7 Nighttime Skin Care Mistakes You Had No Idea You Were Making

You wash your face, remove your makeup and apply your hard-hitting nighttime products—and that’s the formula for the perfect skin care routine, right? Not exactly. Check for these lesser-known culprits that may be standing in the way of your best complexion.

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Mistake #1: You’re applying retinol to damp skin.

This one might sound like a “do” for super sensitive skin types that can’t handle full-on, high concentrations of retinol, but Norwalk, CT, dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, says applying a topical retinoid to wet or damp skin can actually lead to irritation and reduced tolerability. 


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Mistake #2: You’re not washing your pillowcase enough.

What’s the magic number? Celebrity aesthetician Nerida Joy says you should be washing your pillowcase weekly. “Not taking off your makeup or washing your face before hitting the pillow is a big mistake,” Dr. Mraz Robinson adds. “Leaving on the grime of day-to-day life and makeup can lead to clogged pores and acne.”


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Mistake #3: …Or you’re not sleeping the right way.

This one sort of sounds unpreventable, but according to celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau, the second biggest cause of wrinkles is sleeping. “After sunlight/UV exposure, squishing your face into a pillow for approximately 2,500 hours of sleep per year is like ironing wrinkles into your skin,” she says. “So if you’re someone who wants to prevent premature wrinkles on your face, you might want to consider giving serious thought to how you lay on your pillow at night.” Rouleau’s solution: Use a firm pillow and strategically position your head so the lower half of your face never touches the pillow. “What this helps to prevent is a squishing of the face, which would exacerbate the nasolabial fold wrinkles that come with age. These are the deep creases, also known as the ‘parentheses’ or ‘marionette’ lines, that run from the nostril to the corner of the mouth on both sides of the face and are enhanced every time you smile or laugh.”


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Mistake #4: You’re skipping a hydrating moisturizer.

“After you wash your face before bed, you need to rehydrate your skin and help to keep the skin barrier intact,” Dr. Mraz Robinson says. “Applying a moisturizer with topical hyaluronic acid and or ceramides will help hydrate and protect your skin.” 


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Mistake #5: You’re storing your serums.

This one is bordering the makeup spectrum, but makes sense all the same if you think about it for skin care as well. “The biggest mistake women make is putting their serums away in the cabinet and then forgetting to actually apply them. The best time to apply eyelash and eyebrow conditioners is in the evening after you’ve cleansed your face. Put these products next to your toothpaste so you don’t forget to apply each night,” says CEO and founder of Grande Naturals Alicia Grande.


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Mistake #6: You’re exfoliating incorrectly.

That term “over” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to exfoliating, but Houston and New York dermatologist Paul Friedman, MD, says if you’re exfoliating your face every night, that’s too much. The American Academy of Dermatology even recommends talking to your board-certified dermatologist first regarding which kind of exfoliator/exfoliation treatment you should use because they can actually make skin worse—especially if you have acne or rosacea—if used incorrectly.


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Mistake #7: You’re applying the wrong vitamins.

According to celebrity aesthetician Mandy Epley, this is one question she is often asked by clients: When is it best to apply anything with vitamin C? “Vitamin C serums should be worn during the day—not at night. The reason for this is because it increases the effectiveness of your sunscreen and boosts your skin’s defense against UV exposure.”


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