Beauty

Staying up late? This is what lack of sleep is doing to your skin

Posted by
Hanna Ibraheem
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If you’re feeling tired from lack of sleep, your skin will be feeling it, too. Here, skin experts explain how not getting enough sleep can have a big impact on our complexions.

When we all started working from home, some of us may have thought the quality of our sleep would improve. But if you’re anything like me, it’s been the complete opposite. A general feeling of laziness combined with a lack of commute to wake up for means I’m going to sleep later. Add to that, the fact that I’m having weird dreams and waking up at multiple points through the night and actually getting less rest than I did pre-lockdown. While it’s leaving me bleary-eyed at my laptop each morning, it’s also having a big impact on my skin.

“Sleep is very important for the skin,” says Dr Marko Lens, creator and founder of Zelens. “During sleep, we produce melatonin which is very important for the circadian rhythm of the skin – protection during the day and repairing during the night.”

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Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist at Cranley Clinic London adds, “This reparation happens in both the outer layers of the skin (also known as the epidermis), as well as the structure of the skin (the dermis).”

“When you sleep, the blood flow to your skin increases and the skin is able to rebuild its collagen support and the skin barrier, which is very delicate and protects the outer layer of skin.” Dr Lowe adds it’s also an important time for skin to repair damage caused from sunlight exposure and free radicals.

So what exactly happens to our skin when we aren’t sleeping enough? “A variety of things,” says Dr Lowe. “You’ll have reduced blood flow, more stress hormones are released – which can make acne worse – and there’s damage to the production of collagen.”

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You’ll also notice characteristic changes in the skin. “People who have had sleepless nights get swollen eyes, their skin becomes dull, and it can also look pale because of lessened blood flow,” says Dr Lowe.

Dr Lens adds, “The skin barrier function is going to be more vulnerable to external factors and skin will also lose elasticity, radiance, tone and moisture.”

To combat this, Dr Lowe stresses the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. “It has been estimated that between six and eight hours is the minimum you want,” he explains. “Five hours or less and those skin changes occur; it doesn’t recover from environmental stress and ages faster.” 

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Dr Lens also advises trying topical melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body to help regulate sleep. Applied topically, it won’t help you sleep but can deliver a range of benefits, including defence against oxidative stress.

Regardless of whether you’re getting good or bad sleep, Dr Lowe says you need a good nighttime skin regime. “The first thing is to know your skin type – decide if you have normal, dry, sensitive, oily or acne-prone skin – and pick a gentle cleanser accordingly,” he advises.

“If you have dry or normal skin, don’t cleanse with soap or detergents. Instead, use a lotion cleansers that contains includes things like glycerin, hyaluronic acid and humectants to trap moisture in skin overnight. Ceramides, lipids that restore balance in the skin barrier, and soothing niacinamide are also great.”

Maybe I really should stop scrolling through TikTok and get to bed sooner…

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Images: Getty / Unsplash

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Which is why we’re delighted to let you know that Stylist magazine is now available in a digital format, both for Apple and Android users, allowing you to download the full magazine directly to your smartphone or tablet, wherever you may be.

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Hanna Ibraheem

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