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The 3-Minute Bedtime Skin Ritual

Jun 30 2021
By Bonnie LaPlante
4 min read
A young woman rinsing her face with water.

You’ve made it to the end of a very long day & it’s all you can do to splash a little water on your face, brush your teeth, & crawl under the covers.

Though it may be the last thing you desire, it’s worth mustering up the energy to do a bit more, says Bonnie LaPlante, an aesthetician at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass. “Cleansing and treating your skin every night is so essential,” she says. “If you don’t, you’re leaving all that makeup and dirt to settle into your skin, and you’re not doing all you can to help repair it and beat the signs of aging.”

While the single best thing you can do to improve and preserve the quality of your skin is to use a broad-spectrum, 30-SPF-or-higher sunscreen during the day, nighttime is actually a crucial time for rejuvenation. Some research has shown that during the day, when we’re exposed to a lot of light, the cells are programmed to help guard against radiation (which can lead to skin cancer), while at night they switch to regeneration mode—replacing damaged skin cells with fresh, new ones. That makes the end of the day the time when skin is probably most receptive to treatments.

For the evenings when you’re too beat to do your full skincare regimen, LaPlante recommends a simple two-step process, starting with an exfoliating cleanser (you can skip the pre-cleanse). Begin by wetting your face with lukewarm (not hot) water and use your fingertips (not a washcloth or a harsh sponge or brush, which can irritate your face) to work the cleanser into your skin without scrubbing. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel.

Next up: a serum. When you don’t have time or energy for more, those two products are all you absolutely need, LaPlante explains. “When I’m really exhausted, I exfoliate with the cleanser, which will help get that build-up without having to do a pre-cleanse, then I layer on a serum. That’s the bare minimum and it takes two or three minutes.” Serums are lighter than a moisturizer, says LaPlante, who advises choosing one with vitamins A and C, antioxidants and peptides. Serums are typically water-based and have a higher concentration of active ingredients compared to moisturizers and lotions.

On nights when you have more energy, try to fit in a fuller skin care routine, including a pre-cleanser; cleansing with an electronic brush like a Clarisonic; and then apply a serum, moisturizer, and eye gel or cream. And don’t forget your hands: “Nighttime is when you can give your hands a really good treatment by applying a moisturizer with lactic acid or an oil with vitamins A, C and E,” says LaPlante. “You can even put gloves over that [which concentrates the effects of the moisturizer overnight]. Most women find that their hands are the most tell-tale sign of age. You can get a facelift and an eyelift, but the hands show a lot.”

If you can, try to use those scant few minutes before bed as a time to mindfully reflect on your day and transition to a good night’s beauty sleep, perhaps calling to mind LaPlante’s words of advice: “Unwind, calm down, and don’t be so hard on yourself when you look in the mirror.”