Can your skin breathe if you're sleeping with makeup on? If you sleep in makeup are you ageing your skin? A scientist reveals the truth.

Is Sleeping With Makeup On Ageing Your Skin?

In Anti-Ageing & Protective Skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

I’m 18 years old. I wasn’t sleeping with makeup on and now I’m makeupless. I feel bare, vulnerable and – why, oh why is this happening the very first time I’m staying over at my new boyfriend’s halls.

Don’t look at me (!) I’m scream-shouting it inside, right now as I walk down the 3rd floor of this fluorescently lit staircase.

[Whoever invented fluorescent lighting – seriously  what were they thinking!?]

It’s loud. So loud.

A siren’s whirling, warning us of fire.

We shuffle out, down, in a sea of fellow students.

Spotting a group of his friends, panic rises in my belly, no, no, noooo… not more people seeing me makeupless.

I contemplate making a mad run for it… and instead, end up burying my face into my boyfriend’s chest.

I’m not sure which is the better look?

Fitness fanatic or vampire girlfriend? 😉

This memory – oh my 😂 – it’s burned into my brain – I felt mad panic because as any of my teenage friends would tell you I HATED people seeing me makeupless. I was the definition of a self-conscious teenager.

But I was also a good girl and took my makeup off every night without fail 😉

Because I thought makeup was bad.

I thought sleeping with makeup on would give me spots and age my skin.

Every Trinny & Suzanna I watched, every Gok Wan episode, every 10 years younger – these women, they’re greeted with gasps as they confess – I never take my makeup off before bed. I sleep in makeup all the time. 

They’re barely reaching the end of their sentences before wide eyes of shock are shutting them down in shame.

You do what. You sleep in makeup 😱 Who are you!?!

I’m about to shock you with this – is sleeping with makeup on ageing your skin blog because now I scientifically know differently.

I know exactly what is healthy for skin. Exactly what anti-ages skin.

And every time I have a SkinCoachee tell me – I try not to wear makeup so often… and I try to rinse every last drizzle of it off my skin before bed… because I know it’s bad for me. 

I shock them with what I say next.

Can your skin breathe if you're sleeping with makeup on? If you sleep in makeup are you ageing your skin? A scientist reveals the truth.

I Sleep In Makeup – am I a bad person?

I joke but oh my word is there a lot of makeup shaming out there eh.

My friend – there is a super simple scientific fact you must know.

Makeup is made from the same ingredient families as skincare. 

Oh yes it is.

Skincare has hydrating actives. Makeup does too.

Skincare has moisturising actives. Makeup does too.

Skincare sometimes has SPF in the bottle… guess what, makeup sometimes does too.

Then there are colouring actives aka pigments – you might be shocked to find this bit out – skincare often has these too – they’re used to make the formula look whiter (or sometimes green, or pink, or like a rainbow cake with sparkles ;)). And guess what… you know it already eh – makeup has pigments too.


The difference between makeup and skincare is as blurry as a night out after too many cocktails 😉 – often it’s only about how much pigment is popped into a bottle. And even when you’re using makeup – this is a pinch of pigment to get colour. It’s tiny.

Think of it like the difference between chocolate fudge cake and chocolate brownie – they’re made from the same yummy ingredients but just in different amounts. One rises and one makes a deliciously gooey slab.

So why do you feel like sleeping in makeup is bad when I bet you’re sleeping in skincare eh ;).

What Happens If You Keep Makeup On Overnight?

Is sleeping with makeup on ageing your skin? Staving it from oxygen? Preventing it from ‘breathing’?

Psst – spoiler alert – your skin doesn’t need to ‘breath’ in this way. And actually, your skin gets oxygenated from the inside. From the oxygen your bloodstream’s carrying right now.

So myth, myth, myth. Sleeping in makeup does not prevent your skin from ‘breathing’.

So what does happen if you keep makeup on overnight?

Honestly. Not much. 

Makeup like foundation, skin tints, mineral powders and more – they’re designed to sit in the top layers of your skin – because no one wants beige blood eh 😉

And here they’re forming a protective barrier – which is a fantastic thing to be doing.

Your skin’s top layers, they’re like a skin shield – and when your skin shield gets depleted – well that IS one of the things which can cause your skin to age fast.

In fact, washing your face less is one of the best anti-ageing tips I wish I knew sooner.

Published science papers even go as far as recommending you wear makeup to help anti-age skin and this is the exact reason why.

It adds extra protection.

Like putting on sunscreen… and then a burkini.

