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While you were sleeping

There are plenty of reasons to improve sleep habits, particularly when it comes to the relationship between shut eye and skin care. Caitlin Agnew delves into a new crop of beauty products that work best under cover of night

In her 2016 bestseller The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington makes the case for a renewed appreciation of sleep, citing a lack of Zs as a major cause of disease and even death. "Today much of our society is still operating under the collective delusion that sleep is simply time lost to other pursuits, that it can be endlessly appropriated at will to satisfy our increasingly busy lives and overstuffed to-do lists," she writes.

In addition to feeling tired – never a good look – losing out on sleep means sacrificing essential time in which the body repairs itself, including the skin. This vital resting time is when we secrete growth hormones that help repair and rebuild tissues, and when cell production increases. It's also when we recover from stress, a key factor in many skin conditions, from wrinkling to psoriasis. With new products designed to work overnight, skin-care companies are maximizing the beautifying benefits of resting, and helping consumers get some sleep while they're at it.

One such targeted product is Omorovicza's Midnight Radiance Mask, a salicylic acid gel mask designed to brighten and smooth overnight. "It's a bit complicated but the gist of it is your skin is its most receptive to targeted care at night," says Margaret de Heinrich de Omorovicza, who co-founded the company. When developing products for her Hungarian thermal water-infused line, de Omorovicza takes the circadian rhythm into account, looking at how skin functions at various points throughout our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle and working with it. At night, that means assisting the skin as it enters regeneration mode, the deepest and most restorative stage when tissue growth and repair occurs. De Omorovicza's approach is to optimize that period of time when the body is repairing and rejuvenating itself by providing it with skin-care ingredients that support natural renewal. "Working in harmony with the skin's natural rejuvenation period just intuitively makes a lot of sense and we've seen the results."

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One overnight dermal process is moisture loss, which makes hydrating treatments a natural nocturnal choice. In 2015, Lane Edwards created the Overnight Watermelon Mask for her all-natural line Pura Botanicals. Hand made in her Edmonton studio with vitamin-rich watermelon extract, hydrating silk peptides and jojoba oil, the mask addresses the needs of every skin type. "As we know, when we sleep is when the body repairs itself most, especially our skin," says Edwards. "When it's in that reparative mode, to be absorbing those antioxidants and those nutrients is that much more beneficial."

With mango- and cucumber-focused additions launching this season, Edwards prizes the ritualistic aspect of skin care (the instructions for her products are referred to as "The Ritual"). This evening routine can contribute to better sleep hygiene, which includes healthy habits like avoiding bright lights before bed that optimize sleep. She's even added an aphrodisiac ingredient – Egyptian neroli oil – into the formula, which also improves the skin's elasticity and stimulates cell renewal. "We're all about having such a sensorial experience with our skin care," says Edwards.

Charlotte Tilbury is no stranger to the sensorial aspects of beauty. The London-based makeup artist is renowned for her 24/7 approach to glamour, applying her "bedroom eye" – brown liner and mascara – every night before bed. "My husband has never seen me without makeup. You need to keep the mystery alive!" she says. In May, Tilbury added the Overnight Bronze and Glow Mask to her namesake collection of skin care and cosmetics. Designed for men and women, it's a subtle self-tanner that contains blackcurrant seed oil, balloon vine extract and oat kernel extract to create a sun-kissed glow overnight. "It's that bronze, beach mentality that everyone shares post-holiday," says Tilbury. Like anyone who wears multiple personal and professional hats, Tilbury knows just how precious time is and designed this mask with ease and convenience in mind. "With my hectic schedule, I need products that do the work for me while I sleep now, as it's the only free time I get."

A pioneer in the overnight category is skin-care visionary Estée Lauder. In 1982, the New York-based brand launched the original Night Repair, developed to help skin repair and recover overnight, working in sync with the skin's natural rhythm. During the past 35 years, the formula and award-winning line has evolved and expanded; in July, Estée Lauder added the Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix to its night-time offerings. It's designed to combat the waking movements of the eye, which the brand pegs at about 10,000 micro-movements per day. "Estée Lauder's patented ChronoluxCB Technology supports skin cells' natural synchronization to help optimize skin's own repair processes, helping dramatically reduce the look of all key signs of eye area aging," says Dr. Nadine Pernodet, vice president of skin biology and bioactives research and development at The Estée Lauder Companies. "For periorbital skin, which is impacted by constant micro-movements, supporting this natural nightly repair is critical."

Is it though? Toronto-based professor of psychiatry and sleep expert Dr. Colin Shapiro is dubious of skin-care companies' claims. "It sounds to me bogus," he says. Involved in sleep research for more than 25 years, Dr. Shapiro has focused on the basic physiological aspects of sleep, clinical aspects of sleep disorders and how they relate to one's well being. "I think most people would say that it's a time where the body restores itself, and there's a fair amount of evidence to support that nowadays." Indeed, a 2010 study at a sleep laboratory in Stockholm found that sleep-deprived people appear less attractive compared with when they are well rested.

Bogus or not, sleep and everything formulated to take advantage of down time only has a chance to work when you actually get some rest. "I'm a mother of four, I work, I'm a wife, I'm a friend, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister, I'm an employer, I'm pretty much at my maximum capacity," says de Omorovicza. "I'm pretty stressed, and quite happily so and by choice but I'm really kind of firing at all cylinders." The increasing demands of modern living make it clear: We could all use a little more beauty rest.

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