“Dear Mother Nature… Please check the thermostat. Someone has set it to hell!”
I vividly remember my very first California summer many years ago. I had just moved to the heart of the sun-soaked state, where the Pacific Ocean’s soothing breeze often served as a solace from the relentless heat. However, that year, the summer intensity trailed well into the night, morphing my restful sanctuary into a sweltering cocoon.
Sleep was elusive, and I couldn’t help but notice the immediate impact on my skin. My once glowing visage turned dull, and the lack of rest was visibly etching itself onto my complexion. This led me to delve into the relationship between summer heat, sleep disruptions, and skin health.
The Sleep-Heat-Skin Triad
Sleep regulation is intertwined with two key processes: homeostatic sleep pressure and our internal circadian rhythm. Interestingly, both these mechanisms are significantly influenced by temperature.
Our bodies naturally cool down at night as part of the circadian rhythm, aiding the onset of sleep. Hot environments impede this cooling process, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The extended daylight in summer can further disrupt our sleep patterns by delaying the production of melatonin, our sleep-inducing hormone.
From a facialist’s standpoint, the connection between sleep and skin health is undeniable. During deep sleep, the body goes into repair mode, releasing growth hormones that help regenerate cells, including skin cells. If you’re not getting enough sleep, these repair mechanisms are interrupted, leading to visible effects on the skin over time.
Here are some ways sleep disruption can affect the skin:
- Dull Complexion & Lackluster Skin: Lack of sleep can lead to poor circulation, resulting in a dull complexion. Your skin may appear lackluster, tired, and less youthful.
- Dark Circles: The blood vessels under your eyes may dilate when you don’t get enough sleep, leading to dark circles. Prolonged lack of sleep can exacerbate this issue.
- Accelerated Aging: During sleep, your body produces growth hormones that help repair damaged cells. Without these hormones, daily small breakdowns can accumulate, resulting in signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and decreased elasticity.
- Weakened Skin Barrier: The skin barrier function, which is responsible for keeping skin hydrated and protected from harmful external factors, can be compromised with inadequate sleep. This can lead to dry, dehydrated skin, and increase the risk of skin issues such as eczema and dermatitis.
- Inflammation and Breakouts: Lack of sleep can cause stress and hormonal imbalances in the body, which can increase inflammation and exacerbate conditions like acne, psoriasis, and even allergic reactions. Inflammation can also contribute to aging, a concept known as “inflammaging.”
- Reduced Immunity: Sleep plays a crucial role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Chronic sleep deprivation can lower immunity, making the skin more susceptible to infections and diseases. It can also cause flare-ups of immune-related skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema.
In short, prioritizing sound sleep is an indispensable step toward maintaining a youthful, rejuvenated appearance.
Heatwave Effects on Skin Health
Heat also directly affects our skin by increasing transepidermal water loss, which can result in dehydration, dryness, and a compromised skin barrier. The overall result is tired-looking, lackluster skin that mirrors those restless summer nights.
Reclaiming Your Beauty Sleep: A Summer Guide
Despite the challenges, there are practical measures to mitigate sleep disruptions caused by summer heat and wake up to refreshed, radiant skin.
- Create a Cool Haven: Keep your bedroom cool by opening a window to let in a cool breeze. You can also use thermal insulating blackout curtains to reduce daytime heat.
- Embrace Breathable Bedding: Choose lightweight, breathable bedding and sleepwear. Cotton is excellent as it allows for better air circulation than synthetic materials.
- Freeze Your Sheets: A slightly unconventional tip, but effective. Put your sheets and pillowcases in a freezer for a few minutes to cool them down. Ensure they are in a plastic bag before freezing, to prevent moisture accumulation.
- Hydrate Inside Out: Ensure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day to combat heat-induced dehydration. However, limit your intake before bedtime to prevent nocturnal bathroom trips. And use a hydrating night-time skincare regimen to counter the increased transepidermal water loss.
- A Pre-bed Cooling Routine: Consider a cool shower or bath before sleep to lower your body temperature, signaling your body it’s time for sleep. A soothing skincare routine following this – a chilled face mask – can work wonders!
- Deep freeze: Ice packs and frozen wash cloths pressed against any pulse points like the wrists can help make you more comfortable. Apply them against the back of your neck or forehead to cool your body down. Using either one ninety minutes before sleep is enough to kickstart the body’s own cooling mechanisms and allow for a restful night.
