I just put my kids, ages 7 and 8, to bed. After getting them to sleep at the end of a fun, but exhausting, weekend of sports, dancing, making cookies, cleaning up after multiple play dates and then dinner, I’m ready to crawl into bed, completely exhausted. But a little voice in my head is saying, “Don’t crash before washing your face.” Getting out of bed right now to wash my face seems like mission impossible, but the dermatologist in me knows it’s the right thing to do. Why? There are several reasons why cleansing before bed is good for the skin.
- Remove the dirt and debris. This is an obvious one, but quite important. Throughout the day, the surface of the skin builds up dead skin cells, oil, bacteria, sweat, and other debris. There is also microscopic soot in the air called particulate pollution that settles on the skin during the day that can be damaging. Consider using a washcloth or gentle sonic cleansing brush to really remove the mixture of grime.
- Cleansing the face properly before bed gets the “canvas” ready for the nighttime products. Follow a gentle face wash with a good moisturizer. Nighttime is a great time to use active ingredients (such as antioxidants or retinols) on the skin because the products are allowed to be efficiently absorbed. While sleeping, the products can work uninterrupted by sun, wind, makeup application, or other disturbances as we move through our busy day.
- Eye makeup is an absolute must to remove. There are many glands around the eyelids and eyelashes. Wearing makeup overnight can clog and inflame the delicate glands and skin around the eyes. The result? Irritated, red, and sometimes puffy eyes. Best to remove all traces of eye makeup before bed every night.
- Your nightly wash is a chance to treat the skin. There are several types of face washes that are medicated, so it’s a quick way to treat the skin. A favorite of mine is a benzoyl peroxide cleanser for acne-prone skin. Benzoyl peroxide is a potent acne-fighter, but it can be seriously drying for many women. By using it in a cleanser instead of a leave-on lotion, the skin gets the benefits of benzoyl peroxide without the irritating side effects.
Of course we’ve all crashed into bed at one time or another without removing our makeup. Who hasn’t? However, it’s best for the skin not to make it a habit. After I finish writing this, I’ll grumble as I pull myself out of bed to wash my face–and my skin will thank me for it.
Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi is a board-certified dermatologist and co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Surgery.