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The Viral Trends and Products Giving New Meaning to the Term 'Beauty Sleep'

Welcome to Sleep Week! We’re dedicating five days of content to one of our absolute favorite activities, and the products that make catching zzz’s that much more enjoyable. Get ready to sleep tight. 

In the last few years, sleep has emerged as one of the hottest topics — if not the hottest topic — in health and wellness. There are a number of reasons for this, including the pandemic, social media and scarily influential, longevity-obsessed wellness gurus like Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Hyman and Andrew Huberman.

The importance of quality sleep is also backed by science. The CDC now calls sleep deprivation a public health epidemic (a third of U.S. adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep, it says), linking it to chronic diseases and conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Reports like this have fueled countless headlines, books, podcasts and TikTok videos on why and how to sleep better, as well as a rapidly expanding market of sleep-related consumer goods, from supplements and high-tech gadgets to various bedding accessories and sleepwear options to, of course, beauty products.

Sleep and beauty have long been intertwined — since at least 1828, when the first use of the term “beauty sleep” was documented. It then referred to a belief that going to sleep before midnight could enhance one’s beauty. Today, Oxford English Dictionary categorizes the phrase as informal and humorous, but many in the beauty community suggest there really is something to this idea of getting more “beautiful” (whatever that means to you) while you snooze.

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Sleep and Skin

“Less than 10% of your aging is actually due to your genetics, which I think is a huge myth-buster for a lot of people who still think that aging is this inevitable decline and that you have to win the genetic lottery to live old and strong,” explains Melanie Goldey, CEO of Tally Health, a biotechnology company focused on slowing the aging process with customized action plans fueled by extensive clinical research. That means the other 90% is caused by things you can ostensibly change: Research shows that, alongside sun exposure, pollution and diet, sleep is one of the biggest driving factors of skin aging. 

Clinical studies have linked chronic sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality to accelerated aging, diminished skin barrier function, reduced skin hydration, lower satisfaction with physical appearance and even acne. The Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night, though recent studies suggest that women actually need slightly more sleep than men and are 40% more likely than men to suffer from insomnia due to factors like hormone production and unpaid labor. (Isn’t being a woman fun?!)

“Several clinical studies have suggested that a lack of sleep may be one of many factors leading to poor health of the skin and more rapidly aging skin,” confirms board-certified plastic surgeon and CEO of Los Angeles’s Wave Plastic Surgery Dr. Peter Lee.

The undeniable effects of sleep on aging and overall health have no doubt contributed to the proliferation of nighttime routines, sleep hacks and concoctions like the “sleepy girl mocktail” on your FYP. (For the record, Goldey confirms that the viral combination of tart cherry juice and magnesium can indeed be “a nice way to wind down at night.”) But a growing cohort of brand founders, content creators, dermatologists and plastic surgeons have taken this a step further, using platforms like TikTok to share beauty products and practices that purportedly maximize the anti-aging benefits sleep already provides on its own by extending the beauty routine to the bedroom.

“Our patients tend to be extraordinarily attentive to health and beauty trends they see on social media,” observes Dr. Lee.

From back sleeping and “anti-aging” beauty pillows, to mouth tape and anti-wrinkle patches, chances are you’ve come across at least one of them. But do they actually work?

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Back sleeping and anti-wrinkle pillows

Many dermatologists, plastic surgeons and aestheticians will recommend sleeping on your back to avoid the pillow-induced face and neck wrinkles and facial asymmetry associated with sleeping on one’s stomach or side. 

“I’ve been doing patient care forever, and I always have to do more filler and Botox on people on their sleeping side,” says Jamie Sherrill, better known as Nurse Jamie, owner of a celebrity-approved L.A. medical spa and “age-defying” skin-care brand. 

She prides herself on her ability to look at someone and immediately know which side they sleep on (and correctly guessed via Zoom that I favor my right side). “Your head’s very heavy; it’s the weight of a bowling ball. So six, eight hours a night, 3,000 hours a year, you always get more lipoatrophy on your sleeping side,” she explains, referring to a loss of fat tissue, which can cause facial asymmetry. “Your eye tends to go lower because you have less fat on that side. Your fold tends to be deeper. Your tear trough tends to be deeper on that side because you have less support back there.” 

