Skip to main content

Many of us put a lot of thought into our morning beauty routines. Whether we enjoy the art of putting on makeup or prefer a makeup-free approach, and whether we try lots of hairstyles or stick to a faithful ponytail, there’s often thoughtfulness behind what we do. Getting ready in the morning is a way to prepare for whatever the day has in store.

At bedtime, not so much. When we’re tired, it’s tempting to do a quick swipe of eye makeup remover, splash some water on our faces, and call it good—maybe throwing a shower into the mix to save time in the morning.

While there’s certainly something appealing about the, “I’m tired and want to relax as soon as possible” approach, there are benefits to getting ready for bed with a little more intentionality. Most of us can probably attest to the fact that when we don’t get enough sleep, our faces show it. That’s because nighttime is a restorative time for our bodies—including our skin. During the day, our skin is in protection mode as it faces the sun, the weather, and pollutants, but at night it goes into repair mode. Giving your skin the extra nutrients it needs at night can aid in overnight repair. Since skin is more permeable at night, it can absorb the products we put on it better than it would in the morning. Also, certain ingredients in skincare products do their best work away from the sunlight, so nighttime is prime time to apply them. And since we’re free from some of the time constraints that the morning brings, bedtime is also a chance to tend to details we might otherwise skip.

Along with being practical, a bedtime beauty routine can double as a way to transition toward relaxation. Instead of thinking of each step as a task on our to-do list, what if we thought about them as a way to begin the process of settling in for the night?

After all, that’s what a predictable bedtime routine is for. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Whether it’s curling up with a book, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath, doing the same relaxing thing every night will signal to your body that it’s time to settle down.” Washing and moisturizing may not top our list of relaxation activities, and there’s much more to self-care than skin care. But when done with relaxed thoughtfulness, a simple beauty routine can mark the start of a good bedtime routine.

A few simple steps, done over the course of a few quiet minutes, are all it takes to bid your skin and hair goodnight. Here are some ideas of what you might include—choose the steps that suit you the best.


If there’s one thing you shouldn’t skip, it’s washing your face. Sleeping in makeup not only leaves you more prone to clogged pores and breakouts, but can also dry out your skin and make it age faster. Leave your mascara on, and you’re inviting eye irritation and opening yourself up to infections. Washing your face frees your skin from the build-up of the day. Having clean skin will also help moisturizer or other products work more effectively.

To give your skin optimal care, remove all your makeup. If you don’t like the feel of makeup remover, you might want to consider using micellar water. Then, wash your face with a cleanser for your skin type, and gently pat it dry.

Mask (sometimes)

Masks are more than just a luxury for a night of pampering; they also serve a practical purpose. They can help prevent clogged pores, hydrate your skin, and allow the products you apply after to work more effectively. However, most masks aren’t meant to be done every night—just one or two nights a week will do. Masking could be a way to get ready for the work week on Sunday night, to ease into the weekend on a Friday, or “just because” on any other day.

If you do try a mask, be sure to choose one that suits your skin type. You can also make your own masks with ingredients you may have at home, like milk and honey.

Apply serum

Serum helps nourish your skin by giving it a high concentration of various nutrients, such as vitamins and antioxidants. It can help repair damage, even out skin tone, fend off premature aging, and more—different serums have different jobs. Since serum is made up of very small molecules, it enters the skin quickly and easily. Apply serum after washing your face but before moisturizing. If you like the idea of using a serum but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve rounded up a few drugstore picks from dermatologists.


Skin dries out at night, and moisturizing helps it stay soft and well-hydrated. Nighttime is also when our skin does important healing work, and a good night cream (which doesn’t have to be expensive!) can be a helpful part of the process. This is especially true when it’s cold outside. As with other products, find something that’s designed for your skin type, and follow guidelines from your dermatologist.

Speaking of moisturizing, don’t overlook your lips—show them some nighttime love by smoothing on a little lip balm. No need for anything fancy, but if you tend to suffer from very dry lips, you might want to try something like Aquaphor or an overnight lip moisturizer.

Love your locks

Giving your hair a bit of attention before bed can help prevent breakage and knots. Start by brushing out the tangles. If you like to wear your hair up, opt for a loose do secured with a scrunchie, rather than, say, a tight ponytail with an elastic—along with minimizing breaks, this strategy will also be less likely to leave kinks. If you tend to sleep with wet hair, just make sure it’s not sopping wet, since wet hair is more prone to breaking. (Plus, you’ll avoid waking up with damp strands.)

Going through the steps of a bedtime beauty routine may seem like adding more work to the end of an already full day. But when treated as the start of the bedtime routine as a whole, those few minutes can become a peaceful transition. They can help you slow down your pace and genuinely take care of your body as you step away from the cares of the day and into a time of rest.