What Really Happens to Skin When You Sleep With Makeup On?

Is it bad to sleep with makeup on? Yes! Use foundation, blush, mascara, and more during the day, but remove makeup at night to let skin breathe.

Why You Shouldn't Sleep With Makeup On

There are several reasons why you might end up sleeping with your makeup on, from a bit of concealer to a full face of full coverage foundation. Maybe it was a late night and you were exhausted, or, um, a bit inebriated? Perhaps the honeymoon isn’t over yet and that significant someone hasn’t seen you without your makeup and you’re not yet ready for the big unveiling? Or should we say, unmasking?

According to the Daily Mail, a recent survey revealed that one-third of women sleep with makeup on at least twice a week.

But what actually happens to your skin overnight while you sleep without removing your makeup?

How Makeup Attracts Free Radicals

Wearing makeup naturally attracts free radicals, which are molecules that are missing an electron. Atoms are made of electron pairs, and when one of a pair is missing, the free radical goes looking for another and may steal one from your skin. This leaves damaged DNA behind and can contribute to early signs of aging. Makeup may attract free radicals during the day, and washing them off before bed will prevent them from spending the night partnering up with your electrons to damage your face.

According to Dr. James C. Marotta, plastic surgeon and skincare expert, sleeping with makeup on often enough can cause irreversible damage to your skin. When you leave makeup on overnight, the skin isn’t allowed to properly breathe during the crucial hours when it should be repairing itself and recuperating from the damage of the day.

What are the Negative Effects of Frequently Sleeping With Makeup On?

A writer for the Daily Mail recently performed her own experiment on the damaging effects of leaving makeup on overnight by not removing her makeup for a month. Instead, she slept in her makeup and applied more the next morning after a simple rinse in the shower. At the end of the month, her skin was examined by experts and found to have developed enlarged pores, broken blood vessels, increased pigmentation, and dry skin. She’d also had a minor eye infection from sleeping in mascara and found that she’d lost some eyelashes. She herself reported that she thought it looked as though she’d aged a decade in one month.

According to an associate professor of dermatology at Yale, skin cells exfoliate and regenerate while you sleep, and leaving the barrier of makeup in place can prevent this from properly occurring.

While one night of this on rare occasions would not be catastrophic, doing so on a regular basis increases pore size, which then allows penetration of bacteria which can cause acne. This can be worsened by the face pressing into a pillow while wearing makeup which can block natural sebum production and cause further breakouts according to facialist, Abigail James. Sleeping this way on a regular basis can prevent crucial cell restoration and rehydration and contribute to signs of early aging.

Also important to note is that not removing makeup at night also means you are not bothering to take advantage of the many overnight skin rehydrating moisturizing products that would actually benefit your skin by being on your face overnight.

What do the experts say about sleeping with makeup on?

According to dermatologist Annie Chiu, you could also be opening yourself up to a greater risk of infection. If you have an abrasion or inflamed acne, an infection could develop due to the natural skin barrier being compromised.

So while the rare late night of partying until you drop into bed with full coverage foundation and false eyelashes might do more lasting harm to your pillowcase than to your face, skincare experts warn that putting off a nightly skin cleansing regimen on a regular basis will lead to blotchy, dehydrated, dull and lifeless skin, and eventually to premature aging. If you wake up in the morning and realize you’ve slept in your makeup, you should take extra care to wash thoroughly and moisturize, and if possible allow your face some time to breathe before applying more makeup.

How can you avoid sleeping with makeup on?

One way to prevent sleeping in your makeup from occurring is to keep a pack of makeup removing wipes on your bedside table or nightstand drawer. If you are too tired to fully wash and hydrate your face in the bathroom, seeing a pack of makeup removing wipes on your nightstand may be enough to remind you that a quick scrub before hitting the pillow will allow your face to breathe a sigh of relief and spend the night in restorative rest just as you are.

Resources— Health, Refinery29, Good Housekeeping, Daily Mail