Sleeping (for) beauty


If there ever were a magical fountain of youth, it would probably be good sleep, for it’s at night that your skin and body rejuvenate and signs of ageing can be reversed. A night of sound sleep is vital for your health, your appearance and your mental state – all are adversely affected by poor sleep or too little of it.

Sleep and skin

The skin is a dynamic organ that not only changes depending on the season and the environment, but also exhibits fluctuations from day to night. These shifts in biological activity are called circadian (24-hour) rhythms and while some are distinct, others are less understood.

Two rhythms of note are the excretion of sebum (oil) and trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). The latter indicates how well the skin is performing as a barrier: the less water is lost through the skin, the more effective is the function of the epidermis as a barrier, due to excess sebum. Skin excretes most sebum at midday, which coincides with the least amount of water loss. 

The temperature and pH of the skin also fluctuate from day to night, the temperature peaking in the evening, when the pH is lowest. Overall, skin excretes less sebum, loses more water and is hotter and more acidic at night than it is during the day. The combination of these factors means the skin is likely to be drier and more vulnerable to irritation at night.


During the night, and particularly between 12am and 1am, the number of cell divisions increases, which leads to intense rejuvenating of the skin cells. By contrast, the skin is ‘at rest’ during the day, simply doing its work as a protective barrier.

The hours of sleep are needed to slow down the process of ageing. The younger you are, the more ‘beauty sleep’ you need. But, as US dermatologist Dr Nicholas Perricone says, all of us suffer from lack of sleep. In his book Forever Young he emphasi­ses that we need to follow the circadian rhythm of our bodies.

Lack of sleep, he adds, creates stress in the body, which increases internal toxins and these deregulate the systems that protect and repair the skin during sleep.

“In addition to steering clear of sugary, starchy foods and beverages, a good night’s sleep is one of the best friends a glowing, youthful complexion can have. Adequate sleep will restore luminosity to the skin while improving tone and texture. When we do not get enough sleep, our eyes will be puffy, bags and dark circles will appear under the eyes, [and] fine lines and an unhealthy pallor will greet us in the morning. During the waking hours, stress can play havoc with our skin; it is only during the hours of sleep that we can undo these harmful effects.”

As stress increasingly becomes part of our daily lives, our skin soon begins to show signs of fatigue: drawn features, lack of radiance, tension-related lines, dullness and general symptoms of ageing such as uneven skin tone, blemishes, loss of elasticity and sagging facial contours. 

Dr Riekie Smit, medical adviser to French skincare brand Filorga, expounds, “Fatigue-related wrinkles are those lines in our complexion that are exacerbated by stress and lack of sleep, such as crow’s feet, frown lines and naso-labial folds.” Filorga addresses this with several products specially formulated to assist skin rejuvenation and regeneration at night.

Why you should use night-specific skin-care products

Night is when the skin is most active, repairing, rejuvenating and healing. It is while you sleep that it corrects harm done by the previous day’s stresses and recharges its cells for the day ahead. Night is also when booster products support this activity, addressing problems like pigmentation and age spots. Just as you need the hours of sleep to slow down ageing, you need the right product to help restore the skin’s correct functioning and its youthfulness.

Night-care treatments are specifically designed to help the skin tackle the symptoms of fatigue and stress and take advantage of your sleep cycle to regenerate the skin and erase signs of tiredness. We need to strengthen and rejuvenate the skin’s underlying structures with the use of treatments that protect and extend the life of the skin’s own stem cells, delaying the effect of ageing.

Night creams, night serums and night masks are formulated to maximise and restore cellular function and they contain extra active ingredients to assist the skin with its nocturnal reparative processes. Night products are often heavier and more hydrating than products intended for daytime use, offering more nourishment to replace the moisture that skin has lost during the day. Some (like retinol-based products) are formulated to be used exclu­sively at night, when the skin is not exposed to UV exposure, which can cause irritation. 

All in all, the advantage of using night products is that when you wake up, your skin will feel renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated and hydrated.

Serums and creams

Payot  Blue Techni-Liss range

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum

Sothys nO2ctuelle Detox Resurfacing Overnight Cream

Filorga Innovation Sleep & Lift Ultra-Lifting Night Cream

Gatineau Age Benefit Ultra Regenerating Night Elixir

Dermalogica Overnight Repair Serum

Sisley Botanical D-Toxifying Night Treatment

BioNike Defence Elixage Nuit Intensive Night Treatment

Eau Thermale Avène Physiolift Nuit Smoothing Regenerating Balm

Dermalogica Nightly Lip Treatment

NUXE Nuxellence Detox Detoxifying and Youth Revealing Anti-Aging Care

Dr Hauschka Night Serum

Theravine Ultravine Advance Rose Night Cream

Skinlogic Night With Apple Extract

African Extracts Rooibos Firming Night Cream

Dermaceutic Turn Over Stimulating Night Cream

Pradiance Natural Organic Skincare Illuminating Night Serum

Noreva Iklen+ Anti-Dark Spot Corrector Serum

Beaucience Natural Night Nourishing Cream

skinPhD Pauseage CellCeutic Night

Avon Anew Platinum Night  Define & Contour Cream

Eau Thermale Avène Sérénage Night Nutri-densifying Night Cream

Elizabeth Arden PREVAGE Night Anti-Aging Restorative Cream.

Night masks (the latest trend) 

Filorga NCEF-Night Mask

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Overnight Firming Mask

Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask

Dermalogica Sound Sleep Cocoon Transformative Night Gel-Cream. 

Getting the blues

A lifestyle based increasingly on digital devices is wreaking havoc on our sleep, says sleep therapist Dr Alison Bentley (MBBCh PhD), who works at the Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg.

“Increased exposure to the blue light from phones, laptops, tablets and computers changes the timing of our sleep patterns, much like travelling across time zones causes jetlag,” she explains. “Light and melatonin control the timing of the sleep period. Melatonin is the kingpin of sleep. We need it to get a good night’s sleep, but this hormone can be produced only in darkness. When melatonin goes up, the body temperature drops. That is what makes us sleepy. Holding devices close to the face allows blue light to penetrate the eyes and pushes back the formation of melatonin, which can result in chronic insomnia.”

Medical intervention to reset the body clock and regain the correct circadian rhythm, bringing it back to the time zone you are in (instead of a ‘jetlagged’ wrong time zone), involves a changed relationship with blue light and the prescription of melatonin supplements, she adds. 

Cosmetic brands have caught on to the damage of this light pollution. Some of the latest skin treatments, like Payot Blue Techni-
Liss Nuit, are now formulated to address the damaging effect that blue light has on the skin.