Real talk: I’m lucky if I brush my teeth and pop in my mouthguard before I flop into bed. There is certainly no face masking, no face rolling, no washing, toning, steaming, slathering, or serum-ing. That whole multi-step skin routine? It’s not happening in my pre-bedtime world.
But because I work from home, I often do my evening skin care routine in the afternoon. While everyone else is taking a lunch break, I use the time to break out my retinols, luxe “sleeping oils,” and thick creams. Sure, most of the time I’m going right back to my desk, not hitting the hay, but given that otherwise these products would go unused, I figure, why not? Something is better than nothing, right? I decided to find out if my theory holds true.
According to Amelia Hausauer, MD, Director of Dermatology at Aesthetx™ in Silicon Valley, giving your skin the TLC sometime is definitely better than not at all. “Honestly, major kudos to you for doing a skincare routine twice in one day,” she says. That said, nighttime products are formulated specifically to work while you sleep — which means I might not be getting the most out of my products. “If you want to know about ideal timing, you need to understand what happens at night within the body and the skin,” Hausauer says.
First, your skin tends to lose moisture overnight, which is why it’s the prime time for using thicker creams and rich oils, she says. So, given that I am heading to bed unprotected, I may just have to play catch-up in the morning.
Secondly, your circadian rhythm triggers your body to produce two critical skin-repairing mechanisms at night. “[There is] an increase in human growth factor and your body’s DNA repair mechanism,” says Hausauer. “[Nighttime is [also] when cell turnover increases and stem cells scurry around aiding in regeneration,” she adds.
For these reasons, nighttime skincare products are often more active than daytime formulas. By timing these potent skin care products to align with your body’s natural processes, you’re assisting what Hausauer calls “very important work.”
It’s a relief to know that my body is still putting in overtime while I sleep, even on those days I skip my nighttime skincare routine. In other words, your body will still regenerate itself regardless of whether you apply a product to assist the process, notes Robert Anolik, MD, a dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York®. It’s just that there’s a chance you may not be getting the full benefits of that synergistic relationship. That said, if you’re applying those actives just a few hours before bedtime, there’s probably a bit left on the skin, Hansauer says. (Maybe it’s worth pushing my skincare routine to dinnertime.)
One downside of slathering retinoids and other highly active ingredients found in PM skincare in the afternoon: the sun. Products containing actives are often photosensitive, says Anolik, meaning UV light can degrade it and the efficacy will get squashed to boot. Alas, wearing sunscreen atop it won’t entirely do the trick, even if you’re simply sitting at your desk by a window.
Anolik leaves me with a parting thought: “At least your pillows and sheets aren’t going to end up absorbing some of the skincare products. Unless you sleep strictly on your back, some degree of products will wipe off onto the fabrics.”
Until I manage to become more functional after sundown (I’m working on it!), I’ll be over here doing the best I can, whenever I can.