This article is a part of CNN Underscored’s Guide to Sleep, a weeklong focus on the best sleep-related products. We’ll be featuring new products and guides all week, so check in every morning to see what’s new and keep your eyes peeled for exclusive deals.
The classic fairy-tale character Sleeping Beauty may be fictional, but the idea of beauty sleep is not. According to New York City-based dermatologist Hadley King, M.D, “Getting little sleep has been shown to negatively affect the skin’s appearance.” She explains that this may be because of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been shown to break down collagen. Lack of sleep stresses the body and “the higher the stress level, the more cortisol is produced, and over time the skin’s ability to rebuild collagen and elastin will decrease,” she says. Beyond this, she notes that sleep is critical for the healing and repair of damaged tissues, skin and mind and body health.
Essentially, poor sleep results in more noticeable signs of aging due to a chain of events that leads to the body’s inability to rebalance its hydration. Your skin becomes more susceptible to puffiness, dryness and more visible wrinkles. “Nighttime is when your skin repairs itself,” says New York City-based dermatologist Morgan Rabach, M.D. “More blood flows to your skin at night, collagen increases and DNA repair helps repair cells that were affected by stressors during that day.”
So, as our experts describe, if you want the most of your precious beauty sleep, it’s important to reduce stress and cultivate a bedtime beauty routine that can promote the repair of damaged tissues and improve the moisture balance of the skin. “One way to think about it is to protect during the day (sun protection, antioxidants, moisturizer) and repair during the night (retinoids, growth factors, peptides, moisturizer),” says King.
Rabach recommends incorporating antioxidants and retinols into your nightly skin routine. King says that retinol in particular works to increase collagen, pore size and help dead skin turnover.
With all of this in mind, we’ve rounded up some skin care products that you should add to your routine to tackle your skin care concerns overnight. From makeup removers to overnight mask treatments, check out these dermatologist-approved picks to make the most out of your beauty rest. Looking for more sleep tips? Be sure to delve into our other sleep coverage here too.
Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water ($14.90;amazon.com)
If you wear makeup, it’s really important to remove it properly before starting your nighttime skin care routine, according to these dermatologists. Just soak a cotton pad with this oil-free micellar water that’s an editor-favorite to quickly remove makeup and dirt. Once your skin is dry, proceed with the rest of your routine with ease.
Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm ($17.99; versedskin.com)
This cleansing balm has quickly become one of our favorite skin care products. It melts your makeup right off without stripping your skin of any moisture or leaving your pores feeling clogged. If you’re into double cleansing, Day Dissolve makes a great first step in your routine. Want to buy it now? Use code CNNSLEEP for 15% off sitewide, excluding sale and bundle items.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($14.64; amazon.com)
CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser is the ultimate no-fuss, derm-approved cleansing option. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin to remove makeup, dirt and excess oil without drying out your skin. But don’t take our word for it: This all-star has nearly 34,000 5-star reviews on Amazon to vouch for its efficacy.
Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18; glossier.com)
We’d pick Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser again and again. It’s gentle and super creamy, which makes it good for most skin types and a great cleansing option no matter what the next steps in your routine are.
Herla Kakadu Plum Deeply Hydrating and Revitalizing Sleep Mask ($46; amazon.com)
This sleep mask by Herla works to brighten and hydrate the skin overnight through baobab oil, which is rich in vitamins A and D and essential fatty acids to improve elasticity and heal irritated skin. According to King, the star ingredient, Kakadu plum, is the world’s richest source of vitamin C, and is also a source of vitamin E and other minerals “to provide antioxidant properties, while the hyaluronic acid, cucumber, papaya and strawberry in the mask hydrate, brighten and refresh the skin.”
Loops Beauty Night Shift Masks, 5-Pack ($30; revolve.com)
If Loops face masks are good enough for model and swimwear designer Emily Ratajkowski, it’s good enough for us, right? Jokes aside, we really do love these cruelty-free, jellylike masks, especially Night Shift. It’s formulated with allantoin, collagen and nutrient-rich cactus extract to hydrate, repair and replenish the skin before bed.
Olehenriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum ($58; sephora.com)
For a nighttime retinol-like serum, the Olehenriksen Glow Cycle Power Serum is a good choice. However, this uses bakuchiol, which is a plant-based retinol alternative to fight signs of aging. Reviewers love its lightweight, silky texture and how it made their skin glow like never before.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex (starting at $18; sephora.com)
The Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair is well loved to reduce signs of aging overnight. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, it’s known to smooth fine lines and reveal more radiant, even-toned skin over time. If you can believe it, one reviewer even said they’d use it until they die.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Night Pressed Face Serum With Hyaluronic Acid ($16.90, originally $18.29; amazon.com)
If you experience dry skin or just want to wake up with ultra plumpness, give the Neutrogena Night Pressed Face Serum a go. Formulated with hyaluronic acid to form a thick, almost creamy consistency, this facial serum seriously melts into the skin to hydrate instantly.
Isdin K-Ox Under-Eye Brightening Cream ($93; amazon.com)
Reviewers of the Isdin K-Ox Under-Eye Cream say this is great for eliminating dark circles under the eye. It’s dermatologist-approved too. Rabach recommends this for your bedtime beauty routine. If you’ve been trying to combat dark circles and puffiness, this brightening cream might be worth the splurge.
RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream ($17.99; target.com)
An eye cream with retinol? Say no more! With nearly 1,500 5-star ratings at Target, this formula by RoC clearly works well make your eyes look younger by helping reduce dark circles.
First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream ($44; sephora.com)
We love First Aid Beauty because it works gently on skin. Not only does this eye cream contain retinol, but it also includes hyaluronic acid and the brand’s skin saver complex (a combination of ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, aloe and ceramides) to hydrate, calm and soothe even sensitive skin while fighting signs of aging.
Pond’s Rejuveness Advanced Hydrating Night Cream ($7.99; target.com)
The Pond’s Rejuveness Night Cream is formulated with vitamin B3 and retinol complex as well as glycerin and pro-ceramides to support the skin barrier, which, according to King, makes it “a great option for moisturizing while delivering antiaging benefits.” If you want a Pond’s formula that’s simple yet rich and creamy, King recommends the brand’s Dry Skin Cream ($7.39; target.com) because it hydrates while still being noncomedogenic and hypoallergenic.
Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream ($82; ulta.com)
Reviewers say that the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream was moisturizing and left their skin silky smooth for bed. Formulated with retinol, niacinamide and picolinamide, you can expect this to improve skin’s firmness, radiance and hydration over time.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Face Moisturizer ($17.99; target.com)
The Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer features hyaluronic acid to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and brighten and rejuvenate your skin. What a steal for less than $20!
Korres Wild Rose Night-Brightening Sleeping Facial ($48; sephora.com)
A sleeping facial like this one by Korres sounds dreamy. “With a delicious fragrance and rich texture, this product contains a stabilized form of vitamin C to help diminish discolorations, brighten the complexion and protect the skin from free radicals,” says King. The formula also includes wild rose oil, which reduces redness and works to plump the skin by morning.
Versed The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel ($19.99; versedskin.com)
Versed calls this “the shortcut to glowier skin.” It’s a leave-on exfoliating mask that uses a blend of lactic acid, glycolic acid and vitamin A to break down dead skin and brighten your appearance overnight. However, King doesn’t recommend combining retinols with acids, so use this on a night when you aren’t using any retinol products.
Fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask (starting at $38; nordstrom.com)
If you’d prefer an overnight mask that’s super gentle, the Fresh Black Tea Firming Mask is intensely moisturizing without any harsh ingredients. Rich in antioxidants from black tea, blackberry lea and lychee seed extract, this can help improve skin elasticity and suppleness.
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask ($22; sephora.com)
Not a traditional overnight mask like the others on this list, but this cult-favorite lip sleeping mask is known to give you baby-soft lips as you sleep. Available in five flavors, the mask aims to surge moisture into the lips without being sticky and works as a miracle worker to flakiness and dryness.
Maya Chia The Straight A Serum, Advanced Gentle Retinol Treatment ($125; freepeople.com)
The Maya Chia Straight A Serum “contains retinol, bakuchiol and vitamins C and E, in a base of chia seed and buriti oils, to support the skin barrier and lock in moisture,” which is why it’s King’s pick for overnight face oil. Apply this splurge-worthy oil as the last step in your skin care routine solely at night to nourish your skin, improve the look of fine lines and even reduce hyperpigmentation.
PSA Skin Midnight Courage Rosehip & Bakuchiol Retinol Night Oil ($38; asos.com)
A wallet-approved face oil? Here you go. We’ve been loving PSA Skin Midnight Courage because it contains retinoid and bakuchiol to help reduce the look of dark spots, even skin tone and deliver intense moisture overnight without blowing the bank.
Jenny Patinkin Rose on Rose Face Roller ($32; bluemercury.com)
Jenny Patinkin’s Rose on Rose Face Roller is made of rose quartz to help reduce inflammation and boost circulation, especially after refrigeration. This handmade tool is made in a petite size to effectively roll under eyes, on eyelids or on lips. King recommends gently rolling under the eyes from the midlline toward the sides of your face to decrease fluid accumulation.
Esarora Ice Roller ($16.99; amazon.com)
Looking for a more budget-friendly roller? We’ve been obsessed with the Esaroroa Ice Roller to reduce puffiness, relieve headaches and calm skin. We like to keep it stored in the freezer for whenever we need it.
Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier ($39.99; amazon.com)
“A humidifier in the bedroom overnight in dry weather is helpful for decreasing the amount of transepidermal water loss,” says King. This basically means that a humidifier like this one, which we named as the best humidifier for bedrooms, helps prevent too much water passively evaporating through the skin barrier. TL;DR: You want to surge your skin with as much moisture as possible while you sleep.
Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask ($48; lunya.co)
If you want a truly luxurious sleep session, give Lunya’s Washable Silk Sleep Mask a try. Available in five colors, it’s made of a plush silk that’ll block out any light (without being too heavy) and even doubles as a headband once you wake up. Better yet: Use code CNNSLEEP to score 20% purchases of $100 or more for first-time customers.
Bedsure Satin Pillowcase, 2-Pack ($9.99; amazon.com)
According to King, most of us have deeper wrinkles on the side of the face we sleep on. Although shocking, this makes total sense. Grab yourself a set of these satin pillowcases (which are a much more budget-friendly alternative to popular silk pillowcases) to prevent sleep creases because the soft material is less likely to crease your skin.
However, King does advise that “the effectiveness of silk for this purpose has not been proven.” Better safe than sorry! Rabach recommends washing your pillow cases twice a week, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.
Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Defy Memory Foam Pillow ($79; revolve.com)
To decrease sleep wrinkles, King also recommends the Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Age Defy Pillow. It has a “unique U-shape design that cradles the face so that it does not become creased with pressure like a standard pillow.”