We've all been there. You get home late, and the last -- the last -- thing you want to do is wash your face. So, is sleeping in makeup really that bad? Uh, yeah, apparently. Now you're likely wondering just how bad. Like, a few-times-can't-hurt bad? And what about sleeping in mascara, is that sort of OK? We've been told countless times to wash off our makeup before bed, but, still, questions linger. That's why we've enlisted Dr. Eric Schweiger, founder of the Clear Clinic, and Dr. Erin Gilbert, an NYC-based dermatologist, to break down exactly what happens when you decide to skip this important step.
What are the side effects of sleeping in makeup?
"Sleeping in your makeup can result in unnecessary exposure to the free radicals in the environment, which the makeup holds on to," says Dr. Schweiger. "Free radicals cause the breakdown of healthy collagen, which results in fine lines on the skin. Additionally, makeup can clog the pores while you sleep, resulting in the development of acne."
But what about just one night? Will it still clog pores or cause breakouts?
"One night of sleeping in your makeup is unlikely to cause long-lasting damage to your skin," says Dr. Schweiger. "However, each night you sleep in your makeup, your pores become more clogged. Eventually, this can result in the formation of a microcomedone, which attracts the acne-causing bacteria to your pores."
What about wrinkles? Will it cause skin to age prematurely?
"During the day you accumulate a lot of oxidative stress," says Dr. Gilbert. "When you sleep in your makeup you are not giving your skin a chance to recover from those insults, which can lead to premature aging." Schweiger concurs, noting that "free radicals from the environment (often in the form of pollution) remain on the skin when you do not clean your face properly at night. Free radicals cause collagen breakdown over time, which results in the development of fine lines and prematurely aged skin."
If you just sleep in eye makeup (mascara, eyeliner), is it still as bad?
"Sleeping in your eye makeup will not cause fine lines or acne on the skin, but it can still lead to problems," says Dr. Schweiger. "Mascara and eyeliner can be rubbed by your pillow and end up in your eyes, which can lead to significant eye irritation. I recommend keeping makeup remover pads by your bed, to wipe across your face and eyes on those nights when you don’t have time to properly cleanse before getting into bed. Sleeping in eye makeup repeatedly may result in the clogging of the tiny hair follicles and oil glands on your eyelids. When these areas become clogged, bacteria can build up and cause inflammation. As a result, small bumps called styes or hordeolums can form. These bumps may resolve spontaneously, but many require treatment from your doctor."
Is sleeping in foundation the worst thing you can do, or is there a bigger makeup culprit?
"Foundations and thick, oil-based primers are often the worst offenders," says Dr. Gilbert. "They prevent the skin from renewing itself naturally at night, causing blackheads, acne and dullness."
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