While You Were Sleeping
Your skin doesn't just sit there looking pretty. It actually has a job: keeping moisture and nutrients in your body, while acting as a barrier to harmful toxins. During the day, your skin is in full-on protective mode, fending off environmental aggressors like sun, wind, and pollution. When you sleep, your skin is at peace. "Your cells are now focused on producing collagen and growth hormones that are directly linked to healing, luminosity, and youthfulness," explains Rubin Naiman, sleep and dream specialist at the University of Arizona. But bear in mind that even though there's major renewal going on, your skin does lose moisture at night. (Blame it on your body's thermometer, which cools down as you slumber.) The good news is that nighttime is also when your skin is most receptive to topical treatments. Bring on the moisturizer!
Some beauty ingredients—vitamins A and C, soy proteins, chamomile, and lavender—do their best work during your skin's downtime. "The key is finding them in a formulation that suits your specific issues," says Lynn Mazzella, a skin specialist who helped create Origins sleep products. Serums are usually lightweight and easily absorbed into the skin. Creams may take a little longer to penetrate, but tend to offer greater hydration. If your complexion is oily or acne-prone, opt for time-release products that fight bacteria and won't clog your pores. Skin as dry as the Sahara? A super-emollient dream cream, fortified with collagen-producing peptides (amino acids that mimic the natural proteins in the skin), is the answer.
Your P.M. Prep
Start your nighttime skin-care regimen with a freshly cleansed face. Remove all makeup and dirt with a gentle cleanser that doesn't irritate your pores, followed by a moisturizer tailored to your skin type. "The idea is to use a cream that creates a protective barrier and encourages relaxation," says Mazzella. "You want to continue to reduce the stress in the skin as much as possible during this healing time."
Along with using prime-time products, the best way to save face is to sleep on your back. This helps you avoid the fine lines caused by the pillow crinkling your skin when you rest on your side or stomach. If you find it hard to doze off that way, place a hot water bottle under your neck to relieve pressure. The amount of z's you clock will also make a difference in your skin's appearance. On average, people should get at least seven hours a night, suggests Naiman. "If your energy sustains during the day without a lot of stimulants, then you're getting the right amount of rest."
Sleep On It
Wedding planning keeping your eyes wide open? Michael Brues, a sleep specialist and author of Beauty Sleep (Plume, 2007) offers his top tips to help you enter the Land of Nod.
1. Avoid all wedding talk an hour before bedtime.
2. Avoid stimulants (coffee and exercise) and alcohol for at least three hours before you turn out the lights.
3. Take an aromatherapy bath; pour some lavender salts into a tub of warm water and soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
4. Invest in a good pillow that doesn't stress your neck.
5. Drink a glass of warm milk (which has tryptophan, a chemical that some experts believe helps induce sleep) or chamomile tea; both can be part of an overall relaxation ritual before bed.
6. Read a boring book.
7. Try not to watch the clock. It only makes you more anxious and doesn't allow you to relax, so turn it away from you.