The beauty habit that could be ageing your skin

Can’t be bothered to wash your face before bed? Experts say sleeping in make-up is a cardinal beauty sin that is bad news for your skin.

Cleansing your skin before bed might seem like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of people regularly go to sleep wearing a full face of make-up.

According to a poll conducted in the UK, one in four women admitted to the habit.

If you regularly wear make-up, it can be a tedious task to remove it at the end of a busy day  (and even more so after a big night out).

While the occasional misstep is forgivable, experts say regularly avoiding washing off cosmetics before bed could actually be fast-tracking skin ageing.

Do you really need to cleanse your skin before bed?

According to dermal clinician Julia Barrile, PM is the most important time of day to cleanse your skin – whether you have worn make-up or not.

“A gentle cleanse before you go to bed helps to remove dirt, debris, pollution, oil and SPF, which protects against oxidative stress,” Julia says, explaining that oxidative stress is an imbalance that occurs between free radicals and antioxidants in our body, causing damage to our organs and tissues, including the largest organ in our body – the skin.

“Our body goes into a rest and repair stage as we sleep; our skin is not working in isolation to our body and goes through the same processes,” she says, adding that leaving make-up on overnight will hinder these processes.

“In your teens and early 20s it might not be a priority but as we age, these processes slow down and our skin needs more support,” Julia says.

Regularly sleeping with make-up products on your face will likely also clog your pores and draw moisture from the skin, she notes.

Melbourne Skin Boutique director Tanya Ali says it is imperative to double cleanse in the evening, no matter your skin type.

Cleansing is not just about removing make-up, excess oil and sweat, Tanya says, it also removes any bacteria, pathogens and pollution that have built up in the skin.

“And it will prevent it (bacteria, pathogens and pollution) from getting deeper into the pores … where it can lead to other unwanted issues like inflammation in the skin,” she adds.

Can sleeping in make-up age your skin?

Tanya says sleeping in make-up is the worst thing that you can do for your skin due to the chemicals found in the majority of cosmetic products.

It is no secret that our skin needs to breathe, she notes, which can be difficult if there is make-up preventing oxygen entry into the skin – a vital component of skin survival.

“Make-up needs to be removed because it’s actually going to slow down the production of collagen and elastin, leading to premature ageing,” Tanya explains.

Julia says going to bed with make-up on can age your skin faster if you are making a habit of it.

“When the skin doesn’t undergo (its) repair processes, it can lead to poor wound healing and cell turnover, dehydrated and sluggish skin, which will absolutely age the skin prematurely,” Julia explains.

Dos and don’ts of cleansing skin before bed


Consider your skin type

Julia says to always choose cleansing products based on your skin type – a milk or cream cleanser is great for dry or sensitive skin, while a gel cleanser is better for oily skin.

“If your skin is feeling tight post-cleanse, you’re in need of a different cleanser,” she says.

Ali notes that a gentle enzyme cleanser is a good all-rounder for most skin types as it helps to not only remove the surface layer of make-up, but also any products that have seeped deeper into the pores.

“You can think of enzymes as little Pac-Men that eat away at the skin’s oil, surface debris, bacteria, pollution and congestion,” Ali says.

Do it twice

If you are wearing heavier make-up, Julia says double cleansing with an oil-based cleanser, followed by a gentle cleanser, will ensure cosmetic products are completely broken down and removed.

Do it for long enough

“It’s most important that you’re cleansing for long enough – at least a minute to properly cleanse your face,” Julia says.


Facial wipes

While it is tempting to reach for make-up wipes, regular use could be harming your skin – unlike cleansers, wipes typically can’t get past the surface layer of make-up.

“Alcoholic products and wet wipes are too harsh for the skin and actually impair the acid mantle,” Tanya says, referring to the layer of oil in our skin barrier that acts as its first line of defence, preventing moisture evaporation and bacteria from getting into the skin.

Hot or cold water

Our experts say using tepid water to cleanse your face is the way to go.

Cold water doesn’t loosen make-up debris or dissolve excess oil, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.

On the flip side, using hot water can cause skin to dry out and worsen skin conditions such as eczema.

More beauty dos and don’ts:

Written by Emily Holgate.