Besides dark circles, here’s how lack of sleep is damaging your skin (and how to fix it)

9 January 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

While you might think that a lack of sleep isn’t doing much damage beyond increasing your under-eye bags, the reality is it can affect your complexion in a multitude of ways. From moisture loss to unwanted breakouts, sleep deprivation shows.

Even though a lack of sleep isn’t uncommon – with our busy lifestyles, full of stress and smartphones – it’s a problem that needs tackling if you want to avoid skin issues. Luckily there are lotions and potions at hand that can mimic eight hours of shut-eye in an instant. But all in all, there is such a thing as beauty sleep – because enough of it is vital for a glowing complexion.

Photography: Karen Inderbitzen-Waller & Delphine Avril Planqueel.  Stylist: @danielleclausen for Fashion Quarterly Issue 3, 2018.

1. Your skin becomes imbalanced

Sleep is the time when your body recovers moisture; but when you haven’t had enough of it, moisture levels in the skin fall. Dehydration is triggered when pH levels in the skin drop, and this creates an imbalance, limiting the moisture your skin is able to produce. Therefore, a pH imbalance will result in a less fresh and hydrated complexion. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – sleep deprivation can cause a whole host of skin issues such as redness and inflammation.

Solution: Use skincare with a slightly acidic level to brighten skin.

Try: Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner, $28

2. You get dark circles

It’s the biggest giveaway you’ve had little sleep, but why does it happen? Skin cells regenerate when you sleep, but if you stay awake for longer, blood vessels dilate and blue or purple shadows will appear under the eyes. As the under-eye area is one of the thinner areas on the face, it’s where darkness has a tendency to show up.

As well as dark circles, under-eye bags are a common symptom of sleep deprivation. When you sleep on your stomach, liquid can drain and stay in the groove of your under eye and cause puffiness and inflammation.

Solution: It might seem like a gimmick, but placing caffeinated tea bags on each eye for five minutes will leave the under eye area looking fresher and brighter, reducing any puffiness. Just soak two tea bags in warm water, chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes, and apply to eyes for another 5 minutes.


Using a colour-correcting primer with a yellow or peach tint will also work wonders to cancel out blue tones. Then, tap regular concealer over top.

Try: Clarins SOS Primer in Peach, $64

3. Your complexion looks dull

When you miss sleep your cortisol levels – the hormone responsible for stress – increase, which causes inflammation. This inflammation breaks down the proteins in the skin that keep it radiant and smooth. This isn’t the only reason your complexion may look duller after a restless night of sleep.

If you are tired, oxygen flow is reduced and blood flow goes to your vital organs instead of your face – leading to skin that’s ashy, pigmented or blotchy.

Solution: To stimulate blood flow, implement a more relaxing skin care routine and allow time to give yourself a facial massage when cleansing. A melt-in balm cleanser is the perfect way to do this, and will increase glow in the process.

Try: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, $65, from Life Pharmacy

4. Your skin shows visible signs of ageing

Rising cortisol levels have a substantial impact on collagen production, it turns out. Collagen is a protein that directly affects skin’s elasticity and the visible signs of ageing. When production of it increases due to lack of sleep, the skin becomes thinner, less firm and not as smooth. In other words, sleep deprivation can accelerate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles if you’re not too careful.

Solution: Use collagen-infused skin care to give your complexion a boost.

Try: Murad Rapid Collagen Infusion, $160

5. You wake up to breakouts

Those pesky stress hormones also trigger acne. Increased oil production is another feature of high cortisol levels, which has a tendency to clog pores and cause unwanted pimples. It’s just another reason to catch some zzzs.

Solution: Use an exfoliating treatment with salicylic acid or natural alternative, willow bark, to promote cell turnover and prevent bacteria from building up in pores.

Try: Essano Clear Complexion Rapid Action Blemish Gel, $15.99

Words: Emma Gordon
Photos: Supplied

This article originally appeared on beautyheaven

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