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Are your sleep habits causing wrinkles? Here’s what derms want you to know

When it comes to preventing signs of aging, there really is a better way to snooze.
Kara Birnbaum/ TODAY

We work hard to make sure that we get enough sleep each night, not just for our overall health, but for our complexions, too. It's been well-documented that not getting enough sleep can lead to premature signs of aging, like wrinkles and sagging skin.

But did you know that certain sleeping styles can contribute to those things as well? Meaning, you may not actually be getting as much out of your beauty sleep as you could be.

"If you are a face sleeper, somebody who sleeps on their right or left side or directly on your face for a prolonged period of time, there's pressure compressing your skin," explains Dr. Erum Ilyas, a dermatologist in Pennsylvania. "So there's a crushing effect that occurs. With that element of crush that's consistently there, your skin can start to break down some collagen localized in those regions to sometimes etch in lines."

And these lines tend to show up around the base of the jawline and neck, as well as the cheek and crow's feet region, Ilyas says.

So, to make sure that your nightly ZZZs are doing as much good for your complexion as they are for your overall health, we asked the experts about how your sleeping style can impact your skin — and the things you can do to keep those sleep wrinkles at bay.

Will sleep wrinkles go away? | Does your sleeping position affect your skin? | How to prevent wrinkles while sleeping | Products to help prevent wrinkles while you sleep | How we chose | Meet our experts

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Products to help prevent sleep wrinkles

Will sleep wrinkles go away?

For the most part, when you wake up, those lines and wrinkles that you notice (which we often consider to be the sign of a good night's rest) will start to go away as you go about your morning routine. But if you sleep in the same position night after night, eventually, they can start to become more permanent.

"Just like facial expression lines that become etched into the skin over time with repeated use of facial muscles, sleep lines get drawn into the skin because they are formed repeatedly over years," explains Dr. Brendan Camp, a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.

Does your sleeping position affect your skin?

We have some bad news: The way that you sleep can contribute to these lines and wrinkles — and the most common sleeping positions tend to be the worst offenders.

“When people tend to dominate a certain side of their face, because of gravity and how the skin folds when you put your face down, it will kind of fold over and create a crease," explains Dr. Angela Lamb, a New York based dermatologist at Mount Sinai Dermatology.

That's why the best sleeping position is flat on your back. Though Ilyas adds that she doesn't know "many people who can get away with" sleeping on their back, and if you consider yourself in that group, there are some other things that you can do to help minimize sleep wrinkles.

How to prevent wrinkles while sleeping

"Some of it is just ergonomics," Ilyas says. When you side sleep, there's often a gap between your neck and your shoulder where you're not supported. "If you have something to fill that area in a little bit more uniformly, like a neck pillow or body pillow, theoretically, you won't crush all the way down and then have all those lines in your neck."

Also, if you don't typically sleep on your back, you can upgrade your pillow to help keep you in that position overnight. "Anti-aging pillows are designed to support your head on either side and keep you in a supine position as you sleep," Camp says. "This may prevent you from rubbing and compressing your face against the pillow as you sleep." This sleeping position can also prevent your expensive skincare from absorbing into your pillow and staying on your face, which is where you want it.

You also might be familiar with the concept of using a silk pillowcase to protect your hair, and the experts say that it can be helpful for your skin, too, but in a different way. Because the material is smooth, "there's less of a friction coefficient between your skin and the pillowcase," Ilyas says. "So, theoretically, when there's less friction, there's less drag so your skin isn't pulled in one direction versus another and uniformly settles in."

Silk pillowcases can be pretty pricey, but Ilyas says that any material with a smooth texture, like sateen, will also serve the same purpose.

And if you don't want to change your sleep setup (we get it), simply maintaining a skin care routine can be super helpful for preventing wrinkles overnight. "Applying skin care products at night with anti-aging ingredients can help prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. For example, retinol products encourage the formation of collagen and can minimize the features associated with aging skin."

When it comes to taking care of your skin more generally (or if you'd rather not try retinol), Dr. Andy Goren, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Rome G. Marconi, Rome, Italy, recommends drinking water and applying lotion.

"Hydration of the skin is one thing, because if your skin is more hydrated, and it has better elasticity to it, it actually recovers much quicker," Goren adds.

Also, applying your SPF every day can help decrease that elastin breakdown during the day, Ilyas says. (Just another reason to wear sunscreen!)

With the expert's recommendations in mind, we found some top products that could help you make the most of your beauty sleep and avoid those dreaded sleep wrinkles.

Products to help prevent wrinkles while you sleep

Bedsure Satin Pillowcase

What we like
  • Prevents frizz
  • Soft and comfortable feel
  • Elegant look 
Something to note
  • Some say the colors don't look exactly as pictured

Best for: Skin, hair protection | Material: Satin

For an easy and affordable way to upgrade your beauty sleep routine, try changing your pillow case. Look no further than this bestselling satin pillowcase, which is just $7. According to the brand, the pillowcase is made from a silk-like fabric that helps protect your hair and skin while you sleep.

Kitsch Satin Pillowcase

What we like
  • Cooling effect 
  • High quality and durable 
  • Keeps skin and hair smooth
Something to note
  • Some say lighter colors can stain 

Best for: Skin, hair protection | Material: Satin

Another affordable and shopper-loved satin pillow is this option from Kitsch. The brand says the soft fabric will help prevent creasing skin and is gentle on delicate eyelashes. It's available in tons of designs and colors starting at $19.

