Woah, woah, woah! Skin ages *how* much faster when you don’t wash it before bed?


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Photo: Getty/ PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou

Usually, when I’m stopped dead in my Insta scroll, it’s by a photo of an ex and his stunning new wife on the altar (knife emoji). This week, however, what made me press pause was a somehow scarier post by dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD, which stated, “Did you know that going to bed with your makeup on can age your skin up to 7x faster?”

Um, what? (The. Scream. Emoji.) As someone who thoroughly applies a daily skin-care regimen with the express purpose of clinging desperately to my youth (kidding… kinda), but who also *sometimes* can’t be bothered with basic hygiene such as a before-bed rinse, this tidbit is alarming. By passing out pre-scrub, I knew I wasn’t doing my skin any favors, but I also naively thought the damage was limited to breakouts (to which I’m not really prone). Apparently, I was wrong.

To help me understand why, Dr. Mariwalla explains that night is a time for skin renewal; however, when makeup lays over pores, trapping dead skin and bacteria, it blocks the skin from shedding normally and thus renewing. Plus, she says, skin-destroying free radicals can cling to makeup. “We know that these cause photoaging and can lead to the formation of wrinkles,” she explains. “By not allowing your skin to recover from oxidative stress that occurs during the day, you can wind up with prematurely aged skin.” Free radicals, she adds, also lead to collagen degradation.

While Dr. Mariwalla admits that thick foundations and oil-based makeup are worse for the skin than lighter formulations, she says makeup in general occludes (read: blocks) pores, which is the first step to trouble. “And remember that even if you wear no makeup, washing your face before bed is important just to rinse off the accumulation of oil and dirt that occurs naturally during the day,” she says. A half-wash doesn’t count, by the way. Even if you don’t have full makeup on, Dr. Mariwalla says that mascara and eyeliner left on the lashes and lids can still lead to skin irritation. And while makeup wipes aren’t ideal, she concedes they’re better than nothing. “Try to do two passes instead of one,” she advises.

When I ask her if the whole free-radical bit means we’re ruining our skin by wearing makeup regardless of the time of day, she tells me it’s more so a mixture of exposures doing the damage. “As we do more outdoor activities and spend more time commuting and are exposed to environmental pollutants, I would say there are a lot more things causing us to age during the day, not just makeup,” she says. Her prescription, however, remains unchanged: “Of all the things that are supposed to help us combat that daytime stress, the nighttime routine is key—that means washing the face and getting sleep.”

So, the moral of the story seems to be that you should just always, always wash your face before bed (duh!). Still, let’s say you don’t, for whatever very good reason you might have. (A first-time overnight slumber sesh counts as such, in my opinion.) Is all hope of retaining a youthful glow lost? “I would make sure you wash well the next morning and try to use an antioxidant underneath your make up the following day,” says Dr. Mariwalla. “One day won’t do anything too bad, but try to not wear heavy makeup day after day if that happens.”

Noted; however, since my ruddy Irish complexion calls for a daily spackle of the thickest makeup on the market, it seems my best chance at youthful skin is to, at long last, just get my sh*t together and wash my face before bed. This may at some point require me to pull a full Kristen Wiig in Bridemaids, aka get up very early in the morning to re-apply my makeup before the boy beside me stirs, but it’ll be a small price to pay for not turning into Magda from There’s Something About Mary overnight.

If you shower at night, all good—just make sure to do this one thing if you’re going to wash your face in there, too. Oh, and timing is everything; here’s why derms say it matters when you wash your face at night

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