I’m not alone in my predicament. There are plenty of us who suffer from ‘morning face’ — when you wake up looking not quite yourself. Some, like me, awake to an hour of puffy eyes and reddened skin. For others morning face means bigger jowls, a creased cheek or a blotchy complexion that lasts anywhere from two minutes to two hours.
‘There is a lot going on with your skin while you sleep,’ says Inge Theron, founder of FaceGym, Selfridges’ in-house facial massage bar, ‘and it’s the amount and type of sleep that determines how you look when you wake up.’ During a good night’s sleep our bodies enter what is known as the parasympathetic state (which controls the ‘rest and digest’ functions of the body) and the growth hormone HGH is released, which helps to repair our skin, improve collagen levels and remove toxins. Sleep badly or binge on food or alcohol before bed and your body won’t be able to detox properly, meaning you’re likely to wake up as puffy as a marshmallow.
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Then there’s the fact that we sleep horizontally. ‘When we lie flat we lose the benefit of gravity,’ explains Harley Street dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. ‘So if we’re carrying excess fluid due to too much salt in the diet or because we’re premenstrual, that fluid can collect in our soft tissues. The eye area is especially prone because of the large number of blood vessels in the thin tissue. Without gravity to encourage drainage, that piggy-eyed look is the face we see in the mirror.’
‘Sleep wrinkles’ are another feature of morning face. These are a direct result of the position you sleep in — the way you lean on your hand, or how your cheeks are squashed against the pillow. While regular expression wrinkles form horizontally, sleep wrinkles often form vertically or at a slight angle. Sleeping in the same position actually moulds these lines — a good dermatologist can tell which side you sleep on just by looking at you. Then there are those telltale crinkles left by pillowcases, which are ludicrously hard to smooth out in time for that 9am meeting because skin is dehydrated from sleep. Even skin colour and texture is different first thing: if you tend to look as white as your bed sheets when you wake up, it’s probably because of reduced nocturnal blood circulation and bad water balance.
As we get older, the ‘bounce-back’ from sleep takes longer and we rely more on moisturising products to restore the skin’s springiness. Aesthetics doctor Barbara Sturm recommends using a moisturiser with hyaluronic acid, which binds moisture to the skin, as well as making dietary changes: ‘You can eat water-rich fruits and vegetables during the evening to restore water balance. Puffiness can be improved by positioning your head higher than the rest of the body during the night, and if you start your day with sports, especially yoga, and increase circulation, then the blood flow will support the filling-in of skin wrinkles.’
Terry Barber, director of make-up artistry at MAC Cosmetics, says, ‘If you suffer from morning face, avoid doing any shading or contouring until it settles down, otherwise it will all end up in a different place. Focus on your basics: brows, mascara and lips.’
There are of course many women and men in this city who love the way they look in the morning — and oh, how lucky they are! One beauty industry colleague feels she looks her best as she hops out of bed, the puffiness in her cheeks giving her face youthful volume that she feels she lacks at the end of the day. Beauty sleep, it seems, has a different face for everyone.
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