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Whenever I look at a patient’s skin, I can tell whether or not they’ve been sleeping well. Those who have plenty of sleep have a natural vitality to their skin, while the patients who have trouble sleeping typically have a washed out and lackluster appearance.

There’s a reason for this: Sleep is critical to every organ of the body, including the skin because the skin never sleeps.

The skin has its own circadian clock. Different skin processes occur at different times according to this internal schedule. Nighttime is prime time for repairing damage and for rebuilding cells and tissues – skin is no different. It’s for this reason that I spent a great deal of time researching the best way to take advantage of the skin’s nighttime repair system to improve its overall health and appearance.

This is what I found:

Nighttime is the best time to restore.

During the day, your skin is in a protective state, warding off elements such as sun damage or oxidation versus at night, your skin goes into renew mode, regenerating new skin cells and cycling oxygen and nutrients.  While it’s critical to protect your skin during the day with topical sunscreen and antioxidants, applying topical antioxidants again at night can help detox to enhance the skin’s own repair process.  It’s important to deliver the skin its nutrients when they need it most.  Vitamin A, B and C are all ingredients that are designed to be there when you need at most: overnight.

The skin’s metabolic rate increases at night (while the body’s own metabolic rate decreases).

What this means: skin cells turn over more quickly at night and production of new cells increases. This, I found, is a perfect time to enhance cell turnover and take advantage of this process with alpha hydroxy acids like lactic acid (derived from milk) and retinol Enhancing cell turnover can result in smoother, more even-toned, and more radiant skin.

There is a peak time for skin cell renewal.

This topic of “getting your beauty sleep” has so much history in both culture and science. There is a truth to this saying.  Between the hours of 11pm-midnight, the process of cell mitosis of the skin is at its peak.  Cell mitosis is the cell division that occurs in order to renew and repair skin – whether you’re asleep or not.

Moisture loss increases at night.

You want a really good night cream to prevent trans epidermal water loss (TEWL).  As you sleep your immune system is functioning at its maximum capacity at night, so your skin’s ability to replenish and renew are also functioning at this increased rate of capability. If the cells of the skin are regenerating at night, we should feed them the nutrients and vitamins they need – this is what I call ‘nutrification’.

If you don’t get enough sleep, it’s even more critical to apply a topical product to your skin at night—as the essential skin processes I mention here all slow down when you don’t get enough shut-eye.

The bottom line: support your skin at night and you will see a dramatic difference in your complexion by day.

Speak soon,

Dr. Dennis Gross