[Updated] This is how lack of sleep impacts your skin health

Published 15th Mar 2024 by PB Admin

Have your clients ever asked how lack of sleep impacts their skin? Here’s how you can help clients overhaul their bedtime routine for optimal skin health, covering the impact a bad night's sleep can have, the best snooze habits customers should instil and more. 


What effect does the amount of sleep you get have on the skin?

1. Dark circles

“Dark circles around the eyes are the most common tell-tale sign of a poor night’s sleep,” says Dr Natalie Blakely, medical director of Light Touch Clinic in Weybridge, Surrey. These are caused by an increase in cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, which the body produces lots of when it’s tired and not getting adequate sleep.

“The dark circles under your eyes become more pronounced and bags will accumulate in this area,” adds celebrity facialist Su-Man, “Your skin will look dull and will not glow.”

2. Cortisol causing swelling

Cortisol causes blood vessels to swell to accommodate an increased volume of blood.

This happens to the blood vessels under the eyes too. “Cortisol activates our ‘flight or fight’ response to make the body more alert when sleep deprived,” explains Blakely. “It can also elevate oil production, leading to breakouts.”

“Sleep induces the production of collagen, so over time a lack of sleep often leads to dark circles, fine lines and pallid complexions,” says Dr Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist also known as ‘The Sleep Doctor’. 

“Plus, growth hormone peaks during deep sleep, and this plays a central role in initiating cellular repair.”

3. Low immune system

The immune system takes a big hit when the body is deprived of regenerating sleep, and Breus says this is a common cause of rashes and other skin-related problems, particularly after chronic sleep deprivation.

Aesthetic doctor Deepa Panch explains, “A good night’s sleep is vital to keep the immune system functioning at its optimum and studies have shown elevated levels of inflammatory molecules are associated with sleep deprivation. 

“This can lead to the development of infections and inflammation which can not only impact the skin and worsen conditions such as acne, eczema and rosacea, but also impact other organs in the body.” 

4. Reduced blood circulation

“When the quality of sleep drops, our blood circulation is less efficient, affecting the oxygen flow and resulting in a dull and tired appearance,” says Jon-Paul Hoy, lead educator at Lesielle UK.

“While we sleep, blood flow is increased which brings nutrients and oxygen to the skin. Without this skin will become dehydrated and fine lines will be more apparent, adds Charlene Stoker, head of education at Image Skincare.

5. Skin puffiness

"When we sleep our skin repairs and renews itself. However, without enough sleep the repair process is slowed and toxins and fluids are not drained correctly, meaning puffiness (especially around the eyes) and the GAG synthesis (production of collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid etc) do not work to their full capacity," says Kirsti Shuba, co-founder of skincare brand Katherine Daniels.

Tired woman


How important are good sleep habits in achieving healthy skin?

Regular sleep not only improves quality of life, it is essential for good health and clear skin.

"These hours are the most effective time for your liver to cleanse the blood. It is also time when your cortisol level decreases and the skin receives a much-needed boost of oxygen. Cellular regeneration also peaks during this time, which is why you wake-up with a glowing complexion when you sleep well," says massage expert Beata Aleksandrowicz.

"Sleep deprivation can often lead to a reduction in collagen production and, as a result, very poor skin elasticity. It is really important that you make your clients aware of how crucial it is to get a good night’s sleep – aiming for around eight hours per night. During your consultation, ask them about their sleeping patterns. Suggest they avoid spicy food in the evening and also excessive activity."

Aleksandrowicz also suggests getting them to slow down in the evening to help to fall and stay asleep, for example, going for "a gentle walk and then a bath with some lavender essential oil," she says. "You can also suggest that once they are in bed, they can take few simple and mindful breaths while holding their face in their hands. The room should be fresh and windows curtained to keep out the light. 

"I also recommend to clients to avoid blue light from digital devices for at least an hour before bed and not to take devices into the bedroom. We need darkness to produce enough melatonin to help promote a deep sleep."

The way you sleep can impact your skin too. Panch says, “Investing in a silk pillowcase can help to reduce the friction between your skin and the pillow surface. Silk also absorbs less moisture than cotton so you can be certain your night-time products are more likely to stay on your face as opposed to being absorbed by the fabric. Your skin is also going to be more hydrated. 

“Additionally, sleeping on your back will reduce the chances of developing ‘sleep lines’ which can occur with side or front sleeping. Repeated pressure on the face can lead to lines that are notoriously difficult to manage as they deepen over time.”

The time when clients head to bed is also important and it is best to try to go to sleep around the same time every day. Hoy explains, “We generally say that we need eight hours of sleep; however, it's worth considering what time we’re going to sleep because our skin starts the repair process from around 9pm – meaning an early night is equally as important as the length of time we sleep.”

