We know your mornings likely start out the same: wake up, scroll through your phone, and get out of bed. If after examining your face in the morning you realize you have "pillow face"—aka creases and folds from the position in which you slept in the night before—you may come to realize that those very same markings crop up as real wrinkles, splayed across your face for more than just the few minutes it used to take to watch them fade away. "This may come as a surprise," celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau warns, "but did you know the second cause of wrinkles is sleeping?" No, we 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." Luckily, our experts shared their top recommendations for preventing sleep lines and treating any existing ones.
Meet the Expert
- Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician and founder of her eponymous skincare line.
- Rachel Nazarian, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York.
Keep reading to learn how to get rid of sleep wrinkles.
Focus on Prevention
According to our experts, there are behavioral changes you can make starting right now. "Sleep wrinkles are creases that form on the face due to skin positioning and pressure," explains Nazarian. "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." Needless to say, you have a say in the matter.
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. We like this set of two from Mommesilk—it's 22 momme (meaning, it's made with a high amount of silk) and comes in five gorgeous hues.
Sleep On Your Back
"Sleeping face down and pushing skin into the sheets or pillowcases causes the skin to fold and crease and eventually stay permanently over time," says Nazarian. While it's difficult to change your sleeping position, sleeping on your back allows for a fresh face come morning. Plus, 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. Nurse Jamie's wrinkle-reducing pillow is made of silky-smooth satin and has a U-shaped design to conform to the contours of your face and neck. The result is crease-, wrinkle-, and worry-free sleep.
Avoid Sleeping on Your Hands
"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 with 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.
Use an Elevated Pillow
"Try to sleep with your head elevated on a pillow and avoid sleeping with your hands under your face," Nazarian reiterates. If this is a challenge for you, opt for an adjustable pillow like this one from Sleepgram. It comes with inserts that you can add or remove to reach the perfect elevation.
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. We're fans of this one from Slip not just for the array of colors it comes in (we're privy to the pink), but for the fact that it's gentle, doesn't tug on the delicate eye area, and feels plush on the 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. It's harder to get wrinkles when your face isn't on the pillow, right?
Stimulate Collagen Production to Minimize Creases
"Stimulating more collagen can help minimize these creases," suggests Nazarian. "This can be done with microneedling, various lasers (including Fraxel), and products." If you're unfamiliar, microneedling works to boost collagen production by creating tiny 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.
Use a Chemical Peel to Reduce Wrinkles
If you're having trouble getting used to sleeping differently, chemical peels can act as a buffer to ward off wrinkles. "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." The Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Peel is formulated with a blend of glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid to not only stimulate collagen production, but boost cell turnover, improve the look of dark spots, and smooth out uneven texture.
Slow Down Aging With SPF
If you're not already in the habit of wearing SPF daily, let this be your (final) reminder. "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." Go for a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30. This one from Ghost Democracy is SPF 33 and 100 percent mineral and doesn't leave behind a greasy residue, white-cast, or chalky finish. The pump applicator also makes it easy to disperse the perfect amount of product every time.
The rule of thumb for SPF application is about one teaspoon of product for your face and roughly two tablespoons (about a shot glass) for your exposed body.
Choose Your Nighttime Products Mindfully
When you sleep, your skin is in repair mode, fixing all of the day's damage (think: pollution and sun exposure). The products you use pre-bedtime can make a real difference in the health of your overall complexion. "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." This serum from Ranavat has been dubbed the "miracle elixir" in Ayurveda for its rich blend of superfoods, including saffron threads, which promote a bright, radiant complexion.
What causes sleep wrinkles?
Wrinkles are caused by a lack of collagen and a reduction in elasticity. However, sleep wrinkles are caused by repeatedly sleeping on your side (with your face smashed into a cotton pillowcase). Your head weighs about 11 pounds, and that amount of pressure on your face nightly can contribute to sleep wrinkles.
Are there any supplements or foods to take/eat that can prevent wrinkles?
Studies have shown that foods and supplements that are rich in vitamin C have a positive effect on skin and wrinkle formation. Foods like red bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and, of course, citrus are all rich in vitamin C. Foods rich in healthy fats like nuts and avocados are also great for keeping skin hydrated and plump.
How can I avoid sleep wrinkles?
Some tips to help you prevent sleep wrinkles are to invest in a silk pillowcase that lets your face slide across the fabric or sleep slightly elevated on your back. You can also invest in chemical peels and, of course, sunscreen during the day.
Singh A, Yadav S. Microneedling: advances and widening horizons. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):244-254. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185468