8 Sneaky Ways Not Getting Enough Sleep Affects Your Looks

Updated: Dec. 23, 2023

Consistently putting sleep on the back burner can make you look older and have long-term effects on your looks.


Your skin cells don’t have time to repair themselves

“The evening is a time of rest and repair, when the skin heals itself from daily damage,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “If you are not sleeping, then your skin will not be able to heal itself and may increase your likelihood of premature aging.”

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Breakouts can—and probably will—pop up

Your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) naturally drop at night. But when you stay up late and disrupt your sleep cycle, cortisol levels remain high. This means your oil glands are continually stimulated, which can make you more likely to get an acne breakout, explains Dr. Zeichner.

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Your pores will look bigger

Another side effect of increased oil production brought on by lack of sleep is clogged and dilated pores.

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Your risk of sun damage increases

“Normal sleep is needed for production of your body’s natural antioxidant stores,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It has been shown that sleep deprivation results in a decrease in antioxidant production, which interferes with your skin’s ability to protect itself from environmental stressors the next day, including UV light, pollution, and exposure to cigarette smoke.”

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Your risk of skin infection goes up

“Sleep deprivation has been shown to affect your immune system, lowering your white blood cells,” Dr. Zeichner says, “so a lack of sleep may increase your risk of skin infections.” A few of these infections can include the fungal variety (athelete’s foot and ring worm) as well as cellulitis and folliculitis (a big word for an ingrown hair).

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Your under-eye bags get deeper and darker

Your lymph system is like your waste disposal system, helping to filter excess fluid and toxins and, according to Dr. Zeichner, there is some data that suggests a lack of sleep does interfere with your lymphatic drainage. “If the fluid is not drained away, it may accumulate leading to puffiness and increase your under-eye bags.” Also, keep your diet low in sodium, to prevent fluid accumulation.

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Sallow complexion much?

“Lack of sleep interferes with the normal circadian patterns in your skin, including night time skin repair,” tells Zeichner. “This may interfere with normal skin cell turnover, leading the accumulation of cells on the skin ‘s surface and a dull complexion.” That means your skin may look dull or gray. A good exfoliation treatment will help brighten your skin right up.

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Your psoriasis and eczema may flare up

Stress is a common trigger for chronic skin conditions including psoriasis and eczema. When you do’t get enough sleep the chances are good that your stress levels will go up, along with your production of cortisol. An early study has shown a connection between sleep and psoriasis and other studies have shown that lack of sleep damages your skin barrier, making an eczema flare-up more likely.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest