The Best Way To Treat Your Skin Overnight Isn’t With A Product

by Jessica DeFino

“Get your beauty sleep” isn’t just an empty cliché — according to dermatologists, beauty sleep is both very real and very necessary. Your skin works hard during the day to defend against UV exposure, pollution, and other environmental aggressors; and at night, it enters into a sort of “repair mode” to undo some of that damage and replenish key nutrients. Considering summer’s swift approach (and the harsh UV rays that often come with it), now’s the time to nail your nighttime skincare routine. And it’s actually a lot simpler than you think.

While overnight skincare is great, experts say the real key to sleeping your way to better skin is, well, sleeping. “When we sleep, the skin uses a variety of enzymes to repair DNA, replace old cells, and produce collagen,” Dr. Aanand Geria, a dermatologist with Geria Dermatology in New Jersey, tells The Zoe Report. “Getting a good night’s sleep is also associated with improved hydration of the skin.” He notes that without enough shut eye — that’s seven to eight hours every night, by the way — cortisol levels increase. “This puts the body into a pro-inflammatory state,” Dr. Geria explains. “This can be associated with impaired wound healing, as well as exacerbations of acne, eczema, and psoriasis.” In other words: Sleep is kind of a skincare cure-all.


Ahead, 20 products, practices, and dermatologists recs to help you get your best sleep — and best skin — ever this summer.


Make Sure Your Bedroom Is Optimized For Sleep

“A good sleep routine is just as important as the products that you use while sleeping,” Dr. Devika Icecreamwala of Icecreamwala Dermatology in San Francisco tells TZR. “Products certainly do help, but I encourage looking at your bedroom environment to ensure that you are getting into a good REM cycle.” Some of the offerings below will help — a soft silk pillowcase, a light-blocking eye mask — but one of the best ways to get better sleep is to limit your phone and TV usage before bed. The blue light from both stimulates the brain, making it harder to drift off... so you might want to keep your bedroom screen-free.


Say Buh-Bye To Blue Light

Speaking of blue light, exposure to blue light while you’re sleeping (say, if you fall asleep with the TV on or in front of your open laptop… guilty) kind of negates that whole “repair mode” thing. Among other things, sleep is your skin’s opportunity to recover from blue light exposure — it’s been shown to cause redness and hyperpigmentation — so don’t make the skin’s job any harder than it has to be.


Take A Bath Before Bed

Do you have a hard time shutting off your mind and drifting off to dreamland? Try a relaxing bath before bed, which is said to help the body (and brain) transition into sleep. Goop’s G. Nite Bath soak features herbal extracts and essential oils to make you drowsy and relieve tension, like valerian root and sandalwood.


If You Don’t Have A Bath, There’s Always Aromatherapy

If your apartment isn’t blessed with a bathtub, you can still reap the restful rewards of essential oils with an aromatherapy blend, like Apothecary Company’s Abracadabra Elixir, which is meant to be rolled onto the bottoms of the feet at bedtime. The brand calls it a “natural sedative,” thanks to ingredients like vetiver (said to help with anxiety) and cedarwood (to balance emotional energy). Bonus for the mystical-minded: It’s infused with stress-relieving amethyst crystals, too.


Spritz An “Atmosphere Mist” Before Bed

To create the ultimate sleep environment, spritz your room — air, curtains, pillowcase, and all — with a calming “atmosphere mist.” I’m personally dedicated to this one from Golda. Its grounding mix of hiba wood and neroli gets me every time.


Wind Down With A Pre-Bed Latte

Obviously, consuming caffeine is not the move at night. Instead, try the new(ish) Vital Proteins x Poosh Pink Moon Milk Collagen Latte. It features collagen peptides to help strengthen skin from within, along with magnesium and melatonin to promote sleep.


…Or An Herbal Tea

Tea drinkers: Meet your new go-to. Supernatural’s Goodnight Moon sachets gently encourage rest thanks to chamomile (which calms the nervous system), rose (which the brand says is “lightly sedative” — and also great for skin), and passionflower (to ease tension). It doesn’t hurt that it’s delicious, too.


… Or CBD

Everybody’s favorite buzzy ingredient, CBD, is said to help the body stay calm and relaxed… and thus, lead to better sleep. Prismatic Plants’ new CBD supplement, aptly named Good Night, combines cannabidiol with adaptogens (reishi mushrooms, skullcap, ashwagandha) to help you get to bed.