Zimasilk 100% Mulberry Silk Pillowcase

What we like
  • Zippers easily 
  • Good value for quality 
  • Aesthetically pleasing 
Something to note
  • Some wish they could be machine washed

Best for: Skin, hair protection | Material: Silk

Made from 100% mulberry silk, this pillowcase has more than 33,000 five-star ratings from shoppers who say that it's helped their skin and hair. It comes in 33 different colors and patterns as well as a variety of sizes to fit your bed.

Frownies Forehead & Between Eyes Wrinkle Patches

What we like
  • Helps keep forehead smooth
  • Ease of application
Something to note
  • Some say there's an odor

Best for: Skin protection | Material: Kraft paper, water activated starch based adhesive

Frownies forehead patches hold facial muscles in place in a relaxed position, helping you avoid repeated facial expressions that can lead to wrinkles. When it comes to sleep wrinkles in particular, they can also act as a barrier against the pillows or blankets that we often rub our faces on overnight.

“They’re basically almost like a sticker that keeps wrinkles up," Lamb explains.

Save My Face Le Petite Pillow

What we like
  • Helps decrease facial creases
  • Great to add on top of other pillows
Something to note
  • Some say it sometimes slides from underneath you

Best for: Limiting side sleeping | Material: Down alternative fill, satin lining

This Shop TODAY-loved pillow is made of 100% cotton and has a unique shape that can help facial creases for side sleepers. You place it on top of your normal pillow to keep your face elevated throughout the night.

Famedio Adjustable Cervical Pillow

What we like
  • Combats neck pain
  • Holds head in comfortable position
Something to note
  • Some say it takes some getting used to

Best for: Limiting side sleeping | Material: Memory foam fill, mesh lining

This is another option that’s designed to provide support for your neck and head to prevent any gaps. If you find that it’s not the right size for your sleeping style, it has a removable memory foam insert that you can take out for a more comfortable feel.

Osteo Cervical Pillow

What we like
  • Provides neck and back support
  • Not too stiff or too soft
  • Breathable cover
Something to note
  • Some say the pillow is a little high for their liking

Best for: Neck support, limiting side sleeping | Material: Memory foam, polyurethane (PU) foam

Without proper neck support, you may notice some lines popping up in the area. Upgrade your pillow with this bestselling product that features a hollow center that cradles your head and creates proper neck alignment, the brand says, to keep you comfortable. The ergonomic design is said to work for back, side and neck sleepers.

Lotus Youth Preserve Radiance Renewal Night Cream

What we like
  • Moisturizes skin overnight
  • Smooths skin
  • Doesn't feel heavy or greasy
Something to note
  • Some don't love the scent

Best for: Skin hydration | Ingredients: Super lotus, peach leaf extract, vitamin E, polyglutamic acid

Keeping your skin hydrated helps it recover faster from the pressure that causes sleep wrinkles and creases overnight. One way to improve skin hydration is through the application of a night cream before bed.

"Lotus, peach leaf extract, and vitamin E provide antioxidant protection from oxidative stress and polyglutamic acid helps retain moisture in this rich, hydrating overnight cream," Camp shares.

YourFacePillow Beauty Pillow

What we like
  • Allows you to comfortably sleep on back
  • Helps prevent sleep wrinkles
  • Easily stacks on other pillows
Something to note
  • Some say it can feel tight upon first use 

Best for: Limiting side sleeping | Material: Memory foam fill

If you’re not a back sleeper but want to become one, this pillow could help. Its ergonomic design is made to cradle your head and support your neck so you can sleep comfortably on your back.

Slip Pure Silk Pillowcase

What we like
  • Machine washable 
  • Soft and comfortable against hair and skin
Something to note
  • Some say certain colors do not match picture 

Best for: Skin, hair protection | Material: Mulberry silk

If you're looking for true silk fabric, Slip pillowcases are made of 100% mulberry silk. While it may be more on the expensive side, the brand says it's dermatologist-loved and went through a clinical-grade testing process where users saw a decrease in creases and lines.

Dosaze Contoured Orthopedic Pillow

What we like
  • Provides neck support
  • Limits side sleeping
Something to note
  • Some say it's a little flat

Best for: Limiting side sleeping | Material: Polyester, recycled bamboo, memory foam fill

"Contoured to cradle your neck, this memory foam pillow is designed to reduce neck and back pain and may help limit side sleeping and wrinkle formation," Camp says.

How we chose

The Shop TODAY team spoke to four dermatologists to better understand what sleep wrinkles are, what causes them and how to prevent them. Using their recommendations, we searched for the best products to help avoid the formation of overnight creases and wrinkles.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, is a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Pennsylvania. She focuses on adult and pediatric medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology and skin cancer treatment.
  • Dr. Brendan Camp, MD, is a double board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City. His expertise lies in managing medical conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis, as well as performing cosmetic treatments, including Botox, fillers, lasers and more.
  • Dr. Angela Lamb, MD is a New York based dermatologist at Mount Sinai Dermatology. In addition to working as the Director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, she's also an Associate Professor of Dermatology and the Medical Director of the Mount Sinai Doctors Patient Access Center.
  • Dr. Andy Goren, MD is a Professor of Dermatology at the University of Rome G. Marconi, Rome, Italy. He has over two decades of experience in research, developing clinical genetic tests for a number of skin and hair related diseases.