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During the day, your skin is under fire from environmental factors, including pollutants, UV rays and dirt and debris, so while you sleep it has the opportunity to repair itself and enhance its defences for tomorrow. The body and the skin undergo several physiological changes which help facilitate this repair, including increased blood flow, a lowering of the 'stress hormone' cortisol and a period of 'deep sleep'.
During the golden hours of deep sleep which occur in the first portion of the night, there is a surge in growth hormones, which help to repair and rebuild our muscles, bones, skin and other tissues from the damage they have sustained during the day. The rate of skin cell rejuvenation also doubles overnight, meaning that fresh new skin cells are produced to replace old ones. It's this period of deep sleep which has been dubbed 'beauty sleep'.
Sleep is actually closely related to collagen (which keeps skin firm, elastic and radiant), via the well-known 'stress hormone', cortisol. Too much cortisol, which is released when we don't get enough sleep, inhibits the production of collagen and results in visibly thinning skin and a lack of radiance. Cortisol can also actively break down collagen, so get enough sleep!
Blood flow to the skin increases while we sleep, so a couple of restless nights quickly shows up under our eyes as dark circles, because the skin is extremely thin and delicate. A lack of sleep also impacts the circulation of other fluids, causing puffiness around the eyes. Drinking lots of water, getting more sleep and applying an eye serum can help to minimise puffiness if this is something you suffer with.
When we wash our face, we follow with a moisturiser, so we should apply the same rules to our hands. We're all a little guilty of failing to look after them properly, especially as the skin on the backs of our hands is very thin and delicate. The skin here also has very few oil glands, meaning it is an area prone to drying out. Try keeping a tube of hand cream on the bedside table and apply it before you go to sleep, then put on some gloves to prevent moisture loss and we bet they feel and look much healthier come the morning.
During the night, our skin can focus on repair and rejuvenation using the active ingredients in our night creams. A number of active ingredients are also sensitive to daylight, so incorporating them at night ensures we can benefit from their full effect. This is helped by having our pores clean of make-up and dirt, allowing the ingredients in our leave-on products to sink deeper into the skin. Skin also benefits from a richer night moisturiser due to a higher rate of water loss whilst you sleep.
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.