How does my skin’s behaviour change from day to night?


Have you ever gone to bed one night and woken up the next morning to find the skin on your face looks a little different? As with our body’s other systems, our skin undergoes changes from the daytime to when we sleep at night.

You may be familiar with our body’s biological clock, which regulates our sleep patterns and many other aspects of our daily lives. However, research into the relatively new field of chronobiology has revealed that our internal clocks could also have an influence on our skin.

Here’s a look at what the shift from day to night could mean for your skin.

Does your skin look different in the morning?Does your skin look different in the morning?

How does our body’s biological work?

Rather than one biological clock, you can think of us as having many clock cells spread throughout our body, which are all synced up by a main control centre.

For humans, this control centre is housed in the hypothalamus, governed by a small group of brain cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (try saying that three times fast), or SCN. This relatively small area of the brain is responsible for setting our circadian rhythms, influencing when we wake up as well as our energy levels and hormonal activity.

In order to regulate our body’s circadian rhythms, the SCN interacts with the aptly-named CLOCK genes that exist in a number of different cell types, including our skin cells. Once the sun sets and light begins to fade, the SCN instructs the brain to increase production of melatonin, the hormone that helps induce sleep.

What are some of the behaviours of our skin throughout the day?

The epidermis plays an important role in protecting our internal organs from potentially damaging environmental factors such as oxidation, chemicals and UV rays. To support its health, the epidermal cells go through phases of repair throughout the day, as dictated by the CLOCK genes that appear to anticipate the times of greatest stress.

New cells, produced mainly at night, replace the aged ones and help to reduce the appearance of ageing. Furthermore, we also know that DNA repair mostly takes place at certain times of day, a crucial process that helps to uphold our defences against UV radiation and skin cancer.

Your skin's behaviour changes throughout the day in accordance with your circadian rhythms. Your skin’s behaviour changes throughout the day in accordance with your circadian rhythms. 

What is the significance of skin behaviour?

That our skin undergoes a pattern of change throughout the day is nothing new. This can be observed in the fact that women routinely perceive their skin to be more attractive in the morning, a phenomenon that can be attributed to the production of new skin cells at night.

These activities occur at specific times for a reason. For example, DNA repair takes place in the afternoon and evening when there is likely to be direct UV exposure, but it also means damage that occurs during the morning won’t be addressed as quickly.

In addition, stem cell proliferation and the generation of new cells takes place at night when there is less chance of disruption, but if you are staying up late, exposing yourself to chemicals such as tobacco smoke, or alcohol it could put you at risk of premature ageing.

By understanding our skin cells’ circadian rhythms, it can help to better inform us on how best to protect our skin from UV damage when it is at its most vulnerable.

You can give your skin the best chance of protection from UV by regularly applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen such as the Ultra SunActive SPF 50+ range, and from the effects of daily environmental aggressors with Ultra Protective Antioxidant Serum.

If you believe your daily routine could be having an adverse effect on your skin, it could be time to book a professional skin consultation.