Every morning starts out in pretty much the same way. I wake up, scroll through my phone (don't judge me), and get out of bed. I walk across the room to the mirror and inspect my face. Without fail, I have "pillow face" every single time, with creases and folds from the position in which I slept the night before. And recently, those very same markings have been cropping up as real wrinkles, splayed across my face for more than just the few minutes it used to take to watch them fade away. "This may come as a surprise," celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau warns, "but did you know the second cause of wrinkles is sleeping?" No, I certainly did not. She continues, "After sunlight and UV exposure, squishing your face into a pillow for approximately 2,500 hours per year is like ironing wrinkles into the skin." Needless to say, I am not okay with this. Luckily, our experts shared their top recommendations for preventing sleep wrinkles and treating any existing ones.
Prevention is Key
To be frank, it never really occurred to me I had any say in the matter—that there are treatments and prevention tactics I can employ to keep the fine lines from becoming permanent. I didn't realize I can sleep differently or buy products to change the course wrinkles are bound to take. But there are. And according to Rouleau, there are behavioral changes I can make starting right now. "Sleep wrinkles are creases that form on the face due to skin positioning and pressure," explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group. "They typically form as people move around in their sleep, sleeping with their face down or pressed up against their pillows, and primarily when fabrics have higher friction forces and the skin cannot glide along the fabric."
Swap Out Your Pillowcase
A common mistake is using pillowcases with fabrics that grip skin rather than allowing it to slide across it, notes Nazarian. While flannel and jersey sheets are cozy, they tend to hold on to your skin more than other fabrics do. "Ideally, you should be using a silk or satin pillowcase." This will cut down on facial creases, lines, and imprints as you sleep. The less your skin grips onto your pillowcase, the less likely it is you'll wind up with permanent fine lines from your sleeping position.
Sleep On Your Back
"Sleeping face down and pushing skin into the sheets or pillowcases," says Nazarian, "causes the skin to fold and crease and eventually stay permanently over time." It is so hard to change your sleep position. That I know. But sleeping on your back allows for a fresh face come morning. Plus, I read that J.Lo sleeps on her back surrounded by pillows to prop her up, and if the way she looks is a signifier, it certainly works.
Keep Your Hands Off
"Another common mistake is sleeping with your hands pressed against your face," says Nazarian. "Much like flannel or thicker cotton sheets, our skin grips rougher surfaces and wrinkles with lateral pressure—even our hands along the facial skin. It's best for facial skin to avoid contact other surfaces during sleep, keeping your face and head elevated with a pillow and using a silky cover that minimizes the pulling and rubbing on the skin."
If you're someone who often sleeps with their hands tucked under their face, try keeping your hands under your pillow rather than directly on your skin. This can help reduce friction while hopefully keeping you comfortable.
Wear a Sleep Mask
If you don't want to commit to a silk pillowcase, try a silk sleep mask instead. "Nighttime masks do a good job of keeping skin in place while you sleep, so even if there is a lot of pressure, the skin does not fold on itself," says Nazarian. And, we can't stress it enough, the fabric you sleep on also makes a big difference. Definitely invest in silk to decrease friction forces and avoid rubbing or folding of your skin.
Try a Firm Pillow
"For a side sleeper, make sure to sleep with an extra-firm pillow and strategically position your head so the lower half of your face is literally off the pillow. Therefore, the face doesn't flatten out like a pancake," Rouleau suggests. Guess it's harder to get wrinkles when your face isn't on the pillow, right?
Stimulate Collagen Production
"Stimulating more collagen can help minimize these creases," suggests Nazarian. "This can be done with micro-needling and various lasers (including Fraxel) and products."
Micro-needling works to boost collagen production by creating small punctures in your skin. These spots serve as entry points for any products you put on your skin after, plus the small holes signal to your body that it needs to boost collagen production to heal them, filling in fine lines. Sounds like a win-win, huh?
Use a Chemical Peel
"Chemical peels do a wonderful job of resurfacing skin and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles while you get into the habit of changing some of your sleep patterns," says Nazarian. "It's never too late to improve your sleeping behavior, especially if it'll benefit your skin."
Always Wear SPF
"The best way to prevent wrinkles is wearing an SPF every day," Rouleau notes. "Hands down, daily use of sunscreen is the number one most effective way to slow down the skin aging process. A generous application each morning will dramatically reduce the formation of lines, wrinkles, and brown spots. It also, of course, prevents skin cancer."
The rule of thumb for SPF application is about 1 teaspoon of product for your face and roughly 2 tablespoons (about a shot glass) for your exposed body.
Nourish Your Skin While You Sleep
"From a topical standpoint, look for an overnight serum formulated with the best ingredients your skin needs to repair while you sleep," Rouleau suggests. "Think about high concentrations of microalgae, superfruits, and peptides. That way, it'll improve visible firmness while repairing the surface effects of daily pollution and environmental damage."
Singh A, Yadav S. Microneedling: advances and widening horizons. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):244-254. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185468