While symmetry is associated with traditional western beauty ideals, the reality is that most of our faces are at least somewhat asymmetrical, regardless of how we sleep, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. That said, Jennifer Lopez famously says she sleeps on her back — and that’s really reason enough for the abundance of “how to sleep on your back” content flooding the internet, as well as the rise of oddly shaped pillows designed to help you do it.

But like many of the trends covered in this story, back sleeping is a tad controversial. For one, it may not be the healthiest option for you: Per the Sleep Foundation, back and side sleeping are broadly considered healthier than sleeping on your stomach, but side sleeping is actually preferred for people who are pregnant, people who have acid reflux, people with back pain, people who snore or have sleep apnea and older people. Back sleeping is recommended for people who are “worried about wrinkles,” as well as people with neck pain.

“Unless you have sleep apnea or a sleep condition, I would say your ideal sleep position is highly personal,” says Goldey. “If you’re thinking about beauty as a part of this, while it’s not necessarily significant for aging and longevity, there are studies that show that sleeping on your face could lead to more wrinkles. I think that’s a little bit questionable, but certainly there’s a lot of people who say that.”

It also may simply not be realistic to become a back sleeper if you aren’t one already: More than 60% of people are side sleepers, and by adulthood, as our spines become less flexible, this preference can be exceptionally difficult to change.

Pillows designed to prevent wrinkles and encourage back sleeping are typically lower and often indented in the middle and raised on both sides to keep the head in position. Whether or not any of them work can’t really be confirmed empirically, but, based on my own experience and those of the people I consulted for this story, it’s a long shot: I’ve tried several of these pillows and ended up on my side every time. But, hey, you might be more disciplined than me.

If not, there are beauty pillows designed by realists that accommodate back sleeping, but also promise benefits for those of us who end up on our sides anyway. One of them is Nurse Jamie, whose Beauty Bear Memory Foam Skin Care Pillow is a bestseller beloved by aestheticians, content creators and stars like Shay Mitchell, Chrissy Teigen and Jessica Alba.

“Trying to sleep on your back…nobody really can,” Sherill admits. But a traditional pillow, she says, puts a side sleeper’s head at too high of an angle, exacerbating neck lines. “It’s designed to make your bed look good. And my pillow definitely does not make your bed look good. It’s a strange piece of ginger, an odd thing.” 

The brand’s Beauty Bear features a larger indent for back sleeping and a smaller U-shape on one side for side sleeping. “The negative space is on purpose because, if you’re a side sleeper, what we tend to do is take the pillow and really use it against yourself,” Sherill explains. “It takes a minute to get used to that. Once you get used to it, you really can’t live without it.”

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There’s also the Flawless Face Pillow, an arguably even stranger-looking contraption that cradles the head like a large, plush, four-fingered hand. It’s not as firm as Nurse Jamie’s, but forms a similar U-shape with negative space, if you do end up sleeping on either side.


Another interesting player in the world of anti-aging pillows designed by registered nurses is the Envy, which boasts wrinkle-preventing, neck-supporting ergonomic design for back and side sleepers, as well as the infusion of copper into its custom-fit Mulberry Silk pillowcase for its antimicrobial properties. I tried and liked it, but while I didn’t notice a major difference between its shape and that of other popular ergonomic pillows, I did find the copper concept interesting. (Sleep and Glow, another popular beauty pillow brand, also has a copper option.)

Silk pillowcases have long been revered by the beauty-obsessed for creating less friction with hair and skin compared to their cotton or linen counterparts, making them less likely to contribute to hair breakage and tangling, as well as sleep wrinkles. (Pretty much everyone I consulted for this story uses one, though some say that if you have very sensitive skin, look for 100% silk, as the polyester in synthetic blends can be irritating.) What’s less commonly discussed is pillowcase cleanliness: Dust mites aside, pillowcases can also harbor acne-causing bacteria. An acne-prone person myself, I rarely sleep on the same pillowcase more than twice in a row (yes, I own a lot of pillowcases), and I do feel it makes a difference.

L.A.-based Cosmetic Dermatologist Dr. Mariana Vergara — who, for the record, prefers the Tempur-Pedic pillow (“and I’ve tried all of them”) — is a big proponent of regularly changing your pillowcase every 48-72 hours if you have acne and weekly if not.

Of course, using an oddly-shaped beauty pillow can make this more difficult and expensive, requiring that you buy any extra pillowcases from whomever manufactures the pillow (a pretty clever business move, you have to admit).

