How To Restore and Repair Your Skin While You Sleep

While you sleep, the skin recovers from the damage it experiences throughout the day. Vital processes take place in the skin cells and you can assist them in their restoration and rejuvenation. You can do this by cleansing your skin and prepping it for the night time with skincare products that support the skin cell recovery. Beneficial ingredients that target ageing signs, pigmentation, and skin moisture are your best friends for the night.

woman lying within white bedding, sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep to wake up fresh and ready for a new day isn’t always as simple as you’d like it to be. Sleeping not only helps with feeling better the next day but also plays an important role in mental health, our organs and our overall health. 

A key fact that we often forget is that the skin is a vital organ of the body and needs to replenish and rejuvenate as well. On a regular day, the skin is subjected to the varying temperatures in your surroundings. These include pollutants in the atmosphere, water and sun damage. All of these affect the skin’s functionality and can result in the skin being affected negatively. Lack of sleep can show up in an individual via dryness, hyperpigmentation, excess oiliness, pimples, dark spots, and even wrinkles.

Like the rest of the body, the skin also restores and rejuvenates itself while you sleep. It does so to damage that it has been subjected to all day and recuperate from it. Let us look at exactly what goes on in the skin cells and how best we can support the restoration mechanisms.

What Happens To Your Skin While You Sleep?

There are various processes that can accelerate the tissues in the skin while you sleep. These bring about many changes internally, which are eventually reflected externally on the skin. 

Sleep: person lying under a white duvet holding their phone

The first and foremost change that occurs during sleeping is cell renewalNew skin cells start to push their way towards the skin’s surface. During this process, the dead skin cells present are shed. Even though this is a continuous process that is constantly ongoing in the skin, the cell turnover rate is the highest and quickest while you sleep. This process is aka cell turnover.

Skin Repair whilst You Sleep

The harsh environmental factors that the skin receives during the day can cause a build-up in the skin. The skin cells become damaged and, in turn, this damage needs to be repaired. The repair of the skin damage occurs while you sleep as part of the skin’s natural healing process – that also helps to remove all the toxins that have built up.

Body Temperature Drops as you Sleep

There is a slight drop in body temperature when we sleep (hence, also the skin temperature).  When this drop in temperature occurs in a warm room, the moisture from your skin can be lost. This leads to tight and dehydrated skin in the morning.

Increased Cortisol Levels

The increased cortisol levels in your body are not just related to the stress from external factors. Lack of sleep can also cause a surge in their levels and if this happens, the effects are visible on your skin in the form of dullness, sallowness, puffiness, and under-eye bags.

Cortisol also increases inflammation and can cause more acne breakouts. While you sleep, the drop in the cortisol levels ensures other vital growth and healing mechanisms in the skin are carried out optimally.

How To Prep Your Skin Before You Go To Sleep

Skin prep is always a great idea. Prepping your skin isn’t something that is exclusive to mornings. At night the skin is repairing and actively generating new skin cells. So a skin prep routine before bedtime can aid in the skin recovery process and also help the products that you apply to be absorbed better in the skin.

a tub of cleanser on a white padded towel.

Cleanse the Skin before Sleep

Cell renewal is a key process that occurs while sleeping. A great way to complement this process is to get rid of all the dirt, excess oil, and makeup from your skin before you go to bed. These substances can easily clog your pores and cause a hindrance in the cell renewal process. Clean pores will help the dead skin cells to push up and out so that new skin cells can easily rise to the surface.

Start by removing all the makeup from your face and neck. Use an eye makeup remover for the eyes, as regular makeup removers can sting when applied to the eyes. Removing all makeup is a very important step. Follow on by using a cleanser that doubles up as a gentle scrub or exfoliant. The dirt, grime, skin debris, and makeup remnants need to be cleaned and removed from the skin’s surface.


A proper exfoliating scrub can be used twice a week to thoroughly remove the dirt that is plugging your pores. An alpha hydroxy acid-based exfoliant or cleanser can also be used to remove the dead skin cells thoroughly and prep your skin for the cell renewal and turnover process before you sleep.

get summer ready: model exfoliating her face with brown scrub.

