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pillow_v-1The average person sleeps eight hours every night. Over the course of a lifetime, this adds up to 229,961 hours spent asleep, or roughly one third of our lives. And if you’re a side or stomach sleeper, all these snoozing hours can, over time, produce wrinkles from sleeping.

Say what?

Yes! The act of lying your face on the pillow may be causing signs of aging. However, there may be a simple solution. But first, let’s take a look at what causes your skin to look older.

How Your Skin Ages

We all know that one person who seems impervious to gravity, and sun, and everything else. We chalk it up to genetics, but really, what is the deal? How do some people manage not to age?

To answer that, we need to understand how aging happens in general. There are two main causes of aging: intrinsic and extrinsic aging.1

Intrinsic Aging

Intrinsic aging is caused by internal factors. It is also known as, “chronological aging.” It’s an inherent degenerative process that happens because of a natural breakdown of physiologic functions. We tend to think of this in terms of the breakdown of collagen and loss of elasticity in the skin.

Extrinsic Aging

Extrinsic aging is when there is a distinct declination process because of something external. Common examples are UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, cigarette smoking, pollution, etc.

How Is Your Pillow Causing You to Age?

Intrinsic aging is the most common of the two types. Symptoms include the breakdown of collagen and elastin which lead to sagging and wrinkles.

Another well-known cause of wrinkles and aging is creasing.2 Common examples of creasing are crows feet and smile lines. Creasing essentially happens when a fold in the skin is made and recreated over and over again until a wrinkle forms.

Which brings us to the question: can creases be formed from the basic act of sleeping on your pillow? Since so much time—again, especially for side and stomach sleepers—is spent with your face in contact with a pillow, this is absolutely true. However, whereas facial lines develop because you’re targeting the exact same spot over and over, you are not necessarily hitting the same places every night between your face and pillow.3

Okay, So What Causes Creasing?

There are three factors that cause creasing: compression, tension, and shear.4

Compression

Compression is what it sounds like: it’s the force of your pillow– or a pile of leaves, if you’re  into a wilderness thing–pushing against your face. Compression will happen no matter what, just because of the force that is being exerted. To some extent, choosing the right pillow can help to reduce the effect.

Shear

Where compression is caused by the pressure of your pillow on your face, shear is determined by the material of the pillow. Silk, for example, will cause less sheer because it is a more slippery, forgiving fabric than cotton. On the whole, though, the material of your pillowcase and subsequent sheer isn’t as big a factor as compression, unless you’re sleeping with a burlap pillowcase.

Tension

Tension is caused by the connection between your face and the pillow/pillowcase. When you move, it puts a slight pressure on your skin, a pulling that can exacerbate signs of aging over time, especially with reduced collagen and elastin.

The Verdict on Sleep Lines

The American Academy of Dermatology lists sleep lines as one of the five ways that the face ages. Using the analogy of a napkin that has been folded in a drawer for too long and holds a crease, the skin can hold onto the creases from sleeping on the pillow in the same way every night. Remember, compression (force) is a bigger factor than shear (determined by fabric, etc), so it doesn’t matter that you may not have your face in the exact same spot on the pillow because we all tend to sleep in essentially the same position every night, so you’re applying the force in the same spots.5

We can’t ever erase the fact that time is time and that equates to aging skin. But, luckily there are some great products out there that can slow these forces.

Can Anti-Aging Pillows Help?

The anti-aging pillow market can be broken down into three categories: silk pillowcases, special ingredient pillows, and uniquely designed pillows.

Which one is best?

Silk Pillowcases

Silk pillowcases are a throwback to an era of Hollywood glamour and decadent beauty rituals. Couldn’t you imaging Rita Hayworth sleeping in silk pajamas with a silk pillowcase? It sounds divine, but how do they stack up in terms of anti-aging?

Claims: Because it is made of silk, the pillowcase won’t scratch and tear at your skin the way that cotton will. And it’s great for hair, especially if you get blowouts often; it keeps your hair from getting frizzy.