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Wrinkle patches and nose taping

Mouth tape is not the only facial adhesive product people are sleeping in with hopes of aesthetic benefits: Silicone patches by brands like Wrinkles Schminkles and SiO Beauty are also increasingly popular, touted as a non-invasive overnight treatment for fine lines and wrinkles.

Gigi Howard first created SiO’s ChestLift patch as a solution to the chest wrinkles she’d developed as a result of side sleeping. (A doctor introduced her to the benefits of silicone.) She’s since expanded the line to include patches for the face, neck and hands. Britney Spears and Tinx have posted about them. So, how do they work?

“Our medical-grade silicone patches adhere to the skin, creating a microclimate that helps the skin plump and hydrate itself. This process is what doctors and scientists call an ‘occlusion,’ which allows for the moisture from the skin to draw up to the surface layer and plump, fill in and smooth itself,” she explains. “Using gentle and comfortable compression, the patches flatten and mechanically keep skin smooth overnight (or throughout wear) and deter wrinkling from happening based on sleep positions, friction from contact or everyday facial expressions.”

Critics of these patches warn that these smoothing benefits are only temporary: According to Howard, immediate results (from one night of wear) can last a full day, “but for longer-lasting results, it’s best to wear the patches daily.” 

She confirms that SiO’s brand awareness has “skyrocketed” due to viral posts on social media. (Some are “organic,” while others are the result of working directly with creators.)

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Another emerging trend is “nose taping,” which some social-media creators describe as an “overnight nose job,” claiming that strategically wrapping kinesiology or medical tape around the nose made it appear smaller and more lifted by morning. TikToker Isabelle Lux — who garners hundreds of thousands of views on her “beauty sleep” practices — has posted about it, as well as wrinkle patches. But even she now admits that the effects from both are negligible.

“I use [the patches] for videos because it’s a wow factor, and the nose taping… This is my experience, so I can’t speak for anyone else: Some people will literally say it’s a nose job overnight. No. I have only ever noticed a slight difference if you eat a lot of sodium the night before or a lot of alcohol the night before — anything that would create swelling,” she says. “I don’t do that almost ever, unless I’m trying to experiment for videos.”

“We do not recommend the current social media fad of nose taping to our patients in light of the benefits of nasal breathing,” says Dr. Lee. “If a patient desires aesthetic changes in the appearance of her nose, as plastic surgeons, we can offer her far more powerful and long-lasting approaches to achieve this goal.”

The bottom line

The bottom line, unsatisfying as it may be, is that these products and trends are only as a effective as an individual finds them to be. There simply isn’t enough scientific research to definitively prove their efficacy — just small consumer trials and excitable TikTokers and wellness experts chasing virality by giving their two cents (and, in some cases, making it back with each mouth-tape or beauty-pillow sale). 

“As with many products and services advertised on social media, there’s frequently a kernel of truth buried within claims that cannot currently be supported by clinical research,” says Dr. Lee. “With regard to face pillows, silk pillowcases, eye masks, etc., these items will support skin health and slow age-related changes of the skin to the extent that an individual patient finds they make her more comfortable in bed, and therefore better able to sleep longer and more deeply.”

What we do know, scientifically, is that sleep deprivation is not going to make you any more beautiful. So if you do try any of the trends covered here, you may want to pay more attention to how you sleep than what you look like when you wake up. In my experience trying each one of the above trends at least once, my sleep tended to suffer — it took longer for me to fall asleep and often resulted in me removing whatever sticker or pillow I was using due to discomfort or perhaps just unfamiliarity. Like trying to go from a side sleeper to a back sleeper, acclimating to foreign objects on and around the face might be the biggest hurdle to all this.

“I will say, if you can tolerate wearing those things and you feel better when you wake up… One of the surprising things that we learned in our database is that, if you think and feel that you’re doing well, it actually makes your body feel that positivity,” says Goldey. “If you’re using one of these things and you wake up and you’re like, ‘Wow, I look great,’ that has a short-term effect.”

At the end of the day, we should all be prioritizing sleep itself, above all else. As Dr. Vergara puts it: “Beauty comes from the inside out, and we cannot beautify ourselves if we’re not having a good night’s sleep.”

In other words, beauty sleep is real, and it doesn’t have to cost anything. 

Nurse Jamie Beauty Bear Memory Foam Pillow, $89, available here

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