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Working the night shift can take a serious toll on your skin. Sleep deprivation can worsen skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne, and long hours spent working in environments with dry air can rob your skin of hydration.
Many night-shift workers have found that a solid skincare routine is key to combating these challenging conditions. A skincare routine lets you treat your skin to some much-needed—and well-deserved!—TLC. Over time, your skincare regimen can become an integral part of your nighttime and morning routines.
Common skincare concerns
While each person’s skincare goals and concerns are unique, a few common challenges often come up during any discussion about skincare for shift workers. These include:
- Dry skin. As a night-shift worker, you might experience cracked hands, chapped lips, and overall dryness of your face and body. This can be caused by continual hand washing, working in dry environments, and wearing uniforms with harsh fabrics, among other things. In addition, your skin is also more prone to losing its natural moisture at night.
- Maskne. Many night-shift jobs require workers to wear masks for long periods. This can cause mask-related acne, also known as maskne. Masks tend to trap hot air when you breathe and talk, creating a humid environment where bacteria can easily grow. According to Cleveland Clinic, “these bacterial imbalances and friction from your mask can promote acne.”
- Itchiness. At night, the body releases certain inflammatory chemicals, making many people more prone to feeling itchy in the late hours. This applies even more to those with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis! Itchiness can lead to scratching, which can lead to further damage to the surface of the skin.
Finding the right routine
There are many ways to fight against the challenges mentioned above. It might take some trial and error at first as everyone’s skin is unique and will respond differently to products and techniques. But finding the right routine for your skin will help you look and feel your best while working the night shift. Below are some suggestions of steps to add to your morning and night routines.
Your amp-up routine is all about preparing for battle—prepping your skin so it’s ready to face whatever the night may bring. This is traditionally called a morning routine, but shift workers might follow these steps in the evening or the middle of the night. Whenever you do your amp-up routine, your regimen will help your skin prepare for the shift ahead. As a bonus, it might even make you feel more awake and alert before your shift! Here are the steps we recommend for your pre-shift routine:
- Wash your face. Rinsing your face with warm water or washing your face with a gentle cleanser will ensure that you start your day—or night!—awake and alert. This will also give you a clean base to allow other products to fully soak into your skin.
- Moisturize. Moisturizers can help keep your skin barrier strong and healthy, which is especially important if you’re going to be wearing a mask during your shift or working in a dry environment. If you have acne-prone or oily skin, you might choose a more lightweight cream. On the other hand, those with dry, sensitive, or eczema-prone skin might choose a thicker cream. Moisturizer will also act as a barrier against the friction and irritation caused by your mask while keeping your skin hydrated throughout your shift. Pro tip: apply moisturizers to slightly damp skin for optimal hydration.
- Don’t forget the lips and hands. Your face isn’t the only thing that you have to keep moisturized during your shift—your lips and hands are just as important. Apply a lip balm or lip mask (this one definitely lived up to the Tik Tok hype) to prevent your lips from becoming dry and chapped. You can also apply hand cream or keep some in your bag or locker to use on break if you can’t wear it while working.
- Mask up. Masks made with lightweight fabrics might cause less maskne than ones made with heavier fabrics. However, many night-shift workers are not able to control what type of mask they wear at work. While you might not be able to choose the type of mask you wear, you can control how clean your mask is. Always wear a clean mask to give your skin the best protection against bacteria and irritants. Consider also not wearing makeup under your mask as this can further irritate your skin.
Once your shift is over, it’s time to give your skin some well-deserved attention. Post-shift skincare is the perfect way to soothe your skin and restore some of the hydration it might have lost during your shift. The best part is, while your routine might take less than five minutes, the products you use will keep working while you sleep, and you’ll wake up with refreshed, glowing skin. These are some steps we recommend for your post-shift routine:
- Wash the day—or night—off. Use a gentle cleanser to wash away dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells, and any other build-up. This will help prime your skin for the following skincare products.
- Use a serum to target your skincare concerns. Following your cleanser, you might choose to apply a serum—a lightweight product containing a high concentration of active ingredients. There are many different types of serums for different skin types and concerns. For example, some focus on preventing acne, reducing fine lines, or improving hydration. Finding the right serum for your skin can take your skincare game to the next level.
- Moisturize to restore hydration. There’s a good chance your skin will be slightly dried out after your shift, so it’s important to use moisturizer to restore some of the hydration your skin’s lost. There are countless moisturizers on the market to choose from, but it’s always a good idea to keep it simple. Healthline suggests looking for moisturizers that contain simple ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides. Avoid potential irritants like fragrances or dyes. Once you’re done moisturizing your face, don’t forget to give your lips some attention again with a lip balm or mask. You can also use a water-based gel like Secaris to moisturize the insides of the nostrils.
- Optimize your sleep. A lack of sleep and shift work often go hand in hand. And research tells us that poor sleep can worsen skin conditions. To get a handle on your sleep schedule, try these routines recommended by our shift work experts.
While it’s generally a good idea to keep it simple for your morning and night routines throughout the week, there are some extras you can add to your skincare rotation to take your skincare—and self-care—game to the next level. Here are some ideas of things to add to your routine once or twice a week when you’re in the mood to treat yourself:
- Physical or chemical exfoliant. Regular exfoliation helps remove the build-up of dead skin cells. It cleanses clogged pores, encourages skin cell turnover, and helps your skin retain a healthy, smooth, and glowy texture. You might use a physical exfoliant, like a face scrub or a facial brush. You could also use a chemical exfoliant product that contains ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or retinoids. While exfoliation can bring countless benefits to your skin, overdoing it can actually cause damage to your skin. Be careful not to over-exfoliate—everyone’s skin is different, but once or twice a week is optimal for most people.
- Skincare masks. Skincare masks are the perfect thing to add to your pamper routine when you’re feeling in need of a little extra self-care time. Masks can be used to address a wide array of different skin concerns like clogged pores, dehydration, dullness, wrinkles, and more—the list is endless! Skincare masks also come in many different forms, including sheet masks, clay masks, gel peel-off masks, and others. Find your favourite type that targets your skin’s needs, and keep it stocked in your skincare drawer to pull out on the days when you need a little extra me time. Your skin will thank you for it!
- Undereye patches. Undereye patches are mini skincare masks for your eyes, and they can really up the luxury level of your routine. (Find our pick here.) Eye patches can reduce the look of dark circles and undereye bags, bring added moisture to your undereye area, and reduce puffiness. Pro tip: store them in the fridge to make them even more refreshing and to help wake you up before a shift.
- Facial tools. Thanks to the skincare-obsessed era we’re living in, we’re fortunate to have easy access to a wide array of specialized tools to use as part of our skincare routines. Jade rollers, gua sha tools, LED-light treatments, facial steamers, ice rollers—the list goes on. While the facial tools you use will depend on your skincare needs and budget, adding a fun tool can enhance your skincare routine and the overall feeling of self-care that comes with looking after your skin. Our current favourite is this ice roller, which is a tool you store in your freezer. We recommend using it before your pre-shift routine—it’s the perfect way to wake up your skin while soothing any puffiness you might experience after sleeping.
Having a consistent pre- and post-shift skincare routine not only benefits your skin—it can also play a major role in influencing your circadian rhythm. Developing rituals cues your body to follow a solid sleep-wake schedule. So great skincare routines will help you with your shifty schedule while having beautiful glowy skin to boot. Skincare for the win!