These Are The Exact Hours Your Skin Looks Its Best — And Worst — Every Day
By Amy Lawrenson; Photography by Freepik
Your skin works more like clockwork than you realise. Here’s how keeping time could be the answer to a glowing complexion…
Let’s talk jet lag. You’ve landed, the sun is shining… And you’re falling asleep over your sundowner Instagram sesh. Come 4am? Wide awake. That’s your body’s unadjusted circadian rhythms (ie, your internal clock). And it turns out they run more than just your sleeping patterns — scientists have found they control your skin in a more complex way than experts give them credit for.
“We know circadian rhythms affect skin in two ways: protection in the day and repair overnight,” says pharmacist Annette Greco, head of development for Dr Hauschka Med products. Now, what Greco and her peers are starting to understand is that our rhythms can change our skin’s state on a much more frequent basis. It’s natural, but “modern life means we’re disrupting these rhythms — and our skin is paying the price,” she says. The good news? Identify your skin’s daily time zones and you can capitalise on biology’s benefits for precision-perfect skincare.
07:30 – The Cortisol Zone
Good news: your skin looks its best first thing. Bad news: within 30 minutes, the body’s cortisol levels rise by 50 percent to prepare you for the day. This is fine, except our tendency to jump on emails or chug a pot of coffee boosts cortisol further, causing inflammatory reactions. “For skin, this means puffiness, redness and premature ageing,” says dermatologist Maryam Zamani. Delay your caffeine hit and smartphone swiping, and drink at least 500ml water on waking (dehydration is associated with high cortisol levels). Then utilise new anti-inflammatory hero sterolin — a plant fat found in things like avocado oil.
Try Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream Light (R455). Also consider your unwavering commitment to avo on toast validated. Awesome.
10:00 – The Protection Zone
Your skin’s started to produce a high level of antioxidants — an evolutionary barrier against the environment. But these days, there’s more to contend with than finding mammoths to spear. And your skin hasn’t evolved fast enough to battle modern day aggressors. “Pollutants trigger free-radical damage in the DNA of healthy skin cells, risking brightness, tone and plumpness,” says chronobiology professor David Whitmore. Top up your natural barrier using an over-your-make-up product with antioxidants. Aloe vera extract is high in antioxidants and vitamins C and E. Cucumber extract soothes the skin and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Find both in Beauty Fix Radiant Make-up Finish (R299).
12:00 – The SPF Zone
Make-up sliding off your face by midday? That’ll be sebum — a study found that production is highest in the middle of the day. “It’s another evolutionary throwback,” explains naturopath Susan Curtis. “Our ancestors spent their time outdoors, so we developed a protective mechanism to guard against UV rays when they’re at their strongest, producing a waxy, lipid-rich layer full of natural sun protection.” But now that we use products with built-in SPF, the excess sebum simply becomes an unwelcome lunchtime sheen. Keep Palladio Rice Paper Oil-absorbing Blotting Tissues with Rice Powder (R45, Dis-Chem) at hand to mop up shine. Also, excess cortisol doesn’t help with sebum.
A good way to lower it? With rosemary, which you can find in Victorian Garden Kalahari Melon and Rosemary Foaming Gel Face Cleanser (R79, Faithful- To-Nature).
READ MORE: Boity Thulo’s #1 Crazy-Good Skin Secret
15:00 – The Slowdown Zone
That mid-afternoon slump applies to your skin as well as your energy levels. “While blood is effectively pumped to your face during the night as you lie horizontally, the supply weakens throughout the day, reaching its lowest levels around 3pm,” says aesthetic doctor David Jack. Boost blood flow to the area with a quick DIY face massage: using your fingers, focus on pinching, knuckling and tapping actions around your cheeks, jaw and temples for a few minutes to revitalise and refresh your complexion.
16:00 – The Absorption Zone
Feeling an afternoon flush? That’s no bad thing. Studies show daytime skin temperature reaches its peak around 4pm, which leaves your face more than ready and willing to absorb product. Obviously now’s not the time to nip off for a facial, but an al-desko spritz is the quick and easy way to deliver a hit of anti-ageing, protective ingredients to your skin — and won’t mess up your make-up. T
ry Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist (R670).
18:00 – The Gravity Zone
There’s a reason research shows women think they look five years older by the end of the day. A Japanese study found the gravitational pull on fluids in the skin actually reduces its thickness from day to night, meaning wrinkles really do look more pronounced later in the day. While there’s little you can do about gravity, you can cheat its effects.
For an instant plump up, pat the contents of Botanē Skin Actives Peptide Serum (R695) over your face.
21:00 – The PH Zone
While alkaline-eaters will claim anything acidic is bad for you, it’s not the case for your skin. “Skin should be slightly acidic, around pH 5.5, as this helps stop bacteria penetrating,” says skin doctor Terry Loong. While pH levels can fluctuate, they tend to normalise in the evening to around pH 5 — possibly to prep the skin for repair mode. But the wrong night-time regime could tip the balance. “Avoid cleansers with SLS, a foamer that can push pH levels higher,” says Loong.
After cleansing, use a toner with the same optimal pH as skin, like Clarins Toning Lotion with Camomile (R315). Gently does it.
22:00 – The Prepping Zone
As scientists begin to really understand the skin’s rhythms, they’re developing products to harness this activity. Enter the rise in DNA-focused night creams and serums. “Natural DNA repair starts from around 10pm and continues into the night, so there’s a lot of research going into what can boost the effects,” says Loong. The most promising answers come in the form of enzymes and minerals that accelerate repair. Look for rich natural ingredients like algae and red coral to assist the repair process.
Find them in Elemis Pro-collagen Oxygenating Night Cream (R1 995).
00:00 – The Renewal Zone
And… sleep. But your skin’s doing anything but resting. “Between midnight and around 4am, skin acts to reverse any free-radical damage done during the day,” says Loong. “Most cell turnover occurs during deep sleep, so getting as much quality sleep each night will, literally, show on your face the next day.” Unfortunate then that our technology attachment issues aren’t doing us any favours. Research has proven that blue light emitted from devices disrupts the shut-eye cycle, robbing us of rejuvenating deep sleep. Avoid a restless night with apps like Twilight that, after sunset, filter light from blue to red so it doesn’t affect your circadian rhythms. Good night.
In other news: we have the perfect reason why you should actually consider using gluten-free beauty products.