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15 Nighttime Habits That Are Ruining Your Skin

For a gorgeous glow when you get up in the morning, avoid these bad bedtime skin habits

Evening skin care mistakes

Taking great care of your skin during the day with things like moisturizer and sunscreen is important, but what you do before hitting the hay (aka your nighttime skin care routine) is equally significant. Here’s what you should avoid to keep your complexion clear.


Not washing your face

The number one skin sin is simply going to bed without giving your face a good wash. “Even if you do not wear makeup you should wash your face nightly,” says Desmond Shipp, MD, a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Your skin is going through a repairing and rebuilding phase during the nighttime and debris such as dust, smoke, and skin care products can clog your pores leading to worsening acne.” (Did you know you shouldn’t wash your face in the shower? Here’s why.)

older woman laying awake in bedfizkes/Getty Images

Skimping on sleep

There is really such a thing as beauty sleep—and getting less than six hours of snooze time at night gives your skin less time to repair itself—which can lead to more wrinkles, an ashy complexion, and those dark circles under your eyes. Not getting enough sleep could also increase inflammation and stress hormones, aggravating skin conditions like acne, according to the National Sleep Foundation. (In fact, this is exactly what happens to your skin while you sleep.)


Choosing the wrong anti-aging cream

“The majority of anti-aging creams are still based on moisturizers such as mineral oil,” says Manish Shah, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon in Denver. “Wrinkles look worse when they are dry, so any kind of moisturizer helps, but many only improve things temporarily and don’t address the root cause of the wrinkles, such as collagen loss, free radical damage, sun damage, and environmental factors. Unless there is an actual ‘active ingredient’ such as retinol, the benefit is just moisture and nothing else.” Check out these sleeping facial masks that boast the best results.

Comfortable bed with white linen at homeNew Africa/Shutterstock

Not changing your pillowcases regularly

Sleeping on the same pillowcase night after night could expose your skin to some pretty nasty stuff, such as bacteria, sloughed-off skin, and sweat. Dr. Shipp recommends changing your pillowcase at least weekly—more often if you’re acne-prone. (In fact, changing your pillowcase is one of the ways dermatologists wake up with younger-looking skin.)

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Leaving on your makeup

While dermatologists always stress that washing your face before bed is a must-do, they’re especially adamant about clearing off every trace of makeup every night. “You should never sleep with makeup on your skin,” Dr. Shipp says. “You’re essentially setting yourself up for an acne eruption.”

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Skipping moisturizer

Moisturizer helps every skin type—not just people with dry or aging skin. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, look for a formulation that’s made for you—some formulations contain ingredients that can help you battle acne and keep your skin looking dewy. (Here’s how to use moisturizer the right way.)


Using a plain old cotton pillowcase

Upgrading your pillowcase to a silk or satin one could do wonders for your face and hair. “I recommend silk pillowcases as they are less abrasive to the skin,” says Dr. Shipp. “They are also breathable, hypoallergenic, and less irritating.”

Woman legs in bath foam. Top view. Enjoying and relaxation in spa hotelBreslavtsev Oleg/Shutterstock

Overcleaning your skin

Too much of a good thing could be damaging to your skin. “Most patients over-cleanse their skin, compromising the moisture barrier and microbiome of the skin’s natural protective layer,” says Graceanne Svendsen, a celebrity facialist at Shafer Plastic Surgery & Laser Center in New York City. “When the helpful, natural bacteria is cleansed off, we are more susceptible to infections, breakouts and parched looking skin.”

HumidifierYury Stroykin/Shutterstock

Not being mindful of the humidity

Dry air—whether in arid desert climates or the heated air in a house once cold weather hits—can really do a number on your skin. Dermatologists recommend putting a humidifier in your bedroom to make it easier for your skin to maintain its moisture levels. (Here are more tips on how to fight dry skin in the cold weather.)

Temperature regulator, thermostatic radiatorLIAL/Shutterstock

Keeping the room too warm

A cozy bedroom could be bad for your skin health—and your sleep quality. “Studies show that the body rests better at lower temperatures,” Svendsen says. “Keep your room temperature cool in the evening—don’t you get the best sleep on a cool fall night?”

15 Nighttime Habits That Are Ruining Your

Trying to get your vitamins through your cream

While vitamin C can be helpful when applied to the skin, vitamin B isn’t quite as effective. “Many forms of vitamin B (like B12) can only be absorbed in the small intestine, so no matter how much is loaded into your moisturizer or serum, it’s not going to make a difference,” Dr. Shah says. “Vitamins like niacin (vitamin B3) can have an effect on the skin’s texture and color, but your skin can’t absorb them. If you really want to tap into the power of vitamin B to improve your skin’s glow and appearance, stick to eating leafy greens like spinach, asparagus, beans, and peas.” (Load up on those healthy veggies and avoid these foods dermatologists wouldn’t eat.)

Lip balm mnimage/Shutterstock

Forgetting to moisturize your lips

While slathering on night cream might be part of your evening routine, you’re likely skipping your lips, which have thin, delicate skin that’s especially prone to dryness and chapping. Skip the heavy-duty retinoids, and put on a generous coating of a lip ointment that contains shea butter, glycerin—or just a little coconut oil.

Portrait of a beautiful young woman sleeping in bed at the bedroom with alarm clock on a nightstandDean Drobot/Shutterstock

Sleeping on your stomach or side

If you’re a stomach or a side sleeper, you could be crushing your delicate facial skin into the pillow, making it more prone to wrinkles due to the friction from the pillowcase. A softer pillowcase can help—but it’s probably better for your skin if you get used to sleeping on your back.

Close up of Water flowing from shower in the bathroomNaypong Studio/Shutterstock

Taking a long, hot shower

“Keeping your shower water too hot can be dehydrating to the skin,” Svendsen says. Instead, keep the shower temperature on the cooler side, and be sure to slather on lotion afterward. (Find out the other ways you may be showering wrong.)

Fresh German pretzels with sea salt close-up, paper packaging for pretzels on dark black board backgroundSergey Fatin/Shutterstock

Eating chips before bedtime

Think twice about that bowl of pretzels or chips before you snooze. The extra salt from your favorite bedtime snack can lead to excess fluid pooling—especially around the eyes. And that means puffiness in the morning. The antidote—a healthier snack, like fruit or veggies. Next, learn how dermatologists look younger overnight.

Medically reviewed by Jessica Wu, MD, on April 27, 2020

Lisa Milbrand
Lisa Milbrand is a writer and editor from New Jersey, who specializes in health, parenting, and travel topics. She is the author of the upcoming book, Baby Names With Character.