is it bad to leave sunscreen on overnight?
Sleep Problems

Is It Bad To Sleep with Sunscreen On?

Last Updated on September 30, 2023 by Louise Carter

If you’re taking a beach vacation or live in a territory with harsh, unrelenting sunshine, you’ll be accustomed to protecting your face and body with SPF 30+ sunscreen.

If this is part of your current routine, leaving on sunscreen overnight is tempting.

Sunscreen should be removed before bed, especially from the face. You won’t be exposed to the sun’s rays overnight, and sunscreen will result in clogged skin pores.

Instead, remove the sunscreen and apply a nourishing night cream. Treat sunscreen the same way women do make-up, taking the time to remove it entirely before bed.

Is it Bad to Leave Sunscreen on Overnight?

A water-resistant sunscreen protects the face and body from the sun’s harmful UV rays. This level of protection is vital to avoiding sun damage if you spend time in direct sunlight.

The risks of prolonged sun exposure include:

  • Premature skin aging (sagging, wrinkles, and age spots).
  • Drying out of the skin.
  • Immune system suppression.
  • Skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).

Of course, wearing sunscreen overnight is pointless because the sun sets in the early evening, rendering sunscreen obsolete overnight while you’re sleeping.

Most dermatologists advise against leaving sunscreen on while sleeping because they’re comedogenic (blocks the skin pores). Also, sunscreen can discolor bedsheets and pillowcases.

Are There Advantages To Wearing Sunscreen At Night?

The sun isn’t the only source of UV rays we encounter. The everyday use of computer screens or cell phones releases some UV rays (known as high-energy visible, or HEV, light).

Experimental Dermatology explains that screen dermatitis can lead to itchy skin, rashes, swelling, and general soreness, all common issues from traditional sunburn.

This means you may wear sunscreen after dark to protect the skin. However, this is unlikely to be necessary if you utilize modern technology.

Contemporary smartphones and tablets have a ‘dark mode,’ which emits less bright blue light. However, this doesn’t always apply to a computer screen or TV.

what happens if you sleep with sunscreen on?

What Happens if You Sleep with Sunscreen on?

A sunscreen that contains physical blockers, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, lingers atop the skin and reflects UV rays away from the skin.

Meanwhile, chemically absorbent sunscreen absorbs UV radiation before it sinks into the skin. This isn’t a concern overnight. If there’s no sun to release UV rays, there’s no need for sunscreen.

The only situations where you may consider sleeping in sunscreen are:

  • You’re sleeping outside, such as while camping, and will be awoken by the sun.
  • You sleep in a room with large windows that stream direct sunlight onto your skin in the morning. UVB rays are blocked by double glazing, but 50% of UVA rays can enter.

Even in these instances, think twice before wearing sunscreen in bed. It should be worn during the day and regularly reapplied for maximum effectiveness.

Most sunscreen sits atop the skin, creating a translucent coating. This shows that the product is working but blocks the skin’s pores. That makes sweating difficult, leading to a difficult night’s sleep.

Can I Sleep with Sunscreen on My Face?

As sunscreen rests on the face as an external layer, it traps dead skin cells that would ordinarily be shed. These work their way into the pores, which are tiny holes that release oil and sweat through the skin.   

Blocking the pores wreaks havoc on facial skin. If the pores can’t breathe, they’ll become greasy. At best, this will cause blackheads or whiteheads, but acne is more likely, with red, sore, and itchy skin.

Clogged pores quickly make themselves known and are slow to repair.

Sleeping in a hot environment with sunscreen for a few days can result in weeks of acne and unsightly blemishes. Still, it takes a strict skincare regime to undo the damage.

Also, you risk smearing sunscreen on pillows, which could get into your eyes. For safety reasons, wash sunscreen off your face around 1 hour before bed to allow the skin to breathe.

Is It Bad to Sleep with Sunscreen on The Body?

The body is covered with skin and has pores that must be able to breathe.

Take a long shower before bed, as sleeping with sunscreen can cause issues. If you wear pajamas, your temperature will rise. If your pores are blocked by sunscreen, you’ll be unable to sleep.

Staying cool overnight is essential to deep, restful sleep. This is difficult in a territory with hot ambient temperatures, and blocking the skin pores will make you feel even hotter and stickier.

The body will react to these blockages, meaning that acne or a painful rash can occur. Sunscreen can also be greasy with a distinct scent, so nightwear and bedsheets must be washed.

You’ll also need to purge sunscreen before entering a swimming pool. According to the Journal of Health Science, sunscreen has a toxic reaction to chlorine.

napping with sunscreen on

How To Remove Sunscreen At Bedtime

If you wear sunscreen during summer, its application will become part of your daily skincare routine. The same applies to removing sunscreen at night when preparing for bed.

Follow this routine to purge the skin of sunscreen before you retire for the night:

  1. Apply an oil-based cleanser to your face. Make-up remover will suffice in an emergency.
  2. Massage the skin so the sunscreen rises to the surface.
  3. Rinse the skin to remove the first layer of sunscreen.
  4. Apply a water-based facial cleanser.
  5. Rinse again and pat the skin dry with a soft towel.

Ensure you shower thoroughly. As discussed, you need to rid your body of all traces of sunscreen unless you’re prepared to wash your clothing and bedsheets the next day.

Alternatives to Sunscreen While Sleeping

The skin requires hydration overnight, especially if you’re based somewhere hot enough to need sunscreen regularly because hot, dry air or air conditioning can dry the skin.

Moisturizers and night creams can assist with skin damage caused by sunscreen.

Night creams contain products like retinol. However, the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology explained that retinol is an anti-aging ingredient, but the sun renders retinol ineffective.

Consider ‘wearing your food’ overnight. A homemade face mask from antioxidant-rich berries or other foods can counter the drying effects of the sun while you sleep.

Don’t use coconut oil as a combined sunscreen and night cream.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of coconut oil is insufficient to protect any skin type from prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays during the day. Coconut oil can aid the skin’s recovery overnight.

Just because you shouldn’t leave sunscreen on overnight doesn’t mean you can avoid wearing it altogether. Sunscreen remains pivotal to the avoidance of skin damage caused by UV rays.

Remove sunscreen from the face and body when sunshine is no longer a concern.