While late nights might point to either a happening social life or a rewarding career, the effects on your skin and hair are somewhat less than flattering. Faye Remedios chalks out a complete lifestyle guide to help you wake up looking fabulous
One of the best-kept celebrity secrets— beauty industry insiders will vouch for this—is that the stars with the most flawless complexions are tucked into bed by 10 pm. And any claims to the contrary of wild partying or nights that end at sunrise are usually exaggerations. But that glow is not just down to hitting the hay early. Many factors affect your beauty sleep, including how long and how deeply you rest, what you eat for dinner and even the beauty products you use at night.
WATCH OUT FOR PANDA EYES
Lack of sleep stresses the body and causes it to release more cortisol, which leads to an accelerated breakdown of collagen in our tissues—and you need collagen to keep your skin firm and supple. “Apart from this, the skin looks drier, especially if you have had a late night with drinks and smoking. The shadows around the eyes look more pronounced and the skin looks dull,” cautions Dr Shuba Dharmana, founder, Le’Jeune Medspa. Women who are deprived of sleep have a disturbed skin-barrier function, and a greater loss of water from the skin. They also have far higher levels of inflammatory chemicals, which over time take, a toll on both the outer epidermal layers and the deeper dermal structures. “Also, lack of sleep disturbs our hormonal balance, giving rise to pigmentation, breakouts and early signs of ageing,” warns Rupal Tyagi, certified aromatherapist, perfumer and founder, Wikka.
EIGHT HOURS, EXPLAINED
Sleeping five hours or less a day is known to cause some serious damage, as well as accelerate ageing. Seven to eight hours is ideal. Yoga and health consultant Mickey Mehta says, “A good eight hours of sleep and rest will restore your biorhythms. It will heal the previous day’s wear and tear. Typically, when food is already predigested, you are relaxed, your brain and other functions switch off, and sleep comes quite naturally. When you wake up, you are bursting with creativity, and feel energised and rejuvenated.”
“While we sleep at night, our body produces hormones that are powerful antioxidants. These hormones help in detoxifying the skin and body. Sleep deprivation leads to stress and aggravates skin damage and break-outs,” says Shikhee Agrawal, skincare trainer, The Body Shop. Late nights cause dullness, puffy eyes and dark circles. Sleep is the body’s time to send fresh cells to the epidermis, replacing old and damaged cells.
THE TIME STARTS…NOW
You should aim to be in bed by 10 pm. Have a light dinner, read a book rather than stare at a screen and, if you can manage it, go for a brisk 20-minute walk and take a shower before bedtime. This gets your blood pumping, and opens and cleanses your pores; so any product you use will be better absorbed. Dab lavender or tea rose oil on your pillow to sweeten the deal.
Before you crash, cleanse all makeup and moisturise thoroughly from head to toe. Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist and laser surgeon, Cutis Skin Studio, suggests the best products to use at night: “Use anti-ageing serums, under-eye creams and products that contain retinols and other peeling and photosensitive agents. Ingredients like vitamin C and hydroquinone are sunlight sensitive and so are better used at night. Due to the body’s supine position, the skin’s metabolism increases at night, and creams and antioxidants are absorbed much better as compared to day time.”
With time, you may find the need to add heavier moisturisers, perhaps with hyaluronic acid to plump out the skin and fill up fine lines and wrinkles. A sleeping mask can be an occasional treat. Dr Kiran Lohia, medical director, Lumiere Dermatology, Delhi, says, “Sleeping masks and regular moisturisers are not too different, except that the masks may have a higher percentage of active ingredients. Also, if the sleeping mask is made of cotton or is cloth-based, then the occlusion can help improve absorption.” Dr Goel also advises using the products as close to your sleeping time as possible. “While having dinner or watching television, you will be exposed to light and this may change the properties of some of the products.” The ideal time to apply beauty products is around 10 to 15 minutes before sleeping.
Dr Dharmana advises keeping your last meal as light as possible so there’s minimal metabolic activity as you rest all night. Eat a low-carbohydrate, gluten-free meal at night and you won’t wake up feeling heavy, bloated or with a sore stomach. Don’t skip meals and don’t go to bed hungry. A warm glass of milk with turmeric is, typically, what doctors recommend for insomniacs. A glass of warm water or chamomile or jasmine tea works as well. Fill up on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, greens and salads. Nuts and seeds are good sources of tryptophan, the sleep-enhancing amino acid, and the minerals from fruits and vegetables are a great long-term cure for sleepless nights.
It’s not just your skin that benefits from sleeping well. Your hair has much to gain too. And it turns out there is something in the ancient advice about brushing your hair 100 times before sleeping. Brushing the scalp stimulates the sebaceous gland, which in turn produces more sebum. When sebum and sweat combine on the scalp surface, they help to create the acid mantle, which is the skin’s own protective layer. Always use luke warm or cold water to wash your hair, and don’t sleep with damp hair. Make sure hair accessories like bobby pins and clips are carefully taken out before sleeping. Dr Priyanka Prakash, consultant dermatologist, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, warns against tying your hair too tight before sleeping, as the constant pull at the roots may result in tractional alopecia. On the other hand, the combination of loose hair and linen pillow covers increases electrostatic pressure and damages cuticles. So, a loose ponytail, a silk pillowcase and a serum or leave-in conditioner are your best bets.
WALK TOWARDS THE LIGHT
If you prefer to exercise at night, cardiovascular conditioning exercises like aerobics, walking and swimming are excellent at restoring sleep cycles. Yoga too has a therapeutic effect. Mickey advises poses like janu shirsasan (head to knee pose), ardha chandrasana (half moon pose), padahastasana, ardha kurmasana (half tortoise pose), ustrasana (camel pose), balasana (child pose) and shavasana (corpse pose). He also recommends breathing exercises. When you breathe out consciously, you release tensions and toxins, and deepen your focus and awareness. Lie down, take a deep breath, hold to the count of five and slowly release counting to five before inhaling again. Visualise your breath filling your body with oxygen, rejuvenating tired cells.
PHOTOGRAPHS: SHUTTERSTOCK; GETTY IMAGES