FYI: I was about 16 years old here.
I promised never to purposely fall asleep in my makeup about 3 years ago, when I was still an intrepid graduate student in the Great White Frozen North. I was sorting through some mail in the office when another graduate student walked in wearing an eye patch. It wasn't a particularly pretty eye patch, nor was this Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I asked her about it.
"I scratched my eye," she replied.
"Oh my God! How did you do that? Did you fall or something?"
"No...my doctor said it was from sleeping with my makeup on."
Let it be known that at this stage in my life, I was still wearing heavy eye makeup, at least double what this other student wore on a daily basis. And while I told her that I always removed my makeup before going to bed...that wasn't entirely true. Graduate school is a beastly experience, and a few of my all-nighters culminated in me passing out on my books, only to wake up with my eyeliner smeared everywhere and passages from Charles Dickens tattooed on my cheeks. Supposedly, this is a "sexy, slept-in" sort of look, but it always looked and felt dirty to me. Then my colleague came in with that eye patch, and I decided that it was not only icky-feeling to wake up with day-old makeup, but also dangerous, and I swore never to do it again.
Alas, I fibbed. To myself, of all people!
In fall of 2013, I attended a college Homecoming celebration with a few friends. It reminded me that I'm an old lady who doesn't get in to the college bar scene and has to be in bed by midnight, but more importantly, it tired me out. I was sleeping on the floor of a friend's dorm room, so I didn't have my usual cleansing supplies or the time to shower. I lazily wiped off my face makeup with some Dior Instant Cleansing Water and slept with my mascara, eyeliner, and brow pencil on, figuring I'd wake up looking disheveled chic like Kate Moss.
The funny thing? This picture is flattering compared to the reality.
No, I woke up looking like a hot mess. My eyes were dark and puffy-looking, my skin was blotchy, a new zit was springing up on the end of my nose, and I could feel some of the dried-out flakes of mascara grinding into my cheeks. To add insult to injury, my hair had flattened out on one side. I didn't look sexy, chic, or sleepy-eyed, I just looked dirty and tired. Seriously, guys: never again.
It may seem like I'm over-reacting. I get that. But you see, my dislike of this trend goes way beyond my personal experiences and hang-ups.
I've been reading magazines and blogs for years, and the whole "try sleeping in your makeup!" tip just won't die. Most recently, it appeared on Into the Gloss (a website I usually enjoy and admire) in both a quick little blurb and an interview with a celebrated makeup artist: "sleeping in your makeup makes you look good!" The readers of that site tend to be beauty aficionados who get the finer points of keeping your skin clean, using sunscreen, and so forth, so while it irked me to see the articles, I didn't worry about them too much. I figured the readers would know that this isn't exactly the best thing to do on a regular basis.
What does worry me is this tip popping up in women's magazines, actresses in movies and television crawling in to bed with what is clearly a face full of makeup*, and the complete lack of "keep-it-clean" conversations in articles directed at newbies and teens. I've read InStyle, Elle, and Vogue for about 2 years, and I sometimes flip through Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Allure for kicks. I have never seen an article about cleaning makeup brushes and tools in any of these magazines, and most of the beauty tips articles skip over proper makeup removal and cleansing. Most of my friends who were "casual users"--didn't read blogs, buy tons of weird indie products, or do any of the obsessive stuff
Sleeping in your makeup--either because you didn't remove it properly or because you refuse to be seen bare-faced--is not good for you. Conking out with an eyeful of mascara and eyeliner could give you that "smoldering slept-in look," but it could also give you a sty or irritate your eyes. It's much easier (and less traumatic) to just smear some eyeliner on with a q-tip in the morning, if you want that look without the possible complications. Removing your makeup and cleansing properly will also prevent clogged pores and premature aging, which are good things. It's definitely kept my skin as smooth and supple as it was when I was 16. If you're really too drunk or sick or tired to do a full cleansing routine, use a makeup remover wipe to get off as much as you can, rinse your face with warm water, and avoid that mess in the future.
Marilyn Monroe in "How to Marry a Millionaire," circa 1953, versus Christina Aguilera in Bulresque, circa 2010...almost 60 years apart and there's still no difference.
And if you're tempted to try that whole "makeup you can sleep in" trend? Please don't. It is absolutely ridiculous that we have commodified the female body so much that we're encouraging women to never go barefaced, even in their sleep. "You only have value if you're beautiful! You need to look gorgeous 24/7 or he won't love you anymore!" BARF. And no, film industry, you aren't fooling me: I know that actress is wearing makeup in her sleeping scene. Please don't fall for that shit, readers, it'll only make you feel ugly when you are really just human.
Now, I know I'm going to get a few nay-nays here. I had a friend who would roll her eyes every time I told her she should remove her makeup and clean her skin every night, because she wore a full face to bed on a regular basis and always woke up with beautiful skin. And to this day, her skin is as smooth and soft as a baby's bottom. But skin like that is the exception, not the rule. A survey conducted by women's health found that 1/3 of women sleep in their makeup at least twice a week, and I highly doubt that all of those people have the same supernatural skin genetics that my friend had. I know I don't!
You need to take care of your skin, folks. And that means cleaning your brushes, cleansing regularly, and of course, removing your makeup. Leave sleeping with a painted face to the movie stars.
* The one exception that comes to mind is Bridesmaids: the main character, Annie, puts on her makeup in the morning, then sneaks back in to bed. The difference is that this is clearly mocking the whole "waking up beautiful and perfectly made-up" trope, and the character is doing it in the morning--as far as we know, she hasn't gone to sleep with a full face on. This scene perfectly highlights the impossible standards women are expected to live up to.