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Can you cheat your way to rested skin?

Not getting enough beauty sleep? We asked Etre Vous’ experts how important your REM cycle really is and how to hit snooze on the damage

“Rise and shine” can be a struggle without a full eight hours - and new science has confirmed skin feels the same.

While there are no official guidelines about how much sleep you should get each night, according to the NHS a “normal” amount of sleep for an adult is considered to be around seven to nine hours.
Dermatologists and aestheticians have long advised that getting enough sleep is the best way to invest in your skin - and science has confirmed it.

Here’s what can happen if life and late-night doom scrolling are getting in the way of an early bedtime and unbroken REM cycles.

What damage does tiredness do to skin?

It’s not called “beauty sleep” for nothing. One study woke scientists up to the fact that long-term poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of ageing, diminished skin barrier function and a lower satisfaction with appearance generally.

Sleep is essential for repair and growth which keeps skin functioning in a healthy way and looking its best,  as Etre Vous expert and aesthetic doctor Anna Hemming explains. “Having a regular sleep routine and good sleep hygiene enables your body to restore, revive and create healthy cells to replace old ones - including skin cells.”

Depriving skin of these essential functions shows up in various ways. If your complexion looks dull after several late nights there’s a reason for that. “Reduced blood flow and oxygenation during sleep deprivation can make the skin appear less radiant, explains Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, Founder & Medical Director of London's Adonia Medical Clinic. What’s more, dark circles and puffiness are also caused by tiredness’ effects on circulation. “Blood vessels dilate in the under-eye area, leading to increased visibility of dark pigmentation in the delicate eye area.”

Collagen is one of the proteins responsible for maintaining skin's elasticity. Recent research revealed that “sacrificial” collagen - the type broken down by stress, including sun exposure, air pollution and alcohol - repairs itself while we sleep. “When collagen and elastin break down it contributes to fine lines and wrinkles appearing earlier than expected,” Ejikeme warns.

Sensitive skin can also become more prickly as tiredness slows wound repair as well as exacerbating inflammatory conditions like redness, psoriasis, acne, eczema and rosacea. “This is due to a lack of sleep weakening the skin’s barrier function and defence mechanism and making it more vulnerable to environmental and other types of damage” advises Ejikeme.

“There is emerging evidence that disruption to our circadian rhythm can affect the skin microbiome,” explains Dr Sandra Gamper, Aesthetic Doctor at Miriderma Skin Health Clinic.
Lack of sleep is closely linked with significantly higher transepidermal water loss due to this diminished barrier allowing water to escape. This can lead to skin dehydration and dryness, resulting in skin feeling rough and uncomfortable.

But don’t lose sleep over losing sleep. A combination of skincare and lifestyle changes, along with considered tweakments, can be effective in mitigating the effects of poor sleep on the skin.

What are the best actives to use at-home to prevent damage and improve tired skin?

On-the-surface quality skincare actives can reawaken skin and, to an extent, hit snooze on the damage caused by tiredness. Exfoliating the skin helps remove dead skin cells and brighten your complexion. “Use a mild exfoliating AHA/BHA a few times a week to reveal fresher skin cells beneath,”  suggests Dr Raquel Amado, Director at Dr Raquel Skin & Medical Cosmetics.

Dehydration exacerbates the signs of sleep-deprived skin so keeping your skin well-hydrated with a good quality hyaluronic acid serum and moisturiser is fundamental to put moisture back into skin and keep it there.

Like your circadian clock, skincare timing is everything. “In the day an antioxidant, such as vitamin C, can prevent free-radical damage while sunscreen shields skin from UV damage,” says Dr Ifeoma. “Ingredients like peptides and retinoids at night will encourage collagen production and skin renewal while you sleep. And consider an eye cream with ingredients like peptides or caffeine to reduce dark circles and puffiness,” she adds.

Optimising skin barrier function with restorative skincare is essential too, suggests Gamper. Think lipids, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, PHA and niacinamide.

What are the best treatments to cheat your way to rested skin? 

Addressing the ageing effects of fatigue is key with dermal fillers mimicking the effects of good sleep hygiene to refresh skin. “Injectable fillers like hyaluronic acid can restore volume and plumpness that diminished collagen takes away,” Dr Ifeoma says.

Microneedling and PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) Therapy can also stimulate collagen production, improve skin texture, tone and firmness.

“If you want to take it to the next level and reverse ageing I would get a course of Polynucleotides treatment,” says Dr Amado. These injectable bio-stimulators boost collagen and elastin by turning up the activity of fibroblast cells, improving cell regeneration and restoring tone and elasticity.
On a more superficial level, laser treatments can address a range of skin concerns, including pigmentation, fine lines and skin texture, while chemical peels can improve skin texture, reduce pigmentation issues, and enhance overall skin quality.

“At the most basic level, even a simple gentle facial massage with a facial roller can help reduce puffiness, increase blood circulation, and enhance the absorption of skincare actives,” says Amado.

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