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Sleep with makeup on: How it affects your skin

Yes, you should always remove it before bed!

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
Woman removing her makeup
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Erin Pate, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

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Whether you wear makeup or not is all a matter of personal preference, but one thing is clear: You should always remove it before you go to sleep. Not doing so can have a negative impact on your skin's health and appearance.

From premature aging to breakouts, the consequences of not washing off your makeup before bed can have far-reaching implications. That’s why properly cleaning your face before going to sleep is critical for maintaining healthy-looking skin.

Why is that? Allow Curology’s skincare experts to explain the impact sleeping with makeup on can have on your skin.

What are the effects of sleeping with makeup on?

Sleeping with makeup on can have several adverse effects on your skin. Here are some of the most common effects:

Clogging of pores 

Leaving makeup on your skin can lead to the buildup of oil, dirt, and makeup residue, which can clog your pores. This can lead to acne breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads. Even non-comedogenic makeup may cause acne breakouts if it's not removed before sleep, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).¹

Non-comedogenic makeup products are designed to not clog pores and are less likely to cause acne breakouts than regular makeup products. However, they may still contain ingredients that can potentially irritate the skin and cause inflammation, which may lead to acne breakouts.

Exacerbate acne breakouts

Many makeup products contain ingredients such as fragrances, dyes, and preservatives that may irritate the skin. When left on the skin overnight, these ingredients may exacerbate acne breakouts, particularly in those with acne-prone skin. Moreover, acne-prone skin is more susceptible to clogged pores, inflammation, and bacterial growth, which are all factors that can worsen acne breakouts.

Skin irritation and redness

When makeup is left on for an extended period, it may also cause dryness and flakiness, further exacerbating skin irritation. 

Some people may be allergic to certain makeup ingredients, such as fragrances,² resulting in redness, swelling, itching, and hives. People who have a history of allergies or sensitive skin are more susceptible to these negative effects. While sleeping with makeup on doesn’t necessarily make you more likely to have a reaction, it’s important to wash off any potentially irritating ingredients prior to sleeping.

Premature aging

Studies indicate that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may threaten skin health and contribute to premature skin aging. PFASs are highly persistent and potentially toxic chemicals added to some cosmetics to increase their durability and water resistance.³

They can interfere with the genes engaged in dermal barrier integrity and its functions. When the skin absorbs these chemicals, they can generate free radicals that cause oxidative stress, damaging skin cells and breaking collagen and elastin—two proteins essential to maintaining healthy and youthful-looking skin.⁴

Eye irritation and infection

Mascara and eyeliner are common makeup products that people often forget to remove before sleeping. Leaving these products on overnight may cause the makeup to dry out and flake into your eyes. 

These particles can cause eye irritation, redness, dryness, and may potentially increase the tendency toward ocular surface disease development.⁵ If you wear contact lenses, sleeping with makeup on can be particularly dangerous. Makeup particles can stick to contact lenses, leading to eye irritation and potentially even infection. 

Eyelash loss

Long-term use of eye makeup, such as mascara, can cause loss of eyelashes. When it comes to removing waterproof mascara, using water as a method of removal has been associated with a higher occurrence of eyelash loss compared to other methods such as using a tissue or oil. One study found that the primary reason for this increased eyelash loss with water removal was due to vigorous rubbing with fingers during the process.

The benefits of removing makeup before sleeping

Removing your makeup before sleeping is essential for maintaining healthy and clear skin. Here are some of the benefits of removing makeup before going to bed:

Helps clear pores: When makeup is left on the skin for an extended period, it can clog pores, leading to a dull and tired-looking complexion. By removing makeup before cleansing, you can ensure that the cleanser can penetrate the skin more deeply, effectively removing impurities and helping to stop product buildup in the pores. May help with the effectiveness of skincare products: If you wash your face but don't take off all your makeup first, the residue left behind can create a barrier that prevents skincare products from penetrating the skin. This can make it harder for the products to work effectively, reducing their effectiveness in treating skin issues. 

May promote better sleep: Removing makeup before bed can help you relax and get into a bedtime routine, signaling to your body that it's time to sleep. This may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. Additionally, sleeping with makeup on can cause irritation or infection in the eyes, which can be uncomfortable and disrupt sleep. Removing makeup before bed may help you feel more comfortable and relaxed, improving the quality of your sleep and helping you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

How to properly remove makeup before sleeping

To properly remove makeup before sleeping, you can follow these steps:

  • Use a gentle makeup remover: Look for a makeup remover that is gentle and suitable for your skin type. Avoid using harsh products or those that contain alcohol, as they can harm your skin's protective barrier.

  • Cleanse with a gentle cleanser: Use an oil-based cleanser or micellar water to remove the first layer of makeup, then follow up with a mild water-based cleanser to remove any remaining residue.

