As good as it feels to wash away the grime that builds up on your face throughout the day, we have to admit that sometimes it can be a real pain in the butt. Maybe you stayed up way past your normal bedtime to cram for a test or you’re already snuggled up in bed in the middle of a Netflix binge â€” taking off your makeup can seem like a chore when you’re just not in the mood.
But how bad is it to go to bed with your makeup on? We turned to the pros â€” Dr. Heidi Waldorf, cosmetic dermatologist in NYC and Nanuet, and Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of her eponymous salon and skincare collection â€” to see what really happens when you don’t take off your makeup before crawling into bed. It’s surprisingly not as clear cut as you think.
Why do I need to wash my face anyway?
Aside from saving your duvet cover and towels from being coated in foundation, removing your makeup at night and washing your face keeps your skin healthy. “While we sleep, the body repairs damage that has occurred during the day,” Joanna explains. From internal factors like stress to external skin offenders like pollution and sun exposure, your body is working to recover while you snooze. While leaving makeup on your face won’t necessarily interfere with this repairing, it will prevent your nightly skincare products from working their magic. “If you use topical acne or anti-aging creams, serums or gels, washing your face before applying them will enhance their penetration and efficacy,” Dr. Waldorf says.
What happens if I miss one night?
No matter what your skin type, if you aren’t completely removing your makeup at night, you’re immediately setting yourself up for a breakout. While Joanna notes that oily skin types definitely experience this more, she tells us, “even someone older would wake up with a breakout at times if they did this.” Basically, if you’ve put on an Instagram face of makeup and aren’t washing it off at the end of the day, you’re clogging your pores, which then leads to acne and inflammation (you, know, those super painful cystic breakouts).
But it’s not just acne you have to worry about, Dr. Waldorf explains that not washing off your makeup can exacerbate other skin conditions like eczema, too. “Your makeup may also harbor bacteria and debris you come into contact with during the day from your cell phone, gym equipment, and other people.” That can irritate the skin even further if you’re not washing it away.
What are the long-term effects?
If you’ve already made it a habit to go straight to bed without washing your face, there’s an even bigger reason than breakouts to start cleansing, ASAP. “Makeup can hang onto sweat, physical pollution and dirt,” Dr. Waldorf points out. It’s no surprise that not washing that off can immediately cause breakouts and a dull complexion. But since pollutants can penetrate the skin and break down collagen, over time, that causes premature aging in the form of fine lines and wrinkles.
Can’t I just use a makeup wipe?
Yes and no. While it’s a good idea to keep them by your bed for those nights you’re too tired to move, our experts have mixed feelings when it comes to solely relying on a wipe to clean your skin. “A makeup remover towelette like those made by Simple, Neutrogena or Aveeno is plenty if you wear light to moderate makeup or no makeup,” Dr. Waldorf says. “If you do wear heavy makeup or head to the gym after school with makeup, use a gentle cleanser likeCaudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk or CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser with a Clarisonic for two minutes.”
Joanna isn’t as keen on the towelettes, preferring them as more of a “quick fix” solution for when you’re on-the-go. “Usually you need to use several wipes to fully get the dirt and makeup off your face,” she explains. And while not getting all of the makeup off isn’t as bad as totally skipping out, your skin will still suffer if you’re solely relying on makeup wipes. “The skin around the hairline and the cheekbones are more susceptible to breakouts if you are only using wipes because those areas tend to have more of a buildup of makeup and dirt throughout the day,” Joanna says.
So what should I wash my face with?
To really ensure your skin is clean, Joanna insists you start by using a makeup remover. “I like a makeup remover that contains calendula flower extract because it cleans well and is very calming for the skin,” she says. (We love a gentle oil-based formula like the Well Within Planted in Beauty Purify + Condition Makeup Remover.) When it comes to washing your face, a gentle foam cleanser is a safe option for all skin types. Joanna recommends a version with vitamin C (like her Joanna Vargas Vitamin C Face Wash), which supports elasticity and protects against premature aging.
But don’t go overboard when you wash. “Your skin should never be squeaky clean,” Dr. Waldorf warns. “You can have just as many, if not more problems from stripping your skin of its needed proteins and lipids,” she says.
Does it matter how I sleep?
Not as much as anti-aging articles would have you believe, according to Dr. Waldorf. “I think it’s more important to get a good night’s sleep than to worry about how you are sleeping,” she emphasizes. “In an ideal world, we would all sleep on our backs to avoid the development of sleep lines, but that doesn’t work for most people.” If you wake up with lines from your pillowcase imbedded in your skin, Dr. Waldorf recommends investing in a special pillowcase. “The Iluminage Skin Rejuvenating Pillowcase contains copper fabric, which has been shown to be regenerating,” she says. Just don’t skip out on taking off your makeup first.
This story originally appeared on Teen Vogue.