Is sleeping with makeup on ageing your skin? The bottom line – so long as you’re wearing the right makeup. Good makeup. And it’s light to medium coverage. Sleeping with makeup on is not ageing your skin.

Is Sleeping With Makeup On Ageing Your Skin?

Now you know sleeping with makeup on is not something to feel shamed by and is not actively, by itself ageing your skin. There is ONE situation you should take extra care in to remove your makeup.

And that’s because there is one way sleeping with makeup on has a bigger potential to age your skin.

If you’ve been in an area of high pollution for a significant amount of time.

Because pollution particles are ultra stressful to your skin. They’re ageing.

It’s like your skin’s playing dodgeball and that requires a heck load of energy.

Here’s the thing – pollution particles can easily get lodged in the surface of your skin.

In fact – they love the surface of your skin.

Take a peek at this science quote with me;

Traffic-related air pollutants (e.g., diesel exhaust gases or fine particles), for which the association with skin aging has been well-established, are rich in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These are formed by incomplete combustion of organic material such as coal or oil. PAHs are lipophilic and are more likely to penetrate the skin barrier.Curr Environ Health Rep. 2020 Mar;7(1):58-64

Oooeee… what science gook eh.

Don’t worry if this sounds overwhelming – that’s why you’ve got me 🙂

What this paper’s telling us is;

  1. Air pollution caused by traffic causes your skin to age faster
  2. PAH is a type of air pollution linked with increased skin ageing
  3. PAH’s love to dissolve in oily things and guess what your skin barrier’s made up from? Oil.

Meaning your skin can be like a magnet to oil-loving pollution particles.

Wearing makeup can help slow down pollution-induced skin ageing because it forms an extra barrier. Wahoo.


However – if you’re sleeping with makeup on after a day out in the city – well – that’s giving these ageing pollution particles a longer amount of time to penetrate through your skin barrier and to cause your skin to age faster.

Psst – extra must know – if your skin’s prone to dark marks and pigmentation, you’ll want to be especially careful after a day out in the city, and that’s because;


An increase of 10 μg/m3 NO2 was associated with 25% more pigment spots on the cheeks in German women and 24% in Chinese women.Curr Environ Health Rep. 2020 Mar;7(1):58-64

Is sleeping with makeup on ageing your skin? The bottom line – pollution particles can get stuck in the top layers of your skin and the longer they’re here for, the deeper they’re absorbing. As air pollution is a massive stress to your skin, it will age your skin faster – pigment spots are one of the key ways you can tell if your skin’s being stressed by air pollution.

So while sleeping with makeup on cannot by itself age your skin. Sleeping without washing off pollution from your skin – whether you’re wearing makeup or not – can cause your skin to age faster.

What Should I Do If I Fall Asleep With Makeup On?

You should keep on sleeping my friend. Sleep is vitally important to anti-ageing your skin.

Sleeping with makeup on – so long as it’s the right kind of makeup is not ageing your skin. It’s also not bad for your skin.

So don’t feel bad.

Feel great 🙂

Sleeping With Makeup On For One Night

While scientifically sleeping with makeup on is not bad for your skin, I also don’t recommend you do it regularly for these two reasons;

1. You don’t get to use your anti-ageing skincare routine in the evening

This is the most important time you have to anti-age your skin. It’s the golden hours because in the evening, as you’re getting ready to slumber like sleeping beauty, your skin’s also getting ready to slumber too. And as it does it’s slowing down its oil making.

This is important because when your skin’s not pumping out oil – it can absorb skincare deeper.

Imagine trying to put eye drops into your eyes as you’re crying with laughter. They’re coming straight back out again eh. This is why anti-ageing actives in your AM skincare routine can be less well absorbed and therefore less effective.

Psst – want to find out why anti-ageing actives you should absolutely have in your evening skincare routine? Get your free copy of my 5 best anti-ageing actives here.

2. It’s best to wash your face in the evening vs. the morning

You’ve already guessed why eh – you’re so brainy (!) It’s best to wash your face in the evening vs. the morning to help prevent ageing pollution particles from getting deeper into your skin.

As these pollution particles get deeper, they’re causing extra skin stress and boom – that means ageing.

Sleeping with makeup on for one night only i.e. it’s the exception rather than the rule is a-ok my friend. It is not causing your skin to age faster because makeup is made from the same ingredients as skincare.

But psst – remember – just like there’s great skincare and swerve skincare, there’s also great makeup and swerve makeup.

Tell me now. Do you feel bad for sleeping in makeup?

Oh and will you be an absolute darling and use that big green sharing button to forward this on to a friend you love? You are the best 🙂