Why you really need your beauty sleep

We dive under the covers to get the inside scoop on what sleep can do for skin

By Tengku Zai | Published: 5 May 2014

Beauty Sleep
Photo: Getty Images

Sleep. Either we get enough of it or we dream of getting enough of it. Regardless of whether the reason for your lack of slumber is related to work or an over-active social life, not catching enough Zs will show prominently on your skin. Even if you're in your 20s and can stay out all night and still wake up looking fresh as a daisy the next day, as you age, your skin will start showing the effects of not enough sleep.

But given the hurried pace of life in the concrete jungle, sleep has become elusive for many. Over time, sleep deprivation not only impairs the natural healing and regenerating processes of the skin at night (known as the circadian cycle), but will affect your overall health too. Lack of sleep is shown to increase stress levels, which potentially further impairs sleep. Studies have shown that, if left unaddressed, a state of constant sleep deprivation can be linked to inflammation and oxidative stress. But what turns it into a vicious, nasty cycle is that oxidative stress can lead to signs of ageing.

So if your complexion's been looking a little lacklustre or feeling dehydrated, it could be due to a disturbed skin barrier function and increased water loss from not getting enough sleep. After all, many doctors and skin experts, such as Dr Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, and Dr Howard Murad of the eponymous skincare brand have cited getting beauty sleep as one of their top tips for acquiring healthy skin.

But it's also important to note that one ought to take a holistic approach to beauty. Because when the skin (and entire body, for that matter) is getting adequate slumber, skincare products and treatments work far more effectively. So why not go easy on the concealer? Fix the problem instead of temporarily covering up the symptoms and signs. Think of it this way: whatever goes on internally will eventually show up externally.

Allow these three skincare experts to enlighten you on how, with enough sleep, you'll look and feel like a million bucks. There's no losing. Meet the founder of Talika, Alexis de Brosses, world-renowned cosmetic dermatologist and founder of eponymous skincare brand Dr Fredric Brandt, and resident aesthetic medicine practitioner at DRx Clinic, Dr Jason Yip.

On the Circadian Rhythm
AB: Skin activity is at a minimum level in the morning and skin thickness at its maximum in the morning. At 10am radiance and skin texture are optimal while the rate of sebum excretion shows a peak late in the morning. In the afternoon, echogenicity and skin elasticity reach their maximum. Unlike the rest of the body, the skin reaches its maximum activity in the evening by setting up its process of renewal and cell repair. The water evaporation in the evening significantly increases, reflecting at that time of the day, a decrease in the level of the barrier function and the increase of the permeability of the skin to external agents.

JY: Research has shown that our skin reacts differently according to our body clock. During the day the skin's energy is directed at protecting itself and from stress, be it environmental or psychological. At night however cells focus on repairing themselves and damage sustained during the day. It follows that using different products for night and day supports the natural functions of the skin.

FB: Hormones peak at night, so the more you sleep, the better the production of these hormones and you will get optimal benefits from these hormones to renew the body. When you go to sleep before midnight, this is when you get the best release of all these hormones.

On how much and what kind of sleep one needs
AB: Experts agree that a minimum of seven hours of sleep is necessary. The boundaries should not be crossed for maintaining health: less than five hours or more than nine hours. In fact, sleeping too much is not recommended either. Sleeping well also means falling asleep in less than 30 minutes, not waking up at night, at least not more than once, and waking up when the alarm rings and not an hour before.

FB: Yes, when you are resting, cell turnover renewal is at its peak. Collagen and elastin production will be stimulated and skin cells turn over at a faster pace.

JY: When we sleep at night, our skin is hard at work. Studies show that cell turnover is eight times faster at night. Hormonal changes boost blood flow to the skin, skin temperatures are higher and this allows anti-ageing skin-care ingredients to be absorbed more deeply, for better results. By not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep, the level of the stress hormone cortisol increases, which, in turn, slows collagen production and thus boosts wrinkle formation.

On how to deal with late hours
AB: When working at night and sleeping during the day, the important thing is to keep a steady pace. Always sleep at the same time, in particular, for the body is subjected to a real cycle. In this case, we can still enjoy a restful sleep. Problems arise when someone follows a schedule of a few days of night work, then a few days of day work. The body then has no time to resynchronise itself.

On night-specific skincare
JY: Night creams tend to be richer [than day creams] and contain higher levels of active ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to help boost skin repair, in addition to hydrating it. Retinol is specifically intended to be used at night to minimise any irritation caused from UV exposure.

FB: At night, skin does not have make-up layered on, therefore the active ingredients in your make-up aren't competing with the other ingredients in your night cream (as they do with your day/ regular cream).


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