There’s no shame in admitting it: We’re all guilty of having slept in our makeup once or twice. Whether the cause was an exhausting work week or a few too many cocktails, spending the occasional night with our favorite foundation or mascara seems harmless enough provided it isn’t happening on the regular … right? Wrong. It turns out that this oft-committed lazy girl mistake can do some serious damage to your skin—yes, even if it only happens once in a while.
“The more you sleep while wearing your makeup, the greater the damage there is to your skin,” says dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY. “Our skin, like the rest of our body, functions on the circadian rhythm. At night the skin’s most important function is to renew itself. Wearing makeup and foundation at night prevents the renewal process, causing damage to the skin.” It is true that the more often you sleep with your makeup on, the more damage your skin will sustain over time, but even just the rare occasion can have negative effects on your complexion.
What about light makeup days? Does one product in particular make the most difference? Dr. Graf breaks down the effects.
“Foundation is thick and is generally overlying other products which have been on all day,” says Dr. Graf. “The large particles and pigments break down over the day and have been exposed and metabolized by natural processes as well as exposure to environmental pollutants and bacteria, molds, and mites from the outside. The metabolic byproducts, as well as the breakdown of the makeup itself, prevent the important role of microcirculation, which helps renew skin.” This can result in the breakdown of collagen, resulting in wrinkles, and clogged pores which hold onto bacteria and result in acne.
Primer does have the potential to harm your skin, but it depends entirely on how you wear it: “If the primer has been on all day, it’s very damaging because all the pollutants are still on your skin. If it’s smoothed on freshly cleansed skin and used for moisture, then it’s okay,” Dr. Graf says.
No surprise here—Dr. Graf says that sleeping with any type of lipstick will result in dryness and chapping. With highly-pigmented lipsticks, scrub the lips with a cleansing wipe to fully remove before bed, then apply a generous coat of balm to build moisture back up.
If you’re the kind of girl who leaves her eye makeup on to get the “slept-in” look through honest means, you may want to sit down for this one. “Mascara particles clog the follicles and irritates them as it would on the skin,” says Dr. Graf. “If irritation occurs, the swelling can cause blepharitis and the bacteria can cause conjunctivitis the longer it stays.” If that isn’t terrifying enough, sleeping with your mascara on can also cause the eyelashes to become brittle and break easily.
Just because we’re more aware of exactly how bad sleeping in our makeup is doesn’t mean we’re spared from those lazy nights when all we want to do is crawl into bed, foundation and all. Dr. Graf’s advice: “Keep makeup remover wipes at your bedside. This way, when you get into bed it reminds you to remove your makeup simply by reaching over to your night table and wiping it away.” And if you can set your alarm, you can surely swipe and sleep.
Read more: How to Fix Common Makeup Blunders on the Go