What happens when you don’t cleanse before bed – Case Study-

Do you always take off your make-up before bed?

Every night? Even after a glass of wine too many? Or when you’ve fallen asleep on the sofa? Or you simply couldn’t muster the energy?

You’re not alone. In a recent survey, a third of women questioned confessed to sleeping with their slap on at least twice a week.

Yet those very same women did so despite believing that skipping their skincare routine before bedtime would give them spots, dry their skin and make their eyelashes brittle.

They even said they thought it would age their faces by more than two days for every night that they didn’t bother. So if we think that such slovenliness is that bad for our skin, why aren’t we more assiduous about cleansing?

In my case it comes down to priorities. On any given evening, my ‘to do’ list (which can be tackled only once the children, aged four and seven, are asleep at 8.30pm) includes loading and unloading the dishwasher (several times), tidying toys away and answering emails.

Then there’s the washing, filling in homework diaries, sorting school uniform and coaxing our contrary cat out from behind the garage.

How much can a bit or war paint really do?

All this means that make-up removal frequently falls off the bottom of the list. But how much harm can a bit of war paint really do?

Isn’t this just another example of beauty companies scaremongering in a bid to flog us yet more skincare products we could possibly do without?

To find out, I took up the challenge of leaving my make-up on not just for a night, but for a whole month.

I would give my face a cursory wash in the shower each morning but I would be allowed to use none of my usual cleansing creams, and would have to reapply new make-up over the remnants of the old each day.

Case Study – Anna

In order to measure any changes in Anna’s skin statistically rather than subjectively, I went to see Nick at a3D Cosmetic Imaging Studio.

Nick analysed Anna’s face using a special 3D camera which shows – in mortifying detail – her pigmentation, broken veins, enlarged pores and wrinkles.

Anna’s flaws were then compared against the average woman of her age approx 40yrs.

Suspecting that make-up worn overnight for a protracted spell might prove very drying, Nick also took moisture readings across her cheeks and lower and upper forehead.

And then the experiment began.

Although there was a temptation to be circumspect, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to take her make-up off, she followed her usual routine.

On went the Max Factor Facefinity foundation, the Diorshow mascara and the L’Oreal eyeliner, finished off with a slick of  lipgloss.

Night one, and after a hot, sticky day that included commuting back and forth across Sydney on the train (always a surefire way to make skin feel filthy), she was desperate to cleanse and moisturise.

But she hid her trusty Una Brennan creamy cleanser in a high cupboard and went to bed in full make-up.

The following morning her pillowcase seemed to have suffered more than her skin. Other than having rather itchy eyes and some stubborn clumps of mascara hanging on to my lashes like limpets, she appeared relatively unscathed.

After her morning wash, she slathered on some moisturiser, and added another layer of make-up.

By night three, however, it was a different picture. Anna had developed a series of tiny white cysts around my eyelashes and her skin was so dry and taut, she said “it felt like a mask”. By the weekend, a few friends had commented that she was looking tired.

Close inspection of her skin in a magnifying mirror revealed the surface had become flaky and lumpy, a bit like a badly plastered wall. Moreover, the foundation that she had once loved looked dry and crepey on her skin.

In a bid to rehydrate her parched face, once or twice she tried putting moisturiser over the surface of the make-up at night. But this served only to smear it in a wider arch across the pillowcase.

Anna’s eyelashes, meanwhile, seemed to have stuck together into two giant mono-lashes, meaning applying further mascara was getting difficult.

On several occasions she caught herself pulling eyelashes out in clumps and became genuinely concerned that they might all come out.

One particularly scary morning, around ten days in, she woke up to find her left eye so swollen, she could barely open it. An optician friend assured her she had simply caught a mascara-laden lash in it overnight and it would soon settle down.

Mercifully he was right, but she did skip eye make-up for 48 hours after. Anna said “I’m all for experimentation, but not if it actually blinds me”.

As weeks progressed, her lips became dry and her skin cracked painfully at the corners of my mouth. With the end of the month approaching, she felt truly grubby and fed up.

She had developed an intense aversion to mascara application and feared she may have done permanent damage to her skin.

Anna had visibly blocked and enlarged pores all over her nose, dry skin across her lips and cheeks and red eyelids. The white cysts had given way to some nasty-looking eyelash dandruff.

For an objective assessment, she went back to Nick, and his 3D camera and asked dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams, medical director of the Sydney Dermatology Sydney clinic, to explain the results.

PAINFULLY PARCHED

The camera showed that the surface texture of Anna’s skin was around ten per cent worse (i.e. more uneven) on her forehead and on the right hand side.

On the left hand side, it was around 20 per cent worse, which Nick explained was probably down to the fact that she sleep on her left side.

This meant that even less oxygen would get to the skin here, which would magnify any problems that the lingering make-up might have caused.

According to Dr Williams, the decline in texture was almost certainly down to her skipping her twice-daily moisturising routine. This resulted in seriously parched skin, a fact proven by Nick’s other tests, which showed a five per cent drop in moisture levels.

‘Not only is the top layer of skin dry,’ said Dr Williams, ‘but a layer of make-up will also prevent normal skin shedding, slowing down the usual renewal process, resulting in uneven and dull textured skin.’

ALL LINED UP

Although the wrinkles on Anna’s forehead hadn’t worsened significantly, they had become deeper on both the right and left hand sides of her face.

Dr Williams said that it’s no coincidence these were also the driest parts of Anna’s face.

‘When skin is dry, it’s less elastic so wrinkles are more prominent,’ she told her.

She also believes that this dryness would have been compounded by environmental pollutants sticking to the make-up, causing what is known as oxidative stress, where skin is attacked by harmful free radicals.

‘These molecule-sized compounds cause damage to various cellular structures in the skin and can actually decrease production of collagen – the substance that gives skin its plumpness – compounding the wrinkle issue,’ she explained.

SEEING RED

Anna’s skin is sensitive and prone to redness anyway. This meant that even before the experiment, she scored in the bottom six per cent of women her age.

A month in, and it had become two percentage points worse. Any more of a downward slide and she would be an off-the-scale mass of angry, dilated facial capillaries.

Dr Williams told her this redness was a sign of irritation in the skin.

‘Sleeping in make-up,’ she warned, ‘has an occlusive effect (it forms a barrier over the surface of the skin).

‘This means any irritants are locked in, exacerbating any allergic reactions, and moisturisers are locked out.’

MY POOR PORES

Deep cleanse: Long-term avoidance of washing while continuing to wear make-up is detrimental to skin in the long run.

The pictures showed that Anna’s pores were about five per cent larger than they had been at the start. Dr Williams said this was partly due to physical clogging.

‘Dirt in pores not only makes them more noticeable and thus appear larger but, over time, we think it can actually stretch them.’

However, she also believed that it was a sign that her skin had aged over the month.

‘Older people naturally have larger pores because, with age, elasticity decreases so the structures that support the skin, and keep pores tight, become slacker.’

EXPERTS CONCLUSION

Deep cleanse: Long-term avoidance of washing while continuing to wear make-up is detrimental to skin in the long run.

The pictures showed that Anna’s pores were about five per cent larger than they had been at the start. Dr Williams said this was partly due to physical clogging.

‘Dirt in pores not only makes them more noticeable and thus appear larger but, over time, we think it can actually stretch them.’

However, she also believed that it was a sign that her skin had aged over the month.