Tip: Make sure to not use any acid-based cleanser more than once a week.

Once the skin is clean, pat it dry using a soft towel and dab on a facial toner that suits your skin type using a cotton pad. This will restore the skin’s pH levels and optimise the sebum production by the oil glands as well.

Suggested Article: How to determine your skin type once and for all.

What Overnight Products To Apply Before You Sleep?

Based on the various processes that are ongoing in your skin while you sleep, applying certain products and leaving them overnight can help you to achieve flawless and young-looking skin.

To Combat Overnight Dryness from Sleep

To keep the moisture within the skin while you are sleeping, apply a moisturiser that is for night time usage. Night-time moisturisers usually contain extra hydrating agents when compared to daytime moisturisers.

Beneficial ingredients to look out for in night-time moisturisers are glycerine, squalene, and hyaluronic acid, which are excellent are locking in the skin’s moisture.

For Enhanced Skin Repair with Sleep

The natural recovery process of the skin involves damage repair. This can be supplemented by adding a skincare product that is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants eliminate the free radicals from the skin and are usually supplied to the skin from the food that you eat.

a woman applying facial oil to her skin/face

Applying a serum or facial oil that contains antioxidants like Vitamin C, grape seed essential oil, rosehip essential oil, etc. will give the required boost to the repair process.

Suggested Article: Our Best Facial Oil Serum for Every Skin Type.

Deal With Hyper-pigmentation

Products that aim towards lightening your skin tone overall, targeting specific areas that are hyper-pigmented or to fade away dark spots, work better overnight. During the day, the UV rays cause a hindrance in the skin lightening process by increasing melanin production in the skin cells. Since there is no sunlight at night, the ingredients in these products can carry out their functions fully and uninterrupted.

Suggested Article: Facial Acids: How to Introduce Retinol and Acids into Your Skincare Routine.

Help Cell Turnover

If you are looking to add a version of retinol to your skincare to reap its benefits, then when you go to sleep, is the best time. Retinol containing products are deactivated by the ultraviolet rays in sunlight and should be applied at night time. Retinol improves cell turnover rates and in turn works towards improving skin texture and skin tone.

It is a recommended product by skin experts for its anti-ageing properties as well.

Suggested Article: How to Use Retinol on Sensitive Skin.

a woman applying moisturiser to her face

What Ingredients/Products to Avoid While You Sleep?

The skin has its own mechanism in place to replenish, heal, and rejuvenate itself overnight. Using the wrong products can suffocate the skin cells and impair oxygen flow to them. This interrupts these key processes, thus not allowing the skin to renew itself optimally.

Make sure you avoid certain products that can cause a hindrance. Instead of helping the skin cells detoxify themselves, this can bring about drastic changes in your skin’s health.

Avoid Heavy Creams

Avoid heavy night creams that are too thick or too oily. They can easily block the airflow to the skin cells. When dry skin-types use heavy night creams, the effects of it can be the opposite of what is desired. The increased in oil levels causes the sebaceous glands (sebum or natural oil-producing glands in the skin) to produce less sebum. This can then lead to a lack of moisture and make your skin drier than it was before.

Suggested Article: How to Take Care of Your Skin in Your 30s.

Avoid Parabens

Keep away from products that contain parabensThey enter the blood flow and disrupt the hormonal balance in the body as they mimic estrogen. Formaldehyde, a common preservative used in skincare products, can easily cause irritation, rashes, and atopic dermatitis. As well as this, Phthalates can be found in skincare products. These are often there for fragrance but can cause hormonal imbalances in the body.

Apart from these products and ingredients, try sleeping on your back as much as possible.  Sleeping on your side can increase the chances of fine lines and wrinkles developing prematurely.


To learn more about how to protect your skin while you sleep, click here to read our article on 11 Sleeping Habits That Can Reduce Breakouts While You Sleep. 

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