People often tell me I look younger than I am. And while I'd like to think I'm a real-life Benjamin Button, I have my own theory on the matter: It's because I've always stuck to a strict face-care regime. Most importantly, it's because I take my makeup off every night without fail, save a couple of drunken blips (don't judge). But after reading that a quarter of women don’t take theirs off before they go to bed*, I was intrigued. Is sleeping in your makeup really that bad for you?
Iconic makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury is famed for saying how she sleeps in her makeup every night. But how good can it be? Particularly after being out and about all day with the makeup clogging your pores? To see if it's really that bad for you (hey, I could be totally wrong), I decided to see what would happen if I slept in my makeup for a week. Either it would confirm everything I already thought about taking your makeup off at night, or it would make me realise that I should never do it again.
My rules were simple: I would sleep in my makeup every night for a week. Now, you might be thinking that it's fine if I don't wear much, but here is a rundown of all the products I currently put on my face every day: Benefit Precisely My Brow Eyebrow Pencil (£19), Laura Mercier Extreme Neutrals Eyeshadow Palette (£45), Sisley Le Teint Anti-Ageing Foundation (£98), Urban Decay Beached Bronzer (£20), Eyeko Skinny Eyeliner (£9), Sisley So Curl Mascara (£33), and Malin + Goetz Mojito Lip Balm (£10).
That’s a whole seven products I put on my face in the morning. And that doesn’t even include the toner, serum, moisturiser, and SPF I have on underneath. Want to find out the what happened after the week? Keep scrolling to discover the three reasons why you shouldn't ever sleep in your makeup…
This became noticeable almost immediately. And it makes sense really, I wasn’t doing my nighttime ritual of taking off my makeup and popping on all my lovely moisturising products.
I spoke to leading skincare expert Nichola Joss about why my skin might be dryer and if it could really take effect so quickly. "It will dehydrate the skin as it’s trying to repair itself. The skin needs to be as clean as possible in order for it to do that,” she said
However, I mentioned to Joss that the weather was getting colder and that I’d been running a lot, but she said that it actually takes a lot for weather to affect your skin. "Skin has to be exposed to weather that’s harsh to make a difference," says Joss. "Although your sinuses will be affected, and as a result, there's often is a slight texture change, but 100% it’s the makeup that's affecting your skin."
Dry skin was the first thing I noticed, but then came the wrinkles. When I realised that fine lines were forming underneath my eyes, I was genuinely horrified. While I'm okay with getting wrinkles (or at least getting used to the idea of them), I definitely saw a marked difference between my under-eye area in the week before and the week after the experiment.
Sure, I was closely examining my reflection beyond Narcissus-level proportions, but as my skin began to sag and dry, there, sure enough, were tiny lines etched under my eyes. But surely, surely, leaving my makeup on for a week doesn’t actually cause wrinkles? Oh yes, it does indeed, and Joss explained why:
“When you’re leaving makeup on, especially around eyes, the naturally-occurring hyaluronic acid [the stuff that means your skin stays hydrated and plump] doesn’t work as naturally as it should. You will very quickly see wrinkles from dehydration.”
Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom, as you can repair the damage you’ve done. Joss told me exactly how to do that by creating a homemade eye mask treatment. By layering on an eye cream and putting cotton squares over the top, you can moisturise your skin. But there's also another trick Joss has to help with the damaged eye area.
"Just massaging the outer layer of the eye socket in a circular motion around the cheekbones and eyebrows will help to stimulate the hyaluronic acid naturally."
There is no hard evidence to suggest that by not taking your makeup off you won't sleep as well, but I noticed how much groggier I felt in the mornings. Sure, it might have something to do with the fact that I looked like I had a hangover (hello, panda eyes), but I’m sure there’s something in the idea that by not following my usual bedtime routine my body felt out of sync.
However, I spoke to sleep expert Christabel Majendie about whether not taking my makeup off would make a difference.
"If [it] causes your skin or eyes to become irritated, itchy or sore then this will lessen the chances of you dropping off as you focus on the discomfort. However, if you are not bothered by leaving your makeup or forget one night and it causes no discomfort and you don't think about it then it is unlikely to impact on your sleep."
Clearly, for me then, it must have been a routine thing for me. To understand the psychology behind this I spoke to Emily Lovegrove, a psychology researcher and member of the British Psychological Society, about the possible reason. "Any routine that’s disrupted can make you feel out of kilter. The more we invest in a routine, the harder we find to give it up. So, if you have invested in that routine, it has a knock-on effect. You feel better about yourself if you do it, so to not do it makes you feel bad."
And Majendie confirmed this too by say that if I'm unhappy not taking my makeup off "you are less likely to get to sleep as any negative emotions at bedtime will wind you up which is the opposite of what you want to happen before sleep."
Although my experiment definitely confirmed what I’d already thought, I didn’t expect the results to be so surprising and the effects to take place so quickly. And after seeing the consequences of sleeping in makeup appearing on my face, there’s no way I’ll ever do it again. Would you?
Next up! Trouble sleeping? Here's how to fall asleep in under 1 minute.
*Simple Survey, One Poll, in which 2000 women aged 18–25 were polled across the UK on their cleansing habits