We’ve all done it: You get home after a particularly grueling day at work (or a night out with friends that resulted in a few more drinks than you expected) and make a beeline for your bed, full face of makeup still firmly in place. Eeeek!
While we all intend to do our full nightly cleansing routine (or, at the very least, pass a makeup remover wipe over our faces) before we hit the sheets, it doesn’t always happen that way. But how much damage is it really causing your skin when you skip this step?
According to dermatologists, a lot can go wrong… especially around the eye area. According to Joshua Zeichner, M.D. on Redbook, “...Not adequately removing makeup can cause blockages of pores and glands around the eyes—and those could contribute to styes." That’s right; religiously replacing your mascara wands isn’t going to protect you from eye infections if you’re still regularly going to sleep with eye makeup on. Not only is waking up with a stye or other infection less than fun, but it may require medical attention if it doesn’t resolve itself quickly.
Those of us who prefer a more “natural” look without eye makeup aren’t off the hook, though. Even if the only product you regularly use is foundation, going to bed without cleansing first can cause a host of issues. Chief among them? Wrinkles.
“During the day, you accumulate a lot of oxidative stress,” says Dr. Erin Gilbert, a NYC-based dermatologist, to Huffington Post. “When you sleep in your makeup you are not giving your skin a chance to recover from those insults, which can lead to premature aging,” she explains. Turns out that even makeup minimalists aren’t exempt. “Foundations and thick, oil-based primers are often the worst offenders,” says Dr. Gilbert.
But if you’ve been blessed with good skin in the past after sleeping in your makeup, there’s no reason to change your ways, right? Wrong. “The more you sleep while wearing your makeup, the greater the damage there is to your skin,” says dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY. So don’t let this habit stick. “Our skin, like the rest of our body, functions on the circadian rhythm. At night the skin’s most important function is to renew itself. Wearing makeup and foundation at night prevents the renewal process, causing damage to the skin,” she explains.
If you’ve been a repeat offender in the past, there are a few small but important changes you can make to your routine. Some dermatologists recommend keeping a few makeup remover cloths on your nightstand for those 'can’t get out of bed' moments... but make sure you don’t become overly reliant upon them. "First, makeup wipes do not completely wash off all your makeup," board-certified dermatologist Janet H. Prystowsky, M.D., P.C., warned SELF. "Second, chemical preservatives [from the wipes] will remain on your skin and can potentially cause irritation." Because of this, a true, thorough cleanse is always the best move, and makeup-remover wipes should be saved for when they’re absolutely the best you can do.
Another wise tip: your face is only as clean as your pillowcase. Be sure to wash yours regularly, and consider investing in one that contains skin-saving materials like copper and silk. "Pillowcases containing copper oxide... have been shown in double-blind studies to reduce the appearance of deep wrinkles and improve the overall texture of skin," says board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon Brooke A. Jackson, M.D., F.A.A.D., to SELF. A pillowcase that provides skin benefits is a serious trade up from one smeared in last night’s eyeliner.