Night Shift – Cosmetics Magazine, November/December 2010
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Night Shift – Cosmetics Magazine, November/December 2010

Ask a Dermatologist
Night Shift: How the skin repairs itself at night. 

Cosmetics Magazine: To start, what happens within our skin at night while we sleep? What processes take place?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: Sweating and blood flow in the skin are regulated by certain nerves in the skin at night and these factors differ depending on what stage of sleep you are in. Scientists have identified five stages of sleep that you or I pass through which they call a sleep cycle. A complete sleep cycle lasts an average of 90 to 110 minutes and the stages are called 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It’s important to understand that sleep is a naturally recurring altered state of consciousness with relatively suspended sensory and motor activity, characterized by the inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. It is, in fact, a heightened anabolic state, accentuating the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, skeletal and muscular systems. It is incredibly important for allowing the body to heal, recover and grow. Sleep dept, the effect of not getting enough sleep, has been proven to cause mental, emotional and physical fatigue.

Cosmetics: Are there any particular ingredients that work better at night?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: There is a paucity of evidence-based medicine that specifically examines this issue as of yet. However, in general, retinoids are best used at night as they can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. I advise using them at night for this reason.

Cosmetics: How important is cleansing thoroughly before bed? What happens if we don’t?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: Especially with patients who are prone to acne breakouts, it is best to cleanse before bed as makeup and dirt can exacerbate acne.

Cosmetics: Why do night creams tend to be thicker than those used during the day?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: Many night creams are quite thick and thus are not cosmetically acceptable during the day. It really is a comfort issue. We prefer to use lightweight moisturizers during the day especially under makeup.

Cosmetics: What ingredients should we look for in a night cream?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: The most important ingredient is a vitamin A product of at least the strength of 1% retinol. This is what I recommend to patients in my clinic.

Cosmetics: We see many young girls using night creams developed for women in their 50s and 60s. Can this cause problems?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: This is a trend that I am starting to see. Some young women think that if they use really strong anti-aging products designed for older consumers, they will prevent wrinkles and many signs of aging. This isn’t the best approach. Night creams developed for older skin types can be quite thick and oil-based and thus can result in acne breakouts in younger patients. The most important skincare product for younger girls is a good quality broad spectrum sunscreen. That paired with skincare products designed for their particular skin type will offer the best results.

Cosmetics: What order should you apply skincare products at night?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: An ideal serum is a 1 retinol which can be applied either before a moisturizer or can be mixed into a moisturizer.

Cosmetics: What do readers need to know about skin at night?

Dr. Lisa Kellett: Repair processes in the skin are an ongoing process occurring throughout the day. Otherwise, night shift workers would have problem! The most important anti-aging step is a good vitamin A, minimal alcohol and a good night’s sleep.

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