Wouldn't it be nice to rise out of bed every morning looking rested and relaxed? We thought so. That's why we asked expert dermatologists to create a skincare regimen that takes advantage of the natural renewal process our bodies go through every night. While you sleep, your skin repairs cells that have been damaged during the day," says Kenneth Beer, M.D., a dermatologist in West Palm Beach, Fla. When your skin isn't being exposed to sunlight, smoke, and other toxins, Beers says, it devotes energy to renewal. A groundbreaking 2001 study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that skin not only generates new cells overnight, but the pH becomes more acidic, boosting exfoliation. Follow our routine before bed and get ready for a beautiful morning.
STEP 1: Cleanse
WASH YOUR FACE EVERY NIGHT. You need to rinse away pore–clogging dirt, grime, and whatever beauty products you may have applied during the day. "Products break down throughout the day into a combination of chemicals, free radicals, and bacteria that can be damaging to the skin," says Jeanette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York, and author of Stop Aging, Start Living (Crown, 2007).
Step 2: Exfoliate
SCRUB TWICE A WEEK. After cleansing, you want to slough away that top layer of dead cells. "At night, the lymphatic system works hard to excrete waste, including any dead skin cells that inhibit the skin from functioning," says Graf. Dermatologists recommend using products that contain gentle alpha hydroxy or beta hydroxy acids such as lactic acid or fruit enzymes. (If you use an exfoliating facial wash in Step 1, you don't need an additional exfoliant; you can skip directly to Step 3.)
STEP 4: Moisturize
APPLY MOISTURIZER EVERY NIGHT. Your skin becomes dehydrated while you sleep even if you're drinking plenty of water during the day. Choose one with humectants like glycerin (which pulls in moisture from the air), hyaluronic acid, and botanicals rich in fatty acids. To give your skin an extra dose of protection, look for antioxidants, which will help increase your body's store of freeradical fighters, says Rebecca Tung, M.D., a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. (You can skip a nightly application of moisturizer if your collagen–repair product already contains moisturizing ingredients.) And don't forget your eyes. Select creams that contain natural, anti–inflammatory ingredients like antioxidants, cucumber, and chamomile that keep puffiness in check. Also caffeine and vitamin K can help combat dark circles by shrinking and strengthening the underlying blood vessels that cause the bluish hue.