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Sleeping in Makeup: Here’s The Harm

Why It's a Bad Idea

It’s been a long day. You get home from working late yet again, grab a quick dinner, and climb into bed…without washing off your makeup. Sound familiar? If so, read below to see the damage that skipping this simple step could cause to your skin, and discover some expert tips that can keep your skin healthy.

woman sleeping with makeup on

Lost Luminosity

When you skip your nightly wash, you miss the opportunity to use products that can increase your skin’s youthful glow. “If you’re cleansing and applying a moisturizer or Retin-A each night, you’re penetrating your skin when it has the maximum absorption,” Felicia Wright, an aesthetician at Southern Surgical Arts, says. “If you’re not washing off makeup, you’re clogging your pores and dulling your glow.” In addition, not washing means not exfoliating – and not exfoliating means you’re not sloughing away dead skin cells to reveal newer, more luminous ones underneath. 

Last but not least? Everything you encounter in a day clings to the makeup on your skin – pollution, smoke, you name it. “These harmful substances, known as free radicals, can break up the skin’s elasticity and cause dullness and aging,” says Wright.

Expert Tip:

Wright recommends daily exfoliation for those with oily skin who are more prone to breakouts. “People with oily skin can exfoliate daily with an exfoliating cleanser like a micro polish,” she says. If you have dry or combination skin, Wright says to exfoliate about two to three times a week.

A Rampart Rash

If you have sensitive skin, leaving makeup on for extended hours can irritate your face. Whether it’s mascara that causes your eyes to swell or a certain perfume in your foundation that causes inflammation, forgetting to scrub makeup away at the end of the day can lead to unsightly circumstances.

Expert Tip:

Don’t wash just once! “You should always cleanse twice,” Wright advises. “The first time you cleanse you’re breaking up the makeup and any irritants it causes from your face. The second time you cleanse is when you’re really getting your skin clean, so be sure to do a double wash.”

A Breakout Breeding Ground

The skin on your face is one of the most bacteria-prone parts of the body, according to Wright. “It’s important to cleanse your face every night to avoid spreading bacteria. If you don’t, bacteria can clog pores and create blemishes,” she says. Cleaning your face each night decreases the chances for oil and bacteria to seep inside your pores, but failing to wash away makeup can actually cause enlarged pores. All the gunk and makeup buildup packs inside pores, causing them to grow.

Expert Tip:

If you’ve strolled down any cosmetic aisle, you’ve surely seen the collection of various makeup removing wipes. They promise quick and easy cleansing, but do they beat face wash and water? No way, says Wright. “I’m definitely a firm believer in a water wash,” she says. And not just any soap and water will do. 

woman washing her face

“I don’t recommend a bar of soap. It will strip all the natural barriers of your skin. You want something that will cleanse your face and also hydrate it,” advises Wright.

She recommends a gentle foam or gel-based cleanser, but be aware of what your skin needs as the seasons change. “I have more oil on my face in the summer because of the heat. A lot of times what you use in the summer is not what you’re going to use in the winter. Your skin changes,” she says, adding that a gel-based cleanser is her preference during the summer months.

Picture of Felicia Wright

Felicia Wright

Aesthetician, Southern Surgical Arts

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