Skin that is consistently free of blemishes can feel like a dream. Even after you’ve tried countless skincare products promising to prevent pimples, switched up your routine in every way imaginable, and avoided certain habits you know lead to breakouts, you still wake up to zits and blackheads. The truth is that the road to good skin is long, and although this isn’t what you want to hear, getting clear skin overnight isn’t going to happen. However, there are things you can do before bed to set yourself up for a clearer complexion come morning.

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First and foremost, make sure you get good sleep is key since there are a lot of regenerative processes that happen in our skin overnight. “We know that certain inflammatory markers decrease during sleep and that proper sleep affects circadian rhythms, and in turn, cortisol levels, which can lead to breakouts, sallow skin, and fine lines when elevated” explains Kavita Mariwalla, MD, dermatologist, and founder of Mariwalla Dermatology in West Islip, NY. Skin cells also turn over more quickly at night and the production of new cells increases.

Of course, it’s also important to be mindful of your habits throughout the day, as they can impact your quality of sleep and therefore, the condition of your skin as well. “If we treat our bodies well — hydrate, eat healthy foods, minimize stress, etc. — our skin will reap those rewards during sleep, the body’s rest period,” explains Alexis Parcells, MD, plastic surgeon and founder of SUNNIE and Parcells Plastic Surgery in Eatontown, NJ.

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So, if you’re wondering how to get clear skin overnight, start by maximizing your skincare efforts while you snooze. Try these top tips from dermatologists.

1. Always wash your face before bed

For clearer skin overnight, Dr. Parcells recommends washing your face twice a day to unclog pores and dissolve any residue that has built up. But if you had to pick only one time of day to wash your face, it should most definitely be at night, after it’s been exposed to the elements — sweat, oil, dirt, pollution, etc. What you use to cleanse your skin also matters. “Cream- and oil-based cleansers are best used on a daily basis, while exfoliating cleansers are beneficial one or two times a week,” Dr. Parcells says, adding that using harsh cleansers too often can strip the skin of essential moisture, causing an adverse effect.

2. Frequently wash anything your skin touches

Your pillowcase is a petri dish for acne-causing bacteria, as it absorbs sweat, oil, and residue while you sleep, transferring it back onto your face and causing inflammation and breakouts. The same goes for your cell phone, mask, and anything else your skin comes in constant contact with. So frequently washing your sheets (every week at least) and wiping down your cell phone (daily) can make a major impact. Dr. Parcells also recommends washing your hands before going to bed, since many people rest on the backs of their hands or unconsciously touch their faces while sleeping.

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3. Treat pimples while you sleep

Assist the natural restoration processes that happen overnight by treating existing blemishes while you sleep, suggests Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, a cosmetic and medical dermatologist in NYC and the Hamptons with Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York and Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at NY Presbyterian Hospital – Weill Cornell Medical Center. “The best overnight spot treatments for acne contain ingredients like salicylic acid, sulfur, and benzoyl peroxide,” she says. Try: Murad Rapid Relief Acne Spot Treatment (

4. Stimulate skin cell turnover

Nighttime is the best time to take advantage of skin cell turnover, which reduces your risk of developing blemishes, lessens the appearance of large pores, and gives the skin’s surface a smoother, more radiant appearance overall. You can promote the process of cellular turnover, which starts to slow as you age, by using ingredients such as retinol (or its gentler alternative, bakuchiol) and alpha hydroxy acids like salicylic and lactic acids. Try: Shani Darden Skin Care
Retinol Reform (

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5. Don’t skimp on moisturizer

Some people who are prone to breakouts or greasiness shy away from a moisturizer for fear that it will only make their skin worse. However, the opposite is true, especially when it comes to your night cream. “Transepidermal water loss is higher at night while we sleep, so it is especially important to lock in moisture to stay well hydrated, which contributes to clear skin,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “Moisturizing can also help regulate sebum production and skin cell turnover, helping you shed pore-clogging dead skin.” She recommends using a non-comedogenic night cream, like CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream (

6. Drink enough water throughout the day

Our body is made of 60 percent water, per the U.S. Geological Survey, which means we need to drink a lot of it to keep all our organs functioning optimally, our skin included. “When our skin lacks water, it shows — think fine lines, irritated patches, dark spots, rough texture, and blemishes,” says Dr. Parcells. She recommends aiming to drink enough water (ideally two liters of water) earlier in the day so that you’re not waking up to pee every few hours and interrupting your beauty sleep.

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7. Quit picking at your face

Word to the wise: Leave that pimple alone! Aside from increasing redness and inflammation, touching and picking at a pimple will only delay the healing process, warns Dr. Parcells. “Digging your nails into the skin can worsen the situation and lead to permanent scarring,” she says. What’s more, picking your face transfers dirt and oil onto your skin from your fingers, leading to new breakouts. Instead, consider using a steamer or clay/charcoal mask to assist in removing dirt and oil from pores naturally, and then apply a spot treatment, Dr. Parcells suggests.