The Way You Sleep Could Be Causing Acne — Here’s Why
Catching up on your nighttime z’s can do wonders for your skin’s health — it’s not called beauty sleep for nothing, people. While a good night’s rest can help your skin look refreshed the next morning, a bad night’s sleep that’s filled with tossing and turning may do just the opposite. The position you sleep in (think: stomach or side) can actually be one of the reasons you have noticed pesky pimples on your face the next morning. So before you pull back the sheets and put your head on the pillow tonight, keep reading, because we’re explaining how your sleep position may affect your breakout pattern with the help of Dr. Alicia Zalka, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Surface Deep, below.
How the Way You Sleep Can Affect Your Skin?
Sleeping on your stomach with your face planted straight into your pillow may be the most comfortable, but it can also result in a type of acne called acne mechanica. This specific form of acne, which presents as clustered comedones and tiny pustules, pops up in areas where the skin meets friction from fabric, like your pillow, or from other areas of skin — for example, if you rest your cheek on your arm. “If there’s something constantly rubbing on your skin, like a pillow, it creates micro-inflammation, it rubs on your pores and your follicles — it irritates them,” says Dr. Zalka. “You’re activating the glands, sweat and oil, while also inhibiting the free exchange of oils, preventing the surface cells from sloughing off and blocking up your pores.”
While the position you sleep in can 100% be the root of your acne breakouts, it’s important to note that there are other factors that may contribute as well. Everything from hormones, diet, your skin-care regime and your lifestyle habits can contribute to bacteria and other surface debris clogging pores, which in turn could lead to pimples. To find out if your breakouts are actually related to your sleeping habits, it’s important to take a look at the pattern of your pimples and consult with a board-certified dermatologist. “Patterns are so helpful — it’s like me being a detective and gathering the best evidence at a crime scene and noticing changes from the norm,” says Dr. Zalka. “For example, if you’re seeing pimples on one side of your face where your head is generally on the pillow, or if acne is popping up where your helmet chin strap is or if you’re getting acne where your bike shorts rub against your buttocks, it typically falls under the acne mechanica pattern that’s exacerbated by pressure or friction.”
What’s more, the type of acne you’re experiencing can be a good indicator if your sleep position is to blame. While acne associated with your hormones will likely present cystic or with inflammation, acne that results from the position you’re sleeping in will have different tell-tale signs. “Acne mechanica tends not to be those cystic lumps and lesions, but more along the lines of microcomedones, like whiteheads and blackheads,” says Dr. Zalka. “It’ll show up in clusters and won’t be terribly pustular or cyst like.”
Recommended Sleep Position to Prevent Acne
While sleeping on your back is best, you can’t always control your sleeping position. To try and minimize your likelihood of getting a breakout, wash your face every night, moisturize and sleep on a clean cotton, linen or silk pillowcase. “The moisturizer will act a little bit like a lubricant and prevent some of that pressure and clogging,” says Dr. Zalka. She explains that keeping the room where you sleep cool is also a good idea, too, because sweating overnight may increase the chances of sweat mixing with bacteria leading to clogged pores.
Another piece of advice? Make sure to apply your skin care, including spot treatments, like the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment, at least 20 minutes before getting in bed. “Apply around 20 minutes before bed so it has time to blend in with your skin — this way it won’t rub off on your pillow right away,” says Dr. Zalka.
Image: Chaunte Vaughn