"I never sleep with my makeup on," said Katy Perry in a recent ELLE interview. "Unless I'm, like, spending the night over at a guy's house. I used to do that a lot when I was younger." Perry isn't an exception; celebrities are as evangelical about sleeping with freshly washed skin as they are about drinking gallons of water. For the record, Perry has washed with Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil "for several years now."
But in real life, cleanser worship doesn't always seem warranted. For a few ELLE editors who fall asleep wearing traces of morning foundation and wake without pimples, skipping the nightly face wash has had zero repercussions. If sleeping in makeup doesn't cause breakouts, why bother washing before bed? [Ed. note: Even a discussion of sleeping in makeup activates my dormant acne. I take it all off, even at a guy's house, and either wake up early like Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids for a secret touch-up or keep the lights low. I'm not proud of it.]
What happens when you make a habit of sleeping in makeup? "There's very little data on this," says Josh Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital. "Anecdotally, we see patients who have more skin irritation and more acne breakouts if they don't take their makeup off. Some makeup is labeled as long-wear that you can wear for 24 hours. But should you? Probably not." So it's fine at first, but ultimately, sleeping in makeup isn't sustainable. "Eventually, your youth can no longer out-match the toxicity of the damage from makeup left on overnight," says dermatologist Macrene Renee Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD. "When you sleep with makeup clogging the pores, the bacteria proliferate overnight. Pollutants and other bacteria adhere to the makeup and further add stress and damage to the skin. Leaving makeup on overnight can exacerbate breakouts and worsen the skin aging process."
For Harold Lancer, MD, the Los Angeles dermatologist who takes care of Kim Kardashian's selfie-ready skin (and a stable of Grammy and Oscar nominees), a rigorous cleansing system (cleanse, exfoliate, cleanse) is the touchstone of his eponymous skin care line. But when his globe-trotting disciples can't adhere to his meticulous regimen away from home, "I tell them to get some sort of aloe wipe, or aloe cloth. Because if you have at least the white cloth, the material itself will get off some of the debris. You don't need to use water or a basin. [My clients] usually want just a quick wipe-down until they get a thorough cleansing."
Face wipes are nothing new, and most derms, Lancer included, still prefer traditional cleansing methods, but sometimes a pre-moistened cloth is the only alternative to sleeping in makeup. Leave it to model-multi-hyphenate Tyra Banks to create a face wipe that makes the chore of washing your face before bed feel fresh. Pop It Clean Single Use Makeup Wipes feature 12 portable plastic discs, no bigger than slices of pepperoni, that each house a single wipe. When you press down on the center, cleansing water saturates the cloth and it blooms through a peephole in the packaging. When a tube of Pops arrived at the ELLE office, even face wash–hating editors swiped a few discs to take home and try.