It’s true—the bedroom is where the magic happens. And by magic, I mean biological miracles, where the simple act of sleep can help repair damaged DNA, rewire immune cells, detox your body of toxic waste, and rebuild healthier, suppler skin. This forms the basis of ‘beauty sleep’, for the science of sleep proves that some of the most important recovery processes take place during shut-eye.
Many understand the concept of our body’s biological clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, where our internal regenerative processes respond to light and dark—or states of being awake and asleep. It is a lesser known fact, however, that some skin functions march to their own beat. “Some skin functions have their ultradian rhythms, which are regular but shorter than circadian rhythms. They operate independently and, in most cases, are autonomous,” says Dr SK Tan, founder of IDS. Overnight such ultradian rhythms have been observed in physiological functions like cellular processes, circulation and hormonal release, all of which are observable and quantifiable patterns that can be tapped to maximise productivity. That said, many external aggressors—from stress to temperature and UV rays—have the power to reset or disrupt these clocks, which is why a good night’s sleep and skincare regime to optimise this is key.
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During the day, skin cells are in defence mode, working hard to ward off environmental aggressors like UV rays, free radicals and pollution, as well as the mental and emotional stress of work and daily tasks that can take its toll on your regenerative cycle as a whole. When the sun goes down, your systems can let their guard down only to naturally switch to an active regeneration mode on an internal and epidermal level. “Night-time is prime time for repairing damage and for rebuilding cells and tissues. It’s for this reason that I spent a great deal of time researching the best way to take advantage of skin’s night-time repair system to improve its overall health and appearance”, says renowned dermatologist, Dr Dennis Gross. “Sleep is critical to every organ of the body, including the skin, because skin never sleeps.”
The skin’s temperature drops to its lowest point during the active REM sleep stage, allowing muscles to relax and experience its deepest recovery
During this 24/7 cycle, there are several key processes and stages that take place after dark. For starters, there is a peak time for skin cell renewal, according to Gross. “Between 11pm and midnight, the process of cell mitosis of the skin is at its peak. Cell mitosis is the cell division that occurs in order to renew and repair skin, whether you’re asleep or not.”
The skin’s metabolic rate also increases at night—versus the body’s which decreases—leading to enhanced cellular turnover and production of new cells. “This, I found, is a perfect time to enhance cell turnover and optimise this process with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like lactic acid and retinol, which can result in smoother, more even-toned and radiant skin,” adds Gross. Besides his namesake brand’s skin-renewing—and cult favourite—Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum features a synergistic trifecta of age-defying retinol, free radical-fighting ferulic acid and skin-retexturising niacinamide to support skin’s natural repair process and recover firmness, fight wrinkles and reduce imperfections while you get your beauty sleep.
This time of boosted repair and regeneration also makes way for the production of new collagen as part of the process, which prevents sagging, dullness and fine lines. So on top of AHAs, beta-hydroxy acids and retinoids, you should supplement your evening skincare ritual with collagen growth-increasing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, antioxidant-rich vitamin C and ginseng, as well as red light therapy, a proven non-invasive method that stimulates the production of collagen and elastin to increase elasticity and firmness in skin. Powered by a proprietary ‘wound healer’ called Neulastin, IDS Skincare’s Rejuvenating Complex is a potent anti-ageing moisturiser designed to counter the tolls of time and the environment, harnessing the mineral powers of zinc and magnesium chloride as well as hydrolysed elastin and hydrolysed sodium hyaluronate to visibly reduce fine lines and maintain skin bounce and fullness.
Supplement your evening skincare ritual with collagen growth-increasing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, antioxidant-rich vitamin C and ginseng as well as red light therapy
During non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is estimated to be the first three hours of an eight-hour sleep regime, the body experiences a natural surge in a ‘fountain of youth’ hormone, better known as the human growth hormone. This plays a key role in the body’s regeneration cycle, cellular repair, muscle growth and recovery, working in tandem with anti-inflammatory cytokines that aid in healing and reducing the impact of the daytime damage. Further reason to cease the opportunity of maximising rejuvenation at night is that the skin’s temperature drops to its lowest point during the active REM sleep stage, allowing muscles to relax and experience its deepest recovery.
Transepidermal water loss is another phenomenon that exhibits circadian rhythmicity. While the body temperature lowers, the skin temperature rises, thus leading to moisture evaporation that can weaken the skin barrier. This is why hydration and moisturisation within the layers of your dermis and the surface are particularly crucial for your internal systems to be functioning at their highest capacity. Nourishing overnight masks will do the trick to seal in all that skincare goodness. Dr.Jart+’s Cicapair Sleepair Ampoule-in Mask is targeted at sensitive and sensitised skin types suffering from slow recovery and fatigue, while Sulwhasoo’s Overnight Vitalizing Mask is a rich but souffle-like hydrator that combines innovative Organic Respiration Layer technology with an Asian medicinal herb blend to energise and envelope skin.
“Night-time is when the skin’s natural repair process is at its peak and the moisture barrier is at its thinnest, causing the most moisture loss. That is why hydration is so critical before bed. Dehydration can also accelerate skin damage,” says Dr Nadine Pernodet, vice president of skin biology and bioactives, global research & development at The Estée Lauder Companies. “With skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex was formulated to absorb quickly, providing skin with 72-hour hydration and significantly boosting its moisture levels. At night, this hydration is critical to creating the optimal environment for skin to maximise its natural nightly repair of visible skin damage,” she adds. The latest reiteration of this iconic serum also arms the skin against daytime environmental aggressors, boosting hydration to significantly reduce the look of every key sign of ageing, from lines and sagginess to dull, uneven skin tone, with unique youth-generating power that supports the creation and renewal of fresh skin cells and collagen production.
Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex
Zelens’ Melatonin B12 Advanced Repair Serum
Dr. Dennis Gross Instant Radiance Sun Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF40
Milk Makeup has a Melatonin Overnight Lip Mask
But what happens when you can’t get a good night’s rest? Similar to when sleep deprivation or insomnia strikes, the beauty world reaches for a hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm: melatonin. Commonly ingested as a supplement to improve sound sleep, the topical use of melatonin in skincare won’t increase your bedtime but will optimise it by triggering the skin’s antioxidant behavior for peak regeneration, which would otherwise require a regulated sleep-wake cycle to achieve. Also functioning as an antioxidant that boosts skin’s natural defences against free radicals and UV radiation, melatonin-induced antioxidants are said to be even more effective than those from bestselling sources like vitamins C and E, according to a study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
“Melatonin is a known antioxidant and free radical scavenger, and may be useful as an anti-ageing ingredient,” affirms Tan. This buzzy ingredient can be found in a plethora of overnight anti-ageing elixirs, like Zelens’ Melatonin B12 Advanced Repair Serum, which also comes supercharged with biomimetic peptides, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera that work overnight to bolster skin’s natural barrier and repair surface cells. Interestingly, Dr. Dennis Gross has included melatonin in its Instant Radiance Sun Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF40 as well to harness its free radical-fighting antioxidant prowess for daytime routines, while Milk Makeup has a Melatonin Overnight Lip Mask—which also has hyaluronic acid and a vitamin-rich berry blend—to help you kiss chapped and dry lips goodnight. “The bottom line: support your skin at night and you’ll see a dramatic difference in your complexion by day,” Gross confirms.