“Don’t wash your face every day. Your skin will look better.” An old high school friend of mine used to swear by this advice. She felt that washing her face made it dry. Decades and a successful cosmetic dermatology business later, I can tell you (and her) that it was terrible advice. Every night, your skin needs to be freed of the day’s accumulations of sweat, oily excretions, lotions, and makeup.
I’m not telling you that you need to let your skin breathe. The skin on your face does not “breathe”—you’re not an amphibian or an earthworm. Rather, it undergoes repair and renewal while you’re sleeping. The outer layer eliminates toxins, sweat, and oil. It also absorbs natural moisture from the air. A coat of heavy cream or makeup can bungle both the elimination and the absorption.
Nighttime skincare shouldn’t stop at cleansing. Some dermatology products are actually most effective at night, for example prescription-strength deodorants, because you’re less likely to sweat them away while sleeping. Also, retinoid creams (better known as Retin A), which can treat acne, reverse the signs of aging, and even out pigmentation, are best applied at night. Retinoid creams do their best work in the dark, because exposure to light causes them to break down.
Just before bed is a great time to pamper yourself. Don’t rush! This should be a time of day when you aren’t just scrubbing, towel-drying, and slathering creams on as quickly as possible. Take a moment to enjoy the pleasure of water on your skin. Stop in front of the mirror NOT to find your flaws but to appreciate—yes, appreciate—your face. There is life being documented by the wrinkles and lines. Feel the softness of the soothing creams you apply to your face, the coolness of the air against them in the moments just afterward. Breathe in. Breathe out. Appreciate that moment. Go to bed refreshed. Bedtime care leads to a happier ending to one day and a fresher start to the next.