How circadian rhythms effect your skin

The clocks have gone back and the earlier arrival of night messes with our sleep and the way we feel — and, believe it or not, our skin changes. 

When daylight savings end, we waken earlier, our eating patterns are altered for a while and we can even feel jet-lagged: and it’s all because our circadian rhythm is out of whack. The term circadian comes from the Latin phrase “circa diem” which means “around a day.” 

These rhythms effect everything in nature — they cause flowers to close in the evenings and nocturnal animals to hide during the day and they influence not only our waking and sleeping patterns, but how we feel physically and mentally — and it's all related to the daylight hours

So when the clocks dance about twice a year it messes with us so much that there are many documented studies showing increases in car accidents, work accidents and medical errors. I am not sure why ACC are not leading the charge to end it!

And amazingly, our skin keeps its own time, has its own circadian rhythm, and that is why it behaves differently during the day to night.

How do circadian rhythms effect your skin?

Well, in the light of day, your skin produces more sebum, the natural oily film that protects it. The skin also hangs on to moisture during daylight hours  because the sun and wind can dry it out.

At night, your skin relaxes — there's no environmental damage to be on-guard about so it becomes more permeable (we know this because of studies about the efficacy of topical skin treatments). Skin cells begin growing and dividing at a higher rate, and DNA repair kit kicks in.

Scientists used to think all this rest and repair occurred during sleep, but like birds, cats and flowers, our skin's behaviour is tied to the setting sun, not the time we give it— so you're going into repair mode earlier in winter, and earlier still in the days after the clocks go back.

So don't waste hours of repair time; start your end-of-day skincare routine in the dusk hours rather than waiting until you've done with Netflix and you're ready to climb into bed when you can lose half your precious face cream to the pillow. 

Do it early, do it right — because chances are if you leave it until bedtime you will be in a rush, do it half-heartedly or even skip it all together! It’s a lovely time out at the end of the work day, a perfect way to turn a routine into a ritual and you'll be giving your skin the best chance to benefit from its own natural rhythm.


How to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm

Here's some tips to maintain a health circadian rhythm from the Sleep Foundation in the United States

  • Seek out sun: Exposure to natural light, especially early in the day, helps reinforce the strongest circadian cue. (And if its a short time in the morning you can do it without SPF) 
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule: Varying your bedtime or morning wake-up time can hinder your body’s ability to adjust to a stable circadian rhythm.
  • Get daily exercise: Activity during the day can support your internal clock and help make it easier to fall asleep at night.
  • Avoid caffeine: Stimulants like caffeine can keep you awake and throw off the natural balance between sleep and wakefulness. Everyone is different, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Limit light before bed: Artificial light exposure at night can interfere with circadian rhythm. Experts advise dimming the lights and putting down electronic devices in the lead-up to bedtime and keeping electronics out of the bedroom and away from your mattress.
  • Keep naps short and early in the afternoon: Late and long naps can push back your bedtime and throw your sleep schedule off-kilter.