Some of the beauty tricks your grandma swore by were, shall we say, less than scientific: rubbing a double chin won’t make it disappear, girdles are modern torture devices, and brushing your hair for 300 strokes will only make you look insane and result in split ends. But she did have one thing right—you can’t overestimate the importance of beauty sleep.
You can use all the deep cleansing masks and conditioning treatments and age-freezing ointments you want, but the most powerful beautifying tool you’ll ever have is your nightly 8 hours. When you go to sleep, your body enters repair mode; skin cells generate and replace older cells, and important hormonal and metabolic processes take place. Your body needs ample time for this important work, and cutting it short means the difference between the glowing, rejuvenated look of the well-rested and the ashy, dull-haired, puffy-eyed appearance of the sleep-deprived.
Case in point: one study from 2010 photographed 23 healthy adults between ages 18 and 31, both after a good night’s sleep and after a night of sleep deprivation, then had 65 untrained observers rate their attractiveness. The upshot? The sleep-deprived pictures were universally “perceived as less healthy, less attractive, and more tired than after a normal night’s sleep.” Not only that, but sleep deprivation actually makes your skin age faster, and can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which are big causes of acne.
While sleep may be pretty close to a beautiful fix-all, there are some things you can do to maximize its beauty benefits. Here are some of our favorite wake-up-gorgeous tips:
- Wash your face! Sleeping with the makeup, oil, and other residue of the day on your skin is a recipe for clogged pores and breakouts.
- Moisturize, moisturize, then moisturize again. Almost all of us underestimate the amount of hydration our bodies need, and night is prime time for dehydration, which can in turn lead to wrinkles. Before you crawl into bed, be sure to apply a moisturizing cream to your (freshly cleaned) face. For bonus points, invest in a humidifier!
- Get a low-friction pillowcase. The less friction between your hair and skin and the pillowcase during the night, the better. A rough surface can spell tangles, breakage, and frizz for your hair and creases and wrinkles for your skin. Choosing a more slippery material like satin or high thread-count cotton allows your skin to glide smoothly across the pillowcase, minimizing any short- or long-term damage.
- Wear your hair in a loose bun (if it’s long enough). Leaving your hair loose when you sleep can not only cause tangles and frizz, but also allow the natural oils from your hair to get all over your face throughout the night. A tight ponytail, on the other hand, pulls on your scalp and follicles (not to mention leaving that telltale crease). A loose bun is the perfect solution. If your hair is particularly prone to frizz, or you’re not ready to invest in a new pillowcase just yet, another great option is to tie your hair up in a satin scarf.
- Sleep with your head slightly elevated. This is not only important for head and neck support, but can help reduce the puffiness around the eyes that so many of us wake up with.
- Change and clean your pillowcases often! Okay, this one is less glam, but it’s just as important. No matter how much you clean up before bed, you’re still subjecting your pillowcase (and sheets, for that matter) to night after night of oil, dirt, and germs. Have a few high-quality pillowcases in rotation, and wash them regularly.
What really makes sleep the ultimate beauty secret is that it’s not adding, taking away, or changing anything about your natural beauty—it’s just a powerful way of letting that natural beauty shine through without any obstruction. Remember to prioritize your rest just as much as your blow-outs, and you’ll be sure to look as glowy and gorgeous as we know you are.