Nighttime is the right time to take years off your face. "Hormonal changes boost blood flow to the skin, brightening it overnight," says Melvin Elson, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Vanderbilt School of Nursing. Skin temps are higher, too, so age-fighting potions seep deeper for better results. And even though you're resting, your skin is hard at work. Studies show that cell turnover is 8 times faster at night, softening wrinkles.
On the flip side, as anyone who's pulled an all-nighter can attest, the consequences-pasty-looking skin and dark circles-aren't pretty. "Even worse, not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which may slow collagen production, promoting wrinkles," says Jyotsna Sahni, MD, a sleep medicine doctor at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. To maximize your beauty sleep, follow this routine nightly to wake up with the complexion of your dreams.
1. Keep It Clean
Washing your face plays two important roles: It removes damaging dirt and it makes your night cream work harder
Removing makeup, oil, and other impurities helps keep pores tight and skin blemish free. Anti-aging treatments can also penetrate deeper on a clean surface. For dry skin, look for a creamy cleanser; for acne-prone or oily skin, a gel formula. If your skin is sensitive, wait 10 minutes after cleansing before applying anti-agers.
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2. Rejuvenate with a Retinoid
Choose an anti-ager that packs real power
These vitamin-A derivatives are key to youthful-looking skin. "But because exposure to sunlight can deactivate their potency, it's best to apply retinoids at night," says Patricia Farris, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Start by using an OTC retinol-containing cream or lotion every other night until skin becomes acclimated to the side effects.
Try: Neutrogena Tone Correcting Concentrated Serum Night from Ageless Intensives ($22; drugstores) or La Roche-Posay Biomedic Retinol Cream 15 ($52; drugstores). For more improvement, try prescription Renova, atralin, or Refissa, a newly available retinoid in a moisturizing base.
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3. Erase Dark Circles
Dot under your eyes with vitamin K cream
In a 2003 study by Elson, women who applied an undereye cream containing vitamin K and retinol every night for 12 weeks saw their dark circles improve 33%.
Try: NeoStrata Bionic Eye Cream ($50; skinstore.com) or Murad Essential-C Eye Cream SPF 15 ($67; sephora.com) Like retinol, vitamin K is sensitive to ultraviolet light and should be used only at night. Bonus: The retinol helps ease crow's-feet.
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4. Apply a Mega-Moisturizer
Plump and condition your skin to help disguise signs of aging and prevent further damage
Due to nighttime increase in temperature and water loss, extra hydration is a must, says Jenny Kim, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and dermatology at the UCLA School of Medicine. For best results, look for a cream with the superhydrators hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which attract water to skin. The extra dose of softening also makes wrinkles less noticeable in the morning.
Try: Mario Badescu Hydrating Moisturizer with Biocare & Hyaluronic Acid ($20; mariobadescu.com) or MD Skincare Maximum Moisture Treatment ($54; mdskincare.com).
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5. Sleep Tricks for Amazing Skin
Revive your complexion with 4 easy tweaks to your nighttime routine
- Convert to sleeping on your back. Lying on your stomach or on the same side every night can etch permanent sleep lines into your skin, says Patricia Farris, MD. If you can't adjust, switch to a satin pillowcase; the silky texture prevents crinkles.
- Raise your head. Stack a few pillows beneath your head to avoid puffy eyes. "If you keep your head above your heart, fluid won't accumulate in your face," says Farris.
- Invest in a humidifier. Dry, hot air sucks moisture from skin. A humidifier puts water in the air, for soft and supple skin.
- Get deeper slumber. Use the bedroom for sleep and sex only--doing so trains your mind to associate your bed with getting Zzzs. Avoid caffeine and exercise for 3 to 5 hours before bedtime, and limit alcohol at night; each can keep you from solid slumber. Make sure your room is dark and cool (the ideal temp for sleep is 65°F). To transition into sleep mode, don't watch TV or go online for an hour before turning in.
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