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There's a reason it's called beauty sleep: Cell turnover is eight times faster at night, studies show.
updated 12/20/2009 10:31:00 AM ET 2009-12-20T15:31:00

Nighttime is the right time to take years off your face. "Hormonal changes boost blood flow to the skin, brightening it overnight," says Melvin Elson, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at Vanderbilt School of Nursing. Skin temps are higher, too, so age-fighting potions seep deeper for better results. And even though you're resting, your skin is hard at work. Studies show that cell turnover is 8 times faster at night, softening wrinkles.

On the flip side, as anyone who's pulled an all-nighter can attest, the consequences — pasty-looking skin and dark circles — aren't pretty. "Even worse, not getting the recommended 8 hours increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which may slow collagen production, promoting wrinkles," says Jyotsna Sahni, MD, a sleep medicine doctor at Canyon Ranch in Tucson. To maximize your beauty sleep, follow this routine nightly to wake up with the complexion of your dreams.

Wash your face
Removing make-up, oil, and other impurities helps keep pores tight and skin blemish free. Anti-aging treatments can also penetrate deeper on a clean surface. For dry skin, look for a creamy cleanser; for acne-prone or oily skin, a gel formula. If your skin is sensitive, wait 10 minutes after cleansing before applying anti-agers.

Rejuvenate with a retinoid
These Vitamin-A derivatives are key to youthful-looking skin. "But because exposure to sunlight can deactivate their potency, it's best to apply retinoids at night," says Patricia Farris, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Start by using an OTC retinol-containing cream or lotion every other night until skin becomes acclimated to the side effects. Try Neutrogena Tone Correcting Concentrated Serum Night from Ageless Intensives ($22; drugstores) or La Roche-Posay Biomedic Retinol Cream 15 ($52; drugstores). For more improvement, try Rx Renova, atralin, or Refissa, a newly available retinoid in a moisturizing base.

Dot undereyes with Vitamin K cream
In a 2003 study by Elson, women who applied an undereye cream containing vitamin K and retinol every night for 12 weeks saw their dark circles improve 33%. Try NeoStrata Bionic Eye Cream ($50; or Murad Essential-C Eye Cream SPF 15 ($67; Like retinol, vitamin K is sensitive to ultraviolet light and should be used only at night. BONUS: The retinol helps ease crow's feet.

Apply a mega-moisturizer
Due to a nighttime increase in temperature and water loss, extra hydration is a must, says Jenny Kim, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and dermatology at the UCLA School of Medicine. For best results, look for a cream with the superhydrators hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which attract water to skin. The extra dose of softening also makes wrinkles less noticeable in the morning. Try Mario Badescu Hydrating Moisturizer with Biocare & Hyaluronic Acid ($20; or MD Skincare Maximum Moisture Treatment ($54;

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