocking curtains, turn your phone on airplane mode… do whatever you need to do to get some solid rest.
Opt for Silk Pillowcases
Cotton pillowcases aren’t bad, but because cotton naturally wicks away moisture (which as a result, can dehydrate your skin and make fine lines for apparent) silk may be a better option—particularly if you have dry or sensitive skin. And because silk is a smoother surface than cotton, it’s easier for your skin to move throughout the night without any tugging or tension.
Clean Your Sheets
On that note: Don’t forget to swap out your pillows and pillowcases to prevent bacteria and dirt from clogging your skin. Wash your pillowcases once a week and your pillows every 6 months (ideally with a fragrance-free soap if you're sensitive) and replace your pillows every 1-2 years, as recommended by Sleep.org.
Because your body loses tons of water while you’re sleeping, your skin may wake up feeling parched. Besides applying moisturizer before bed, consider adding a humidifier to the bedroom can prevent additional moisture loss. Of course, drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is also essential for your health in general, just don’t go downing your 8 glasses too close to bedtime. Several bathroom breaks throughout the night mean interrupting the deep shut-eye your body craves.
Consider Switching Positions
We all have a favored sleeping style, but if you’re hyper-focused on aging skin, you may want to flip to sleeping on your back. Studies show that sleeping on your stomach or side can lead to an increase in wrinkles due to the facial distortion that can occur while rubbing against a pillow or mattress. If sleeping on your back is super uncomfortable or you find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night, consider investing in a speciality pillow (yup, they exist) to help keep your face in place. But please don’t stress it: Getting a good night’s sleep is the most vital for your skin, no matter what position you do it in.
Shop skincare for your PM routine below.