  • Use a soft cloth or cotton pads: Use a soft cloth or cotton pads to remove makeup, gently wiping in circular motions. Avoid using rough or abrasive materials that can irritate your skin.

  • Pay attention to hard-to-reach areas: Don't forget to remove makeup from your hairline, ears, and neck, as makeup can easily transfer to these areas.

  • Rinse thoroughly: After removing your makeup, rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water and gently pat it dry using a clean towel.

  • Moisturize: Finish your skincare routine with a moisturizer to hydrate your skin and protect it while you sleep.

  • Avoid using harsh scrubs, hot water, or rubbing your face too vigorously, as this can irritate your skin and cause damage. 

By following these steps and using gentle products, you can effectively remove all traces of makeup and keep your skin healthy and glowing.

Tired of struggling to remove your makeup? With Curology, it doesn't have to be difficult

Curology provides skincare products tailored to your needs that remove makeup safely and effectively:

  • The Micellar Makeup Remover. This product gently and effectively breaks down waterproof makeup, dirt, and oil from your skin without clogging the pores. Formulated with tiny micelles and dermatologist approved, the Micellar Makeup Remover lifts buildup without stripping or irritating your skin. It's also ophthalmologist-tested,and generally considered safe for those with sensitive eyes or contact lenses.

  • Gentle Cleanser. This light-foaming gel formula works wonders on all skin types, providing a silky-smooth, refreshed feeling. Those with sensitive skin no longer need to worry about ingredients that strip, clog, or irritate. Instead, the gentle yet effective Cleanser from Curology can nourish and protect your skin while boosting its natural glow.

  • Simple 3-step skincare routine. A simple 3-step skincare routine can be a great way to keep your skin smooth and clean without spending much time or money. Start with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt, oil, makeup, and other impurities. Then treat your skin with a product that contains active ingredients specifically formulated to address your skin's needs. Finally, moisturize to give your skin the nourishment it needs.

Curology is your perfect partner in skincare

With personalized prescription formulas and micellar makeup removers, Curology can be your partner in skincare. Our products are dermatologist-designed to be gentle yet effective and address skin concerns such as acne, rosacea, dark spots, and fine lines. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Sign up for a 30-day trial* today and see how simple it is to receive personalized treatment for your skin concerns.

FAQs

Do I need to cleanse my face before bedtime if I'm not wearing makeup?

Throughout the day, your skin accumulates dirt, oil, and bacteria from environmental pollutants and your body's natural processes. This buildup can clog your pores and contribute to the development of acne. Washing your face twice a day may be optimal for efficacy and convenience.

A study found that those who washed their face twice daily saw improvements in noninflammatory acne lesions and open comedones.⁷ Use a gentle cleanser and avoid over-washing or using harsh scrubs that can irritate your skin.⁸

What should I do if I accidentally fall asleep with my makeup on?

If you accidentally fall asleep with makeup on, remove it as soon as possible in the morning to prevent skin harm. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Start by soaking a cotton pad in micellar water. Gently swipe it over your face, eyes, and lips to remove surface makeup. 

  • Follow up with a cleanser to remove any makeup residue from your skin's surface. 

  • Use a toner to balance your skin's pH and to help repair any damage caused by leaving makeup on overnight. 

  • Apply a moisturizer to rehydrate your skin. 

If you notice signs of irritation or inflammation, such as redness or dryness, apply a calming and soothing product, like aloe vera gel, to help reduce inflammation and promote healing.

How long should I keep my makeup on?

There's no set amount of time that you should keep your makeup on during the day. However, listening to your skin and paying attention to any signs of irritation or discomfort is essential. For example, if your skin feels dry, itchy, or red, it may be time to remove your makeup and give your skin a break.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 Skin Care Habits That Can Worsen Acne. (n.d.).

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Allergens in Cosmetics. (2022, February 25).

  3. Whitehead, H.D., et al. Fluorinated Compounds in North American Cosmetics. Environ Sci Technol Lett. (2021,  June 15).

  4. Mousavi, S.E., et al. Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and premature skin aging. Journal of Hazardous Materials. (2020, October 24).

  5. Wang, M.T.M. and Craig, J.P. Investigating the effect of eye cosmetics on the tear film: current insights. Clinical Optometry. (2018, April 3).

  6. Kadri, R., et al. Mascara Induced Milphosis, an Etiological Evaluation. International Journal of Trichology. (July-September 2013).

  7. Kimball, A. et al. A single-blinded, randomized, controlled, clinical trial evaluating the effect of face washing on acne vulgaris. JAAD. (March 2005).

  8. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Face Washing 101. (n.d.).

Erin Pate is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Erin Pate Nurse Practitioner, NP-C

Erin Pate, NP-C

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