Which essential oils are best for a sleep disorder such as insomnia?

"If clients are looking to really relax and get the best night’s sleep possible, vetivert, camomile and sandalwood should be the go-to blend," advises Christina Salcedas, global director of education at Aromatherapy Associates.

"While lavender is most recognised as being great for promoting relaxation, I would argue that vetivert and wild camomile have the strongest sedative properties.

"If clients want to simply unwind and chill out after a busy day, a blend of ylang ylang, petitgrain and lavender is great."

Matt Taylor, brand and education manager at Eve Taylor London, adds, “Research shows that the chemical constituents within lavender can inhibit several neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain, resulting in the lowering of blood pressure, tension, and the slowing down of busy brain waves. 

“Lavender can be incorporated into your daily regime and impart deeply relaxing effects to the senses, helping you drift away into comfortable stillness.”

What can clients do the morning after a bad sleep?

Sometimes, whatever you try you just don't get enough sleep but there are things clients can do to minimise the impact. 

“My advice is to make sure when this happens, you do a morning cleanse and deep massage.” shares Su-Man. “This will activate the muscles and improve blood circulation as well as increase the metabolic function of the skin. Your skin will feel more of a glow and help get rid of this dull look."

Some clients may also try skin icing to bring down any puffiness - find out more about skin icing treatments here.


Essential oils

What are the best ingredients for counteracting signs of poor sleep on the face? 

Hyaluronic acid is your superstar ingredient,” says Blakely. “Lack of sleep can make the skin look tired and washed out, so you need something to give the skin a boost. Capable of holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates to plump and brighten tired skin.” Recommend clients try a hyaluronic-boosting serum or course of infusion facials to restore plumpness.

Tracey Woodward, beauty and aromatherapy expert and co-creator of Kalmar, advises turning to the power of essential oils. “Clients are looking for ways to sleep better and find calm and balance, and actually as soon as you take a product off the shelf to change how you feel you own the next step. With aromatherapy, what you smell is what you need. 

"If you were looking at individual oils to sleep, you would be looking at the vetiver, the chamomile and lavender."

What tips can I give clients to improve their sleep?

“It’s really important that we educate clients during any skin treatment consultation and explain how poor sleeping patterns can affect the skin. If you can really get them to understand the value of sleep, they will be motivated to make lifestyle adjustments,” advises Blakely. “Explain that while the odd late night isn’t going to cause too much damage, inconsistent sleeping patterns over time will have an impact on skin.”

She tells clients that one of the simplest ways to improve their sleep is to switch off all digital devices before bed, as many people don’t consider just how disruptive notification noises and blue light from devices are to rest. 

Taylor comments, “The intake of information, whether from watching reports on the news, reading posts on social media or late-night texts, has the tendency to keep our minds ticking over and increase stress hormones in the body – not what is needed before we retire to bed.

“Avoiding social media and the news in the late evening can alleviate unnecessary stress and reduce tension for a more relaxed feeling.”

Breus devised a method for his patients to use during that last hour before bed to prepare for sleep as much as possible: “20 minutes of those small things that just need to get done before bed, followed by 20 minutes of bedtime hygiene (personal practices or habits that are necessary for a good night’s sleep), and finally, 20 minutes of meditation, relaxation or massage.”

Regulating what you put into your body before bedtime also helps to improve sleep and can have long term effects. “A poor night’s sleep can leave us feeling tired the next day, with caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and energy drinks seen as the boost we need,” says Taylor.

“However, when consumed in the afternoon and early evening, these stimulating beverages can then keep us alert, impacting our next sleep time. Chamomile and valerian teas are widely available and are well regarded for their soothing actions to relax the senses and induce restful slumber.

“While drinking alcohol to help you relax and fall asleep faster can be an attractive option, it can affect the quantity and quality of your sleep by disrupting your slumber later in the night with potential bathroom visits.”

How can skincare support the skin’s night-time repair processes?

Using skincare personalised to their individual needs can help clients to maximise the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Vitamin C is a great ingredient to use at night because this powerful antioxidant can help with cell repair, aid hydration and improve the general health of the skin,” says Hoy.

“Another powerful ingredient, especially if used at night, is niacinamide. It can increase collagen and cell function, reinforce our protective barrier, lock in moisture and prevent moisture loss as we sleep.”

“The final hero ingredient is a retinoid,” adds Stoker. “It will help to regulate the skin, encouraging a natural glow by hydrating, brightening, strengthening collagen and increase healing.”

Don't miss: Tips for better skin during perimenopause and menopause and how to reduce post-acne pigmentation and scarring

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 15th Mar 2024

Have all the latest news delivered to your inbox

You must be a member to save and like images from the gallery.