We've all heard that a good night's rest helps your appearance, and it's no myth.
"Sleep boosts circulation, and blood carries the nutrients, growth hormones and oxygen you need to produce collagen, build new cells and reverse damage that ages skin and hair," explains Howard Murad, MD, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles. Sleep also elevates the hormone melatonin, which shields against fine lines, discoloration and even certain types of cancer.
Thing is, regularly getting enough Z's can be mission impossible. And while your own eyewitness account of dark circles and puffiness might be all the proof you need, research also confirms the ugly side effects of sleep shortage. When scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden photographed 23 people both when they were fully rested and sleep deprived, observers rated the latter as appearing more tired, less healthy and less attractive … after just one bad night. Sigh.
There's new help for those who skimp on sleep, though: tips and tools to speed your body's natural recovery process so you look rested (even when you're not). Some products also solve pesky beauty problems, like acne and dry hair. Try these remedies and you're bound to get "Good morning, gorgeous!" results.
Your goal: A clearer complexion
Overnight solution: "Wash your face and remove any makeup, which can cause pimples if left on," says Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. Dr. Benabio recommends a gentle, oil-free cleanser. Next, lose dead skin cells that can clog pores and form blemishes; Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Overnight Repair Salicylic Acid acne treatment pads ($39 for a package of 60; Sephora.com) do the job without getting too rough.
To fight existing zits, dab on a spot treatment containing benzoyl peroxide. "It's the most effective over-the-counter ingredient at shortening the life span of a pimple," says Karen Kim, MD, a dermatologist in Chestnut Hill, Mass. For chronic acne, talk with a dermatologist about a prescription retinoid, which exfoliates skin and clears pores faster than over-the-counter treatments, says Jill Waibel, MD, an assistant professor at Miami University's Miller School of Medicine. It can also increase collagen production, plumping up fine lines. Another incentive to use these prescription products at night: In sunlight, retinoids can irritate your skin and become less effective, Dr. Benabio notes.
Your goal: Softer skin
Overnight solution: Both indoor heating and cooling suck moisture from the air, creating an incredibly dry environment that can cause skin cells to shed too fast and lead to flakiness, says Dr. Murad. Turn on a humidifier and apply products containing hyaluronic acid: "It helps seal skin's outer layer to prevent dehydration," he says. Find it in Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight mask ($32; Clinique.com), which also contains the skin-soothing anti-inflammatory bisabolol (derived from chamomile). Apply just after washing your face, while skin is still slightly damp, to trap moisture.
Your goal: A face free of irritation
Overnight solution: Just one night of sleep deprivation impairs your skin's barrier function, so it's more susceptible to irritation, according to a study from Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York City. Sidestep sensitivity with a calming gel that contains moisture-restoring glycerin such as Garnier Moisture Rescue Refreshing gel-cream for dry skin ($6; at mass retailers). Pat onto easily irritated areas (typically your cheeks) with your ring finger, which applies the lightest pressure.
Your goal: Fewer wrinkles
Overnight solution: Before you turn in, use an anti-aging serum or cream that contains peptides (which can reduce the appearance of fine lines) or retinoids (which work on deeper wrinkles), says Dr. Murad. Dot it around your eyes and mouth — or anywhere you get creases.
Doing so nightly will help reverse some of the damage incurred from seemingly innocuous habits such as sleeping on your stomach. Yes, it feels comfortable, but it's not doing your skin any favors. "Your head probably weighs about eight pounds, which is a lot of pressure to put on your facial skin every night," notes Michele Green, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. "When the skin is compressed, it doesn't get enough circulation, which leads to facial creases that, over time, result in actual wrinkles on your cheeks and around the eyes. I can immediately tell which of my patients don't sleep on their back."
The effects are even more noticeable as you age because skin becomes thinner and less resilient. The best Rx: Learn to love (or at least tolerate) sleeping face up. A firm mattress, which prevents rolling, can help you adjust, as will a pillow designed to keep you on your back.
Your goal: Sleek, shiny hair (without morning tangles)
Overnight solution: The right time to repair strands? While you're asleep. That's when you and your hair are at rest — and free from harsh environmental stressors, like the sun — says Dr. Green. At bedtime, work in a deep conditioner containing moisturizers and protein, such as Pantene Pro-V Repair and Protect Overnight Miracle Repair serum ($6; at mass retailers), from roots to tips of towel-dried hair. This helps stop breakage caused by friction. Slip on a shower cap for extra-intensive repair (ignore any funny looks from your partner); the heat from your scalp helps the goop absorb deeper into strands, maximizing results. In the morning, rinse and style as usual.
Your goal: Eyes without bags or dark circles
Overnight solution: Fluid often pools around our eyes as we sleep, resulting in puffiness, says Dr. Murad. A lack of shut-eye weakens under-eye blood vessels, causing dark circles. To reduce fine lines and dark circles, use an eye cream that contains caffeine; it helps constrict blood vessels and eases inflammation. We like StriVectin-EV Get Even Dark Circle Corrector ($59; Strivectin.com). To apply, gently tap the serum around eyes at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack. This will prevent excess product from migrating into your eyes, which can cause irritation.
Your goal: More kissable lips
Overnight solution: Because the skin on lips is thinner and more delicate than on other areas of the body, it's particularly vulnerable to dryness. Air-conditioning is not the only issue: "Many of my patients sleep with their mouths open, which can trigger more water loss around the mouth and cause chapped lips," says Dr. Waibel.
At bedtime, apply a thin coat of a petrolatum-based lip treatment, like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Intensive Lip Repair balm ($23; ElizabethArden.com), which also contains moisturizing shea butter and honey extract. And then? Rest easy — you're going to wake up looking better than ever.
Your goal: Keeping a blowout smooth
Overnight solution: Tossing and turning is torture to hair. If yours is longish, put it up in a topknot at the end of the evening. "That way, your hair isn't rubbing all over your pillow," says Gregory Patterson, a stylist at Blow, the New York Blow Dry Bar, in New York City. "Flip your head upside down, gather all the strands in a ponytail, then twist them into a big bun right on top of your head."
If you have a short style, place a Velcro mesh hair wrap (you can find them at beauty supply stores) or a fabric hair band (such as Goody Ouchless Headwrap, $4.79; Target) around your hairline. In the morning, just release your topknot and either brush or shake out your hair. Then you're good to go!