How To Change Your Skin Overnight

Our skin deserves its own nighttime routine, using specific targeted products to get to work whilst we sleep. 

man lying in bed under a duvet
Words by Adrian Clark
Feb 02, 2023 

About Adrian Clark

Adrian Clark is a contributor for The Grooming Journal by Humanery and British GQ. He is also a contributor for the Telegraph, where he has a weekly column, and has previously written for the Guardian, The Sunday Times, the Face and Arena, specialising in men’s fashion, watches and, of course, grooming.

We all know that a good night’s sleep is beneficial to our long-term physical health, for enhancing our mood, and improving our day-to-day productivity. It is less popularly recognised that this window between drifting off to the land of nod and waking to face a new day is also crucial to enabling our skin’s natural cellular regeneration process

During the day our complexion has a lot to contend with; offering protection from exposure to the sun, oxidisation, pollution and other environmental stressors such as blue light emitted from technology. Nighttime is the critical interlude when your skin can take a breather from this onslaught and begin to repair the damage caused by our inevitably active lifestyles. It’s not nicknamed ‘beauty sleep’ without good reason. 

It is on this basis that a dedicated overnight grooming regimen is vital to support and enhance this renewal process. Unlike cleaning your teeth twice a day, caring for your skin requires targeted solutions and products specifically designed to be most effective while you slumber. It is also the ideal time to treat and help correct your individual skincare concerns such as dehydration, acne, congested pores, and pigmentation.

Follow these easy steps below, and your skin will undoubtedly thank you in the morning, and in the long run. 


Some would argue, myself included, that a thorough cleansing regimen at night is even more important than in the morning. Washing away the daily oil, dirt and grime, before you go to bed, will have a transformative effect on the clarity and fresh appearance of your skin in the long-term. A cleanser or face wash that targets dead skincells and decongests the pores without stripping or drying out your complexion is key. If you wear colour cosmetics, like tinted moisturisers or concealers, you might want to consider double-cleansing by using an oil-based emulsifying cleanser or micellar water to remove the make up.


The benefits to exfoliating at night, as opposed to the morning, are two-fold. Generally speaking, we have more time on our hands before we go to bed and are therefore better placed to add extra steps to our grooming regime without the pressures of getting the day started. The other advantage is that by opening up our pores and buffing away dead skin cells we prime the skin to be more permeable and receptive to the effectiveness of hydrators such as serums and moisturisers; allowing ingredients to delve deeper into the dermis.

As your skin moves into makeover-mode overnight, exfoliation will also help prevent breakouts and reduce the early signs of ageing. I advise using a mild chemical exfoliant or toner (preferably infused with glycolic or salicylic acids) over a physical scrub, as these can be used more frequently, are particularly good for oily or acne prone complexions, and offer a gentler form of exfoliation.


Once properly prepped, your skin will be receptive to products that can help ‘treat and repair’ while you sleep. Serums are the best way to target your specific skincare concerns and offer deeply-penetrating, super-hydration. Unlike moisturisers - which are equally as important of course - serums are uniquely designed to tackle problems such as acne, ageing, pigmentation and dryness. Many serums incorporate ingredients that are exclusively designed to work at night because of their slow-release action and also some serums are not appropriate for exposure to UVA and UVB.

serum bottles on display


Using a moisturiser at night is as important as using one during the day, but should be geared towards a different function. While we look to hydrators that will protect during the day, the main focus at night should be ones that repair and restore, lock in the benefits of your serum, and help strengthen the skin’s barrier function.

At night our skin suffers transepidermal water loss meaning it loses moisture quicker than during the day. So, it is also important to choose a moisturiser that will both deliver optimum hydration and help stop moisture from evaporating.

While you might want to use a lightweight moisturiser during the day, at night you can afford to use heavier-duty, richer, and more nutrient-dense concentrations and textures. It is also a little known fact that your skin changes temperature - slightly warmer - at night, which contributes to a drying effect. I would recommend prioritising ones that feature super-hydrating hyaluronic acid as a key ingredient.

Masks & Peels

Few of us have the appropriate time to use masks or peels to their full advantage. Nighttime is the perfect occasion to indulge yourself with a dedicated treatment that can have several uninterrupted hours to get to work. Make sure you use masks which are designed to work overnight as opposed to those supposed to be left on for 15-20 minutes as they can include harsh ingredients that would be harmful if left on for a prolonged period. Masks and peels can be extremely effective if used once or twice a week to target loss of elasticity, dehydration, enlarged pores, and for helping to reduce signs of ageing. 


If you suffer from particularly dry or dehydrated skin, you might want to consider the TikTok trend known as ‘slugging’. Essentially a very effective way to trap moisture in and prevent transepidermal water loss by slathering a petrolatum-based occlusive ointment as the last step of your routine: to promote smoother, softer skin that appears more plump and hydrated. Creating an impermeable wall that seals your skin barrier off, this should be avoided by those who have sensitive or acne prone skin and should be used on alternate nights as it is quite a powerful treatment.  

Final Thoughts

Nighttime is also the perfect occasion to address targeted areas like lips , hands, eyes and feet for the obvious reason that is better to apply products to these specific areas when they aren’t being used or needed. While a lip balm will work for the day, consider using a lip mask at night and always use an eye cream in the morning and an eye serum when you are ready to hit the sack.

Important to note: If you use any retinol based products always use an SPF as the final stage of your grooming regimen the next morning, as SPF and UV-rays aren’t the best of friends. And if you thought having separate products for evening to those you use during the day may be an extravagance, always keep in mind that they serve a completely different purpose; to either protect or to regenerate.

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