- Manage Light Exposure: Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out excessive sunlight. Expose yourself to bright light in the morning to help regulate your circadian rhythm.
- Keep Your Blinds Closed: During the hottest parts of the day, consider keeping blinds and curtains closed to block any unwanted heat getting in. White or cream blinds are best for deflecting heat. Open blinds and windows during the early morning or late evening to provide airflow that cools the room before bedtime. A fan in the room can also help air to circulate and is less dehydrating for the skin than air conditioning.
- Find your ideal sleeping position: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the ideal sleeping position in summer as it varies from person to person, and it depends on various factors including personal comfort and health conditions. However, here are a few options for comfortable sleep:
- Sleep on your back: This position can help prevent facial wrinkles and skin breakouts by keeping your face off the pillow, and it can also help your mattress absorb your body heat, thereby keeping you cooler.
- Elevate your body: Use a few extra pillows to elevate your head and upper body. This can aid in heat exchange as heat rises and could potentially help with issues like snoring and acid reflux, which may worsen in the heat.
- Starfish or spread out: The less your body touches itself, the cooler you’ll stay. Therefore, lying on your back or stomach with your arms and legs spread apart can be a good option.
- Minimal contact with the mattress: Try to minimize the amount of your body surface in contact with the mattress, as it absorbs body heat. A side sleeping position could be beneficial in this case.
Welcome the Californian (or wherever you are in the world) summer armed with these strategies and you will definitely be able to reclaim your restful nights and revitalized complexion. Remember, radiant skin is a testament to quality sleep, no matter the season!
For more skincare tips, check out my other blogs, visit my website, or call us at (323) 653–4701. And for skincare services, please visit us at 8448 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048. We will be happy to help you with your skincare needs.
Summer is upon us again so here are six things you can do to stay safe and be kind to your skin.
Anti-oxidants – stimulate your skin’s collagen production and reduce your chances of burning by using vitamin C serums two to three times a week during the summer months. Eat foods rich in anti-oxidants like leafy greens, blueberries, kiwi, sweet potatoes and salmon.- They help to decelerate skin cell aging and repair past sun damage. Taking vitamin C with zinc will double up on boosting the skin’s natural immune system too.
Stay hydrated – as well as drinking water make sure to eat plenty of water filled vegetables during the summer months. Cucumbers, asparagus, celery and lettuce are great for added hydration and giving the skin a glow. (See post in Lifestyle/Wellness category titled “Water”).
Watch for sun sensitivity – prescription medications can cause some severe re-actions to heat and sun – everything from a painful burn, photo allergic dermatitis and pigmentation – the birth control pill in particular can cause a type of pigmentation that is extremely resilient to treatment. So check labels for any warnings and consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure. My recommendation is to be a shade hound!
Sun screen application – lots has been written about this topic. As far as formulation goes, current wisdom recommends sticking with zinc, titanium and mineral based sun screens. Other anti-inflammatory and calming ingredients to look for would be aloe, green tea and pomegranate and as already mentioned in this blog, vitamin C. As we all know, a higher SPF does not mean double the protection and can often be irritating. Stick with an SPF 30 and find a texture and weight that suits your skin type. There are now powders as well as cremes and lotions.
Apply sun screen liberally at least 30 minutes before leaving the house and layer twice waiting 15 minutes before second application if possible. This ensures a more thorough covering. Consider any protection contained in make-up a bonus and not a main source of protection. (See this post in Seasonal category titled “Skin Sense on Sun Sense“).
Summer facials – all this extra product causes clogging and congestion so have deep cleansing facials every three weeks during the summer months. Avoid chemical peels, heavy exfoliation and laser treatments during this time. As already mentioned, the heat and sun can cause pigmentation and irritation – the very conditions that these protocols aim to correct. For maximum summer skin care, try oxygen facials. These super-deep cleansing treatments restore hydration and tighten skin tone.
Sunless tanners – using one of the many sunless tanning products is a healthy alternative to the sun and keeps the skin glowing throughout the summer months. Start with a spa visit and then re-apply at home every 2-3 days. Return to the spa for an exfoliation and re-application every month to keep the tan fresh and the skin properly hydrated. Be careful about using these products on the face – they can both dry the skin and stain the pores. Better to use a tinted moisturizer.