Is Falling Asleep In Your Makeup Actually That Bad?

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Not long ago, Kim Kardashian took to Snapchat to admit that she sometimes sleeps in her makeup in a bid to preserve it (hey, she's a busy woman), while international makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury has revealed that her husband has never seen her without it – in fact, she wears eye makeup to bed every night.
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about leaving my sharper-than-sharp cat-eye intact until the next morning (makeup lovers, you get it, right?) and I can't be the only one who has crashed after an exhausting day at work (read: wild Thursday drinks), still wearing a full face. Actually, I know I'm not: studies suggest that almost two-thirds of women have done, too.
Advertisement
There are always mixed feelings when you wake up in the morning: 1) That was the last pillowcase and I really must put a wash on, 2) Actually, I'm pretty impressed by the staying power of this foundation, and 3) Wait, that can't have been good for my skin.
But is dodging the cleanser really as bad as everyone makes out? Refinery29 gets the experts involved.
If It's A One-Off
According to skin specialists, if you aren't a repeat offender, there's no reason to freak out – but regularly catching your Zs without consulting your cleanser could lead to one of the most common skin concerns: spots, especially if you bury your face in your pillow.
"The compression of makeup-laden skin to pillow will block natural sebum production," says international facialist and author of Love Your Skin, Abigail James. When skin becomes congested, breakouts can appear left, right and centre.
Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sam Bunting agrees but mentions that on rare occasions, it isn't as terrible as we're all made to believe. "You might be somewhat prone to breaking out if you sleep face down," she says, "but provided it's a rarity, wearing make-up at night is really no different to wearing it in the daytime. In essence, if you wear a foundation or tinted moisturiser that doesn't break you out during the day, it's not terribly likely to break you out at night."
And it's the same for lashes. "I don't know of any specific reason why sleeping in mascara would harm lashes at night if it's perfectly fine during the day," she says.
Advertisement
Great news, right? Well...
If You Do It All The Time
"The odd night – I mean a couple of times a month – is not going to prematurely age you or result in you waking up with acne" says Abigail, but there is evidence that repeat offenders might be slowing down their skin's regeneration process, which could explain why that youthful glow you covet is pretty elusive right now.
Alicia Falero, head of education at Gazelli Skincare says that "By leaving your makeup on regularly, you're basically putting your cells in a pair of handcuffs," which is something Kirsti Shuba, skin expert and cofounder of Katherine Daniels Cosmetics explains further.
"Our skin cells are naturally renewed and repaired at night – the optimum time is 1am, to be precise – and healthy, new ones are produced," she says. "But if we regularly put off cleansing our skin, we aren't giving those cells the best chance to restore and rehydrate themselves – and this is when the ageing process can accelerate. Your skin will start to look blotchy, dull, dehydrated and lifeless, and fine lines and wrinkles could appear. This sort of damage could take a while to reverse."
But that's not all, because leaving makeup on during the night means you'll also be missing out on myriad miracle skincare products launching into the beauty sphere every day – and with cult brands like Farmacy and The Ordinary churning out groundbreaking ingredients quicker than it takes us to nod off, this is a real shame.
Advertisement
"If you sleep in makeup regularly, your skin is not getting the benefits of night-time leave-on products like retinoids," says Dr. Bunting, "so in summary, sleeping in makeup should be an exception, not the rule."
Kirsti agrees and says that our laziness could even be burning a hole in our pocket: "Any skincare products you apply to skin that hasn't been cleansed properly won't work to their full potential," she says. "They will simply sit on a layer of dead cells, pollution and excess oil and, essentially, this is a waste of money."
The Lazy Girl's Guide To Quick Cleansing
The thought of trudging to the sink to wash off every scrap of makeup after a heavy night out can feel even more demanding than gearing up to run the London Marathon but, in this case, it's okay to cheat. A little.
According to Knightsbridge-based facialist Pietro Simone and Dr. Bunting, micellar water is the lazy girl's best bet. "Keep a big bottle of Bioderma's Sensibio H20 Micellar Water by the bed with a heap of cotton pads," says Dr. Bunting. "It's better than a wipe as it's less likely to clog pores, and even though it isn't as good as a proper water-based cleanse – which removes dead skin cells, pollution and excess oil – it's an acceptable shortcut if done every so often."
Vanesha Moustapha, director and beauty therapist at ColourNation seconds this. "Grab a 3-in-1 makeup remover – it'll take a minimum of two minutes, which isn't long at all. Even if you're feeling tired and lazy, please don't be with your skin!"
Advertisement
And according to Pietro, cleansing before bed is the least we can do for our skin, especially considering everything else we fling at it during the day. "Sleeping in makeup regularly is only going to accelerate the ageing and inflammation processes," he warns. "Already, our lifestyles are full of stress, chemical agents, pollution and processed food and drink containing sugar, so we need to be aware that cleansing, toning and moisturising means protecting."
But if you really just cba, brands like Neal's Yard, Johnson & Johnson and The Estée Edit have given face wipes an identity overhaul, drenching their towelettes with ingredients like aloe vera and other soothing plant extracts to minimise irritation. Just don't fall into a skincare rut – if used at all, it should be on a one-off basis.
If You're Going To Do It, Do It In Something Lightweight
"I think the gravity of this skin sin is very much dependent on what makeup you are using," says Dr. Bunting. "Heavy-duty, long-wear foundations are occlusive and therefore very likely to promote acne and sleeping in it will take the situation to Defcon 5. But if your makeup is well chosen, not much will happen, provided it's a rarity."
So if you're prone to falling asleep with your slap intact, it pays to be savvy. "While I would always recommend removing makeup before bed – and I always cleanse with organic coconut oil – there are some great products out there which are really lightweight on the skin," says professional makeup artist, Gabriella Floyd.
Advertisement
"The Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation provides perfect sheer-to-medium coverage that'll give you supermodel skin in an instant and it's really delicate. For blush, my go-tos are the Nars Multiple Sticks and for a quick bronzer, it has to be the Chanel Tan de Soleil – it's so blendable."
Mineral types, such as Jane Iredale, Inika and bareMinerals are also gentle on the skin, says Abigail. "Minerals are totally natural and are actually hugely beneficial and balancing, but do watch out for 'oil-free' makeup. It really makes no difference because there are still artificial colours, fragrances and silicones smothering your skin at night."
Sweet dreams.
Advertisement