What happens if you leave makeup on overnight, according to a dermatologist


There are some pretty serious risks to not removing makeup overnight. (Getty Images)
There are some pretty serious risks to not removing makeup overnight. (Getty Images)

Whether you’ve just tumbled through the door after a night on the Tempranillo or you’re Just Too Tired after a Netflix binge, taking off your makeup before bed can often slip down the pre-bed to-do list.

Of course, we know not cleansing your face at night is a bad skin care habit to get into, but the impacts of not removing your makeup could be far worse than we realise.

"Taking off your makeup every night is an essential part of maintaining healthy, clear skin and preventing potential long-term damage," explains Dr Karishma Hemmady, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics.

What bacteria are we leaving on our skin overnight by leaving our makeup on?

Still not convinced you need to be washing your face before stumbling into bed? Perhaps the thought of the nasties you're leaving on your face overnight might change your mind.

"If you don't remove your makeup before bed, various types of bacteria can accumulate on your skin overnight," explains Dr Hemmady.

Some of the common bacteria that may be left on your face include:

Staphylococcus aureus: This bacterium is commonly found on the skin and can cause infections if it enters wounds or breaks in the skin. "It can lead to conditions such as acne or folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles)," explains Dr Hemmady.

Propionibacterium acnes: Also known as P. acnes, this bacterium is associated with the development of acne. "It thrives in the oily environment of the skin's pores and can contribute to the formation of pimples and blackheads," Dr Hemmady adds.

Streptococcus species: Various species of Streptococcus bacteria may be present on the skin. "While some are harmless, others can cause infections such as impetigo (a contagious skin infection) or cellulitis (a bacterial skin infection)," Dr Hemmady says.

Escherichia coli (E. coli): While less common on the skin compared to the gut, Dr Hemmady says E. coli can potentially be transferred to the skin from contaminated hands or surfaces. "It may cause skin infections if it enters cuts or abrasions," she adds.

Enterococcus species: Enterococcus bacteria are often found in the gastrointestinal tract but can also inhabit the skin. "Infections with Enterococcus species can occur if they enter wounds or mucous membrane," Dr Hemmady adds.

All sorts of nasties can lie on your skin if you don't take your makeup off pre-bed. (Getty Images)
All sorts of nasties can lie on your skin if you don't take your makeup off pre-bed. (Getty Images)

Risks of sleeping in makeup overnight

Of course, sleeping with a face full of bacteria isn't exactly going to be great for the skin.

"The presence of bacteria on the skin, particularly if makeup is not properly removed, can lead to various skin issues and health concerns," explains Dr Hemmady.

Some of the risks associated with bacterial build-up on the skin include:


When pores become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria, it can lead to inflammation, pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.


This condition occurs when hair follicles become inflamed due to bacterial or fungal infection. It can result in red, itchy bumps or pustules around hair follicles, resembling acne but often more localized.

Skin infections

Bacteria left on the skin can enter small cuts, scrapes, or breaks in the skin's barrier, leading to infections such as cellulitis, impetigo, or abscesses. "These infections can cause redness, swelling, pain, and may require medical treatment," Dr Hemmady explains.

Eye infections

Mascara left on overnight, for example, can harbour bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, which may lead to eye infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) or styes (localised infections of the eyelid glands).

Contact dermatitis

Some individuals may develop allergic reactions or irritant dermatitis due to prolonged contact with certain makeup ingredients or bacteria present in makeup. "Symptoms can include redness, itching, swelling, and blistering," Dr Hemmady adds.

Premature ageing

Chronic inflammation from bacterial buildup on the skin can contribute to skin ageing by breaking down collagen and elastin fibres, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin over time.


Inflammatory conditions caused by bacterial infections or irritants can sometimes lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, where areas of the skin become darker than the surrounding skin due to increased melanin production.

Dull, uneven complexion

Makeup can inhibit the skin's natural renewal process, leading to a dull, uneven complexion over time. "Dead skin cells, trapped makeup, and debris can accumulate on the skin's surface, making it appear rough and lacklustre," Dr Hemmady adds.

Puffiness and dark circles

Leaving eye makeup on overnight, such as mascara and eyeliner, can contribute to puffiness and dark circles around the eyes. "Makeup residue can irritate the delicate skin around the eyes, leading to inflammation and fluid retention, which can manifest as puffiness and dark circles," Dr Hemmady explains.

Here's how to properly remove your makeup before bed. (Getty Images)
Here's how to properly remove your makeup before bed. (Getty Images)

Expert-approved method to remove makeup before bed

So even if you're super tired, wash your face before heading to bed — your skin will definitely thank you later.

Use a makeup remover: Choose one that suits your skin type and preferences, such as micellar water, cleansing oil, or makeup removing wipes.

Focus on the eyes: Use a specific eye makeup remover or a cotton pad soaked in makeup remover to gently wipe away the makeup, taking care not to tug or pull on the delicate skin around the eyes.

Cleanse the skin: Massage the cleanser onto damp skin using circular motions, paying attention to areas where makeup tends to accumulate, such as the T-zone and around the hairline.

Rinse thoroughly: After cleansing, rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water to remove any remaining makeup residue, dirt, and cleanser from the skin. Pat your skin dry with a clean towel, being careful not to rub or tug on the skin.

Moisturise: Finish by applying a moisturiser suitable for your skin type to help hydrate and nourish the skin overnight. Choose a moisturiser with lightweight, non-comedogenic ingredients that won't clog pores or cause breakouts.

Protect your lips: Don't forget to remove any lipstick or lip product before bed. Use a gentle lip scrub or a damp washcloth to exfoliate the lips, then apply a nourishing lip balm to keep them hydrated overnight.

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