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. 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. About face: Sleeping with her make-up on for a month
left Anna's smooth skin looking cracked and red. In order to measure
any changes in my skin statistically rather than subjectively, I went
to see Nick Miedzianowski-Sinclair at the 3D Cosmetic Imaging Studio,
based at the Queen Anne Medical Centre just off Harley Street. Nick analysed
my face using a special 3D camera which shows - in mortifying detail -
my pigmentation, broken veins, enlarged pores and wrinkles. My flaws were
then compared against the average woman of my age (40, since you ask)
to give me a percentage score. Suspecting that make-up worn overnight
for a protracted spell might prove very drying, Nick also took moisture
readings across my cheeks and lower and upper forehead.
And then the experiment began. Although there was a temptation to be circumspect,
knowing that I wouldn't be able to take my make-up off, I followed
my usual routine. On went the Max Factor Facefinity foundation, the Diorshow
mascara and the L'Oreal eyeliner, finished off with a slick of Guerlain
lipgloss. Night one, and after a hot, sticky day that included commuting
back and forth across London on the Underground (always a surefire way
to make skin feel filthy), I was desperate to cleanse and moisturise.
But I hid my trusty Una Brennan creamy cleanser in a high cupboard and
went to bed in full make-up. The following morning my pillowcase seemed
to have suffered more than my skin. Other than having rather itchy eyes
and some stubborn clumps of mascara hanging on to my lashes like limpets,
I appeared relatively unscathed. After my morning wash, I slathered on
some moisturiser, and added another layer of make-up.
By night three, however, it was a different picture. I had developed a
series of tiny white cysts around my eyelashes and my skin was so dry
and taut, it felt like a mask. By the weekend, a few friends had commented
that I was looking tired. Close inspection of my skin in a magnifying
mirror revealed the surface had become flaky and lumpy, a bit like a badly
plastered wall. Moreover, the foundation that I had once loved looked
dry and crepey on my skin. 'How much harm can a bit of war paint really
do?' In a bid to rehydrate my parched face, once or twice I 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. My eyelashes,
meanwhile, seemed to have stuck together into two giant mono-lashes, meaning
applying further mascara was getting difficult. On several occasions I
caught myself pulling eyelashes out in clumps and became genuinely concerned
that they might all come out. One particularly scary morning, around ten
days in, I woke up to find my left eye so swollen, I could barely open
it. An optician friend assured me I'd simply caught a mascara-laden
lash in it overnight and it would soon settle down. Mercifully he was
right, but I did skip eye make-up for 48 hours after. I'm all for
experimentation, but not if it actually blinds me.
As weeks progressed, my lips became dry and my skin cracked painfully at
the corners of my mouth. With the end of the month approaching, I felt
truly grubby and fed up. I had developed an intense aversion to mascara
application and feared I may have done permanent damage to my skin. I
had visibly blocked and enlarged pores all over my nose, dry skin across
my lips and cheeks and red eyelids. The white cysts had given way to some
nasty-looking eyelash dandruff. For an objective assessment, I went back
to Nick Miedzianowski-Sinclair's 3D camera and asked dermatologist
Dr Stefanie Williams, medical director of the European Dermatology London
clinic, to explain the results.
The camera showed that the surface texture of my skin was around ten per
cent worse (i.e. more uneven) on my 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 I sleep on my 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 me skipping
my 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 my forehead hadn't worsened significantly,
they had become deeper on both the right and left hand sides of my face.
Dr Williams said that it's no coincidence these were also the driest
parts of my face. 'When skin is dry, it's less elastic so wrinkles
are more prominent,' she told me. 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.
My skin is sensitive and prone to redness anyway. This meant that even
before the experiment, I scored in the bottom six per cent of women my
age. A month in, and it had become two percentage points worse. Any more
of a downward slide and I would be an off-the-scale mass of angry, dilated
facial capillaries. Dr Williams told me 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 my 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 my 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.'
The experts estimated that my skin was biologically approximately a decade
older than before I began my no-cleansing experiment. This proved what
my mirror reflected: my face genuinely has aged by as much as ten years
in a month, and all because I didn't take my make-up off. I'm
terrified that the damage might be permanent. Have I ruined my skin -
and my looks - for ever? Fortunately, Harley Street cosmetic dermatologist
Dr Sam Bunting reassured me. 'You won't have done any meaningful
damage in four weeks,' she said. 'But long-term avoidance of cleansing
while continuing to wear make-up could be detrimental to your skin in
the long-run. 'The biggest issue is the accumulation of environmental
pollutants, which drive the generation of free radicals. 'These contribute
to the breakdown of collagen and elastin, the structures that underpin
youthful skin. While these structures deteriorate with age, you don't
want to do anything to speed up that process,' she adds I don't
need telling twice. From now on, however busy I am before bed, cleansing
will be number one on my to-do list.
Originally featured on DailyMail.com/uk