In Korea – currently the vanguard of all things beauty – a smooth and radiant visage is referred to as a “sleeper’s face”. Put simply, sleep equates to beauty. Leaf through any women’s glossy magazine for tips from famous beauties, and a good night’s sleep is up there alongside using sun protection, not smoking and drinking copious amounts of water.
Conversely, we all know the facial side effects of a bad night’s sleep: dark circles, drawn features, more prominent lines and a dull or sallow complexion. This is because the skin’s natural cell renewal cycle works at a higher rate when we are asleep than during our waking hours. It’s also why night creams are formulated differently to day creams. “A night cream contains higher concentrations of cell-proliferating ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids and trans retinoic acids to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles and firm the skin,” explains skincare guru Ole Henriksen. Henriksen’s Invigorating Night Crème (£47 for 50ml) contains algae extracts to calm and firm the skin and alpha hydroxy acids such as glycolic, lactic and malic acids to resurface and reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
According to Véronique Delvigne, Lancôme’s scientific director, “It is between 11pm and 2am, the so-called golden hours, that cell regeneration and division processes reach their peak.” Art Pellegrino, vice president of research and development at Elizabeth Arden, goes on to explain: “During the sleep cycle, the body produces its highest levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which repairs tissue damage.” “Raised melatonin levels during sleep is another key factor,” says Dr Gary Goldfaden. “Melatonin not only regulates sleep, it is also an antioxidant that fights free radicals.” Goldfaden MD’s Plant Profusion Regenerative Night Cream (£140 for 50ml) contains detoxifying enzymes to protect against DNA damage, stimulate the synthesis of collagen production and improve overall skin function, including circulation.
Retinol (vitamin A) is renowned for its efficacy in diminishing fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin texture – and the best time to use it, experts agree, is at night. “Night-time usage helps ensure retinol’s stability, keeping it from competing with environmental factors (sunlight and air) or interacting with cosmetics on the skin,” says Dr Diana Howard, vice president of research and development and global education at Dermalogica. “Additionally, the rate at which retinol aids cellular regeneration nearly doubles at night.” The retinol in Dermalogica’s new Overnight Retinol Repair (£73 for 30ml) is micro-encapsulated with essential fatty acids and phospholipids that nourish the skin and keep the active ingredient stable. It also includes a separate buffer cream to prevent irritation and redness. “This is the first-ever retinol treatment to offer a customisation option, allowing users to enjoy the benefits of a retinoid, while experiencing maximum comfort and efficacy,” explains Howard.
So it’s no surprise that night creams are big business and increasingly sophisticated. REN’s Wake Wonderful Night-Time Facial (£32 for 40ml, exclusive to SpaceNK), launched earlier this year, contains a potent blend of ingredients to simultaneously exfoliate and brighten dull, fatigued-looking skin and deal with issues with pigmentation and dehydration. The key ingredients are lactic acid and glycolic acid to exfoliate, brighten, refine and stimulate cell renewal, as well as glycogen and magnesium to increase energy levels in the skin and support night-time processes such as collagen repair and production. The cream is suitable for any age group, and REN recommends using it two to three times a week for optimum results.
Estée Lauder’s latest innovation is also along the lines of a multitasking facial in a jar. The key ingredients of Estée Lauder’s NightWear Plus Anti-Oxidant Night Detox Crème (£46 for 50ml) are glucosamine to gently exfoliate and coffee seed oil and mandarin orange peel extract to improve the skin’s natural antioxidant abilities. “Gentle exfoliating at night to remove dead cells helps the skin renew itself and achieve radiance without damage,” says Dr Nadine Pernodet, vice president of skin biology and bioactives at Estée Lauder, who advises against exfoliating in the morning, which would remove the natural lipid barrier that protects against the environment. “The detoxifying ingredient glucosamine helps the skin’s natural desquamation [exfoliation] process, ensuring it maintains an even tone. With skin in prime condition, product penetration is improved to allow for optimal overnight recovery and a more luminous appearance in the morning.”
Clarins’ reformulated Super Restorative Night Cream (£73 for 50ml) contains a recently discovered plant derivative from Madagascar called organic harungana extract. According to Clarins, this has been shown to be more effective than retinol and is combined with other active ingredients such as organic montpellier rock rose to help with the loss of skin cell density caused by ageing.
Meanwhile, Lancôme has developed Visionnaire Nuit Beauty Sleep Perfector (£60 for 50ml), inspired by the trend for Asian sleeping packs (water‑rich refreshing gels for night use), which also contains naturally derived key ingredients – in this instance jasmonates, extracted (as you might imagine) from jasmine. In the plant, these act as signalling molecules “triggering the transcription of genes coding for repair and defence proteins that strengthen the plant,” says Delvigne. In Visionnaire Nuit, “Jasmonates stimulate the production of soluble factors that promote cell-
to‑cell communication and induce the synthesis of hyaluronic acid.” And, as skincare buffs know, hyaluronic acid is an important hydrator that occurs within the skin. The formula also contains ceramides, which are found naturally in skin lipids, and a blend of plant oils designed to hydrate and nourish.
It’s not just improved efficacy that makes the new generation of night creams so impressive. Darphin’s new 8-Flower Nectar Oil Cream (£65 for 30ml) is packed with essential oils that feel sublime as you stroke them on to your face, and smells divine. “Studies show that the human olfactory system responds to aromatic stimulants during sleep, especially during the first stages,” says Nicole Howard, Darphin’s head of product development. “So the essential-oil blend of this cream, including ylang ylang, patchouli, neroli and rose, is very soothing to the senses. When you use the cream you can embark on a better night’s sleep.”
Likewise, Elizabeth Arden’s Flawless Future Ceramide Powered Night Cream (£42 for 50ml), containing relaxing notes of apricot, jasmine and sandalwood, has been clinically proven to optimise feelings of happiness and relaxation. “Scientists specialising in the complex relationship between smells, behaviour and mood have found that certain scents trigger feelings, including those that help us relax and fall asleep,” relates Elizabeth Arden’s Pellegrino. “A clinical study was conducted using testers’ mood-based self-reports and MRI brain-scan measurements – 100 per cent of the subjects’ MRI measurements demonstrated an increase in the neural activity associated with relaxation and happiness when they used the cream.”
So it seems that the new clutch of night creams can not only contribute to a fresher, plumper and more radiant waking face, they have the ability to lull us into a soporific state as well.