As an editor with a heavy background in beauty, my nighttime skin-care routine toes the line between ridiculous and comical. It starts with a simple swipe of a pre-cleanse, followed by micellar water, then there’s a mist, a serum, a moisturizer, a more occlusive moisturizer, and maybe an oil if I’m feeling particularly dry. My brows were an unfortunate casualty of the early aughts, so I finish it all off with two strokes of RevitaBrow. All of this, of course, comes after I’ve masked—often with multiple formulas on different parts of my face depending on my skin’s needs. Suffice it to say, it takes me at least half an hour to get ready for bed, and that’s before I’ve brushed my teeth.
So, imagine my surprise when I encountered this fun new problem: Last week, for nearly six straight days, I woke up with dry skin and a yellowed pillow. That means somewhere north of $200 worth the skin-care products have ended up all over my bedsheets, which is disconcerting for multiple reasons. At first, I figured maybe my boyfriend’s cotton pillowcases were just sucking all the product off all of a sudden, so I switched them to silk—but no such luck. I woke up just as dry and $26 poorer.
“The issue isn’t so much the fabric of the pillow case you’re using, but the time between application at the particular product and putting your head on the pillow,” said Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, after my week of frustration and shitty skin. But he was right: I usually lie down to scroll through Instagram and answer an unread emails, but as it turns out, I was fighting off a cold while working longer hours, so the second I RevitaBrow’d, I crashed head-first into my bed and passed out.
Naturally, the best course of action would be to wait half an hour until my products dry to hit the hay, but who has the time? Zeichner’s got a better solution: “If you’re very tired and anticipate falling asleep within two minutes of applying your nighttime product, choose something quick-drying,” he says. “Sleep masks are designed to be applied within 15 minutes of falling asleep because they tend to dry relatively quickly. While gel-based moisturizers are also absorbed into the skin fast, some heavier creams may take more time.” Zeichner, who recommends using water-based products at night if you’re looking for fast absorption, recommends both Neutrogena Hydroboost Water Gel and Dr. Jart Water-Fuse Sleeping Mask. I personally like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, which is a hyaluronic acid-based serum that sinks right in.
Still, if you’re seeing runoff on your pillow, dermatologist Radha Mikkilineni says to rethink how much you need: “There’s a tendency to apply too much, so discuss the right amount to use for each product with your doctor. Typically, you should be able to rub it in so it disappears after 2-3 light strokes.”
Mikkilineni also recommends saving the super-heavy creams for daytime, especially during the winter, when they can offer an additional protective barrier against the elements. Waiting five minutes between each layer is optimal, too.
It’s been a week since I’ve reversed my skin-care routine so my heavier creams go on during the day and lighter, more active products go on at night. And even though I’ve been crashing within minutes, I’m happy to report I’ve been waking up with supple, hydrated skin. Oh, and I’m back to my beloved cotton pillowcase.