Pros:You can get one at Sephora and it’s the cheapest anti-aging while sleeping option.

Take Away: The evidence does not suggest that the fabric of your pillowcase has a substantial effect on sleep aging. The claims of these pillows all rely on the fabric, so they’re probably not going to do much to prevent wrinkles.

That said, there are other reasons to make the switch to a silk pillowcase. Hairdressers have long loved them for extending the life of hair styling. They are certainly more luxurious than cotton cases, so if you want to wake up feeling like you’ve already done something special for  yourself, this is an option for you.

Mineral-Infused Pillowcase

Still in the pillowcase game, but instead of settling for silk, this pillowcase is embedded with copper oxide. Copper is naturally found in your skin and is known to play an important role in the skin’s renewal process.

Claims: In as little as four weeks, this pillowcase has been clinically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles for younger, smoother looking skin.

Pros: In a double blind, placebo controlled, parallel, randomized clinical study, sleeping on pillowcases with copper oxide left participants with noticeable reduction in crow’s feet, whereas there was no change in the control group.6 The conclusion was that pillowcases with copper oxide results in a reduction of wrinkle depth and improvement of overall skin appearance.

Take Away: The evidence is very compelling. It has all the luxury of a silk pillowcase, and the results of that double-blind study have us swooning. They also have copper oxide sleep masks as well that could help to target the fine lines between the brows and under eye.

Wrinkles from SleepingSpecially Designed Pillow

Instead of focusing on the material of the pillowcase, this company has turned its attention towards the shape of your pillow.

This pillow is billed as, “The Sleep Wrinkle Pillow.” Designed by a board certified plastic surgeon, it was specially crafted to reduce sleep wrinkles. It is designed so that if you are lying on your side, your forehead and chin will rest on the pillow, with a recess where your cheek fits.

Claims: It has a series of different elevations to allow for optimal sleep no matter which way you prefer to face (side vs. back). It aims to reduce compression.

Pros: Compression is the most substantive cause of sleep wrinkles, so this is a plausible solution for side sleepers.

Take Away: It’s certainly the priciest option, but it also targets the biggest cause of sleep wrinkles. Especially if you can’t switch to sleeping on your back, this might be worth a try.

In conclusion, you can actually put all that shuteye to good use. Whether it’s as simple as a silk pillowcase or a sophisticated design pillow, fighting wrinkles with your eyes closed is a reality.

Sources
1 Farage M, Miller K, Elsner P, Maibach H. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors in skin ageing: a review. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2008;30(2):87-95. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2494.2007.00415.x.
2Two Basic Types of Aging – Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aging : Meditation Hawaii | Your Healthy Lifestyle Hawaii. Healthguidehawaiicom. 2010.  Accessed November 3, 2016.
3Kotlus B. Effect of Sleep Position on Perceived Facial Aging. Dermatologic Surgery. 2013;39(9):1360-1362. doi:10.1111/dsu.12266.
4Anson G, Kane M, Lambros V. Sleep Wrinkles: Facial Aging and Facial Distortion During Sleep. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 2016;36(8):931-940. doi:10.1093/asj/sjw074.
5Anson G, Kane M, Lambros V. Sleep Wrinkles: Facial Aging and Facial Distortion During Sleep. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 2016;36(8):931-940. doi:10.1093/asj/sjw074.
6Baek J, Yoo M, Koh J, Borkow G. Reduction of facial wrinkles depth by sleeping on copper oxide-containing pillowcases: a double blind, placebo controlled, parallel, randomized clinical study. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2012;11(3):193-200. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2012.00624.x.

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About the Author

Dr. John Layke

Dr. John Layke grew up in Milwaukee, WI, where he knew from a young age that he wanted to practice medicine. After completing his undergraduate degree at Marquette University, Dr. Layke went on to attend medical school at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and trained in general surgery at the University of Illinois Metropolitan Group Hospitals in Chicago.