Pop A Pre-Bedtime Vitamin

“Beauty zzZz contains melatonin, a natural compound the body makes to help with sleep,” a representative for HUM Nutrition tells The Zoe Report. “The product also contains B6 which is a precursor to making melatonin naturally in the body. When you are able to get a better night's sleep, this helps with healthier-looking skin overall.”


Remove Your Makeup And Thoroughly Cleanse

“Clean your face,” Dr. Icecreamwala instructs. “This seems easy, but your skin is dirty throughout the day and needs to be washed before going to sleep at night to remove excess pollutants.” If you’re wearing makeup, try the double-cleansing method: First, use an oil cleanser to remove buildup; then, go in with your usual face wash to deep-clean pores.


Now’s The Time For Acids

“Products containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic or lactic acid, should be used at night because they can make you sensitive to the sun,” Dr. Geria says. I mean, there’s a reason Alpha H calls it glycolic treatment the Beauty Sleep Power Peel.


Reach For Melatonin… For Your Face

While melatonin regularly appears in sleep-inducing vitamins and supplements, it turns out, it's also good for your face. Zelens Z-Melatonin Overnight Serum delivers a dose of the pollution-protecting antioxidant — as well as plumping hyaluronic acid — to encourage overnight repair.


Swap Daytime Moisturizer For A Thicker Cream

“Sebum (oil) levels peak midday and are lowest at night,” according to Dr. Geria. “Therefore, without natural oils, there is nothing to ‘lock in’ water, causing it to escape during the night. Keeping this in mind, it is generally recommended to use heavier moisturizing creams or oils at night.”


But In The Summer, Don’t Overdo It On The Oils

“Temperature plays a large role in the way that the skin reacts,” Dr. Icecreamwala says. “During the drier winter months I would encourage moisturizing more, while the summer months might require using products to prevent excess oil from damaging the skin.” If you’re a dedicated fan of face oils, opt for something lighter — like marula oil or jojoba oil — in warmer weather.


Nighttime Is The Right Time For Retinol

“Topical retinoids (like retinol, tretinoin, and adapalene) must be used at night, simply because they are deactivated by sunlight,” Dr. Geria adds. That’s the logic behind -ism SKIN Evening Meditation. “Evening Meditation is 1 percent retinol,” the brand tells The Zoe Report. “Retinol accelerates epidermal cell turnover, so it is ideally applied at night when the skin is in this ‘regeneration mode.’ Retinol also boosts collagen production and amplifies the skin’s repair function, making it the perfect ingredient for nighttime use.”


PSA: Don’t Use Acids And Retinol Together

“If you’re using both an AHA and a topical retinoid, apply them on alternating nights since they can both cause irritation,” Dr. Geria says.


Opt For An Overnight Mask

I mean, it’s built right into the name: Overnight masks are obviously made for sleeping. There are no shortage of repairing products to try, either. Go for Clinique’s Moisture Surge Overnight Mask if you’re looking for more moisture, or Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask for equal parts exfoliation and hydration.


Finish With A Face Mist That Promotes Sleep

Vitruvi’s essential oil mist works double duty: Its blend of lavender, chamomile, and witch hazel can be used on your face or your pillow to tone and relax, respectively.


*Definitely* Use A Silk Pillowcase

“Our silk charmeuse pillowcase contains amino acid proteins which help to keep moisture locked in, and it also features a super smooth surface,” Ashley Merrill, the founder of Lunya, tells TZR. “Both of these properties mean that when you rest your face on it, it keeps your skin hydrated and helps reduces creasing, which in turn, mitigates the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

While anyone can benefit from swapping cotton for silk, it’s especially helpful for those dealing with inflammatory conditions like rosacea or acne. As Merrill says, “Nighttime is the best time to repair skin, so make the most of this time!”


A Sleep Mask Is A Good Idea, Too

Besides blocking sleep-interrupting light, the right eye mask can actually help reduce puffiness — trust me, I’ve been using Lunya’s Restore Sleep Mask for about a year and swear by it.

“Puffys eye are caused by edema, which is the accumulation of fluids — it’s noticeable under the eyes due to how thin the skin is in that particular area,” Merrill explains. “Our Restore fabric utilizes infrared fibers which increase blood flow, which helps re-distribute fluid at the site of application.” Essentially, the mask keeps fluid moving so it doesn’t build up your under eyes while you sleep… so really, it's great for your nighttime routine and streamlines your morning routine.