How Bad Is It To Sleep With Makeup On?

More nights than I care to admit, I work into the wee hours of the morning, slinging words so I can pay for important things like Netflix and magnetic eyelashes. When I finally drag my tired body toward the bedroom, I have just enough energy left to brush my teeth before crashing. But as I fall asleep to the symphonic range of my husband’s snoring, I often wonder just how bad it is for me to skip washing my face. Is the good skincare fairy going to come down and bop me on the head?

We all know going to bed in your makeup is a beauty no-no—it’s been drilled in our brains since adolescence. But just how big of a skincare sin is it? To find out whether I will spend the afterlife in a bad skin purgatory of my own making, I tapped a few experts to give the 4-1-1 on sleeping in makeup. Not surprisingly, their answers fall into two categories: not-so-bad, and pretty darn bad.

Here’s What Happens (To Your Skin & Sheets) When You Wear Makeup to Bed

Let’s get the worst news out of the way first. Sleeping in your makeup is not recommended. In fact, it could be wreaking havoc on your skin—but not necessarily in the way you think. It isn’t the act of sleeping in makeup that’s so bad; it simply has a snowball effect on your skin.

“The skin does not know the difference between wearing makeup while one is awake and upright for 16 hours versus when one is horizontal and sleeping for eight hours,” Fayne Frey, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of, told Apartment Therapy. “There is no science that shows wearing makeup to bed is harmful, but there is a deeply ingrained cultural norm to wash the face at nighttime and a lot of speculation!”

So, what makes going to bed sans face wash so bad? Frey returns our question with a question… and a pointed response. “Want to know what you get when you sleep with makeup? You get a dirty pillowcase!”

Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics, expounded on this point, telling us, “Our skin gets covered with dirt, dead skin, and all kinds of pollutants throughout the day. By not scrubbing this outer layer of gunk and dead cells away, you effectively prevent your skin from repairing itself and producing newer, healthier cells.” Included in those pollutants are free radicals, FYI, which break down collagen in your skin and accelerate aging. Read: It could lead to wrinkles.

(Image credit: MaraZe/Shutterstock)

What to Do When You Accidentally Fall Asleep in Your Makeup

We’re all guilty of this bad skincare behavior occasionally. What we need to know now is what to do the next morning, when we wake and remember the poor decision we made the previous night (the one involving your skin, y’all).

Katia Ameri, CEO and founder of skincare startup Mirra, admits even she sometimes skips washing her face at night. However, she suggests keeping makeup wipes on the nightstand as a safeguard to minimize this mistake. Since these don’t remove all traces of your makeup, though, Ameri recommends a three-prong approach the next morning for undoing any damage.

“For one, wash your face! At that point, I would highly recommend doing a double cleanse—oil-based cleanser first to break down the oils on your skin, and then follow with a gel or foam-based cleanser—so that you really clear out your pores,” Ameri shared. She says you should then consider applying a detoxifying clay mask to draw out impurities.

Oh, and if you want to break the cycle of breakouts you’re stuck in, toss that grimy pillowcase in the washing machine. It won’t matter if you go to bed makeup-free if your pillow reapplies it for you (along with some added bacteria) while you sleep.

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