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For a beauty trick that women have known about for eons, beauty sleep has received remarkably scant attention from the skincare industry beyond old-fashioned cold creams over the years, especially in Canada. But no longer. From "relaxing creams" to "skin regenerators," a growing number of beauty products designed to work their magic while you sleep are hitting the market, gaining momentum even as they're doing the job lying down.

"They represent a growing trend within the industry," says Solen Marie, product developer at Vaughan, Ont.-based VitalScience Corp., the company behind the skincare brand dermaglow. "We expect double-digit growth in this category into the future."

According to Marie, less than 10 per cent of all skincare products sold in Canada at the moment are overnight products. She adds that nighttime treatments represent about three per cent of all dermaglow products sold through major drugstores across the country.

VitalScience was at the fore of the current trend when it launched dermaglow's wrinkle-targeting, antioxidant-rich Advanced Night Treatment, which it says was the first nighttime product created by a Canadian cosmetics firm, four years ago. Since then, it has welcomed lots of bedmates.

Recently, 159-year-old Kiehl's launched its Midnight Recovery Concentrate, a "replenishing elixir" that promises "younger-looking skin by morning." It's composed of pure essential oils and distilled botanicals. Other middle- and high-end brands offering overnight skincare creams, serums and lotions include Nivea, Dermalogica, Clé de Peau, Darphin, Yonka and Guinot.

These products - a far cry from our grandmothers' pots of cold cream, which they slathered on before bed to ensure clear complexions come daylight - are largely created in labs and tackle skin damage and wrinkles on a number of fronts, including increased hydration and cell regeneration.

Their abundance is also the result of increasing data touting nighttime as the right time for the skin to repair itself from such daytime assaults as UV exposure and pollution. Donna Paty, national education manager for Kiehl's, says they work by hitching themselves to sleep, the body's own balm for healing the skin from the inside out.

"Research done on the skin shows that, during the day, the skin is focusing on protection, while at night the skin is repairing itself from daily damage" she says. "During the night, the skin's natural nutrition metabolism is at a maximum rate. The blood flow increases, skin absorption of active ingredients is easier and cell turnover is at its peak."

As receptive as the skin may be during the night to creams and elixirs, however, their positive effects will be minimal if they aren't combined with sleep. And sleep deficiency is a big problem in this country.

According to a study released in January by Better Sleep Council Canada, an organization made up of 450 manufacturers, retailers and suppliers from the mattress industry, one in four Canadians is chronically sleep-deprived. Among the health problems that skimping on your shut-eye can contribute to are a weakened immune system, a bigger risk of high blood pressure and depression. It also makes the skin look drawn, the eyes puffy and the hair lank and lacklustre, says Patti Coyne, co-owner of Delineation Hair & Skin Essentials, a beauty shop and spa in Toronto.

"It's common knowledge that sleep renews at the cellular level, restoring the overall well-being of the body, especially with regard to skin and hair," she notes. "When we don't get enough, our faces take a beating."

Needless to say, Coyne is a big fan of nighttime treatments, which she says are big sellers among her customers, especially those she dubs "the overstressed."

"I like them because, once you put them on, they do the work for you. There's nothing like putting a face mask on at night and then waking up in the morning with radiant skin."

But if sleep is the bigger healer, should consumers forgo the creams and reach for their pillows instead?

Not necessarily, says dermatologist Paul Cohen, director of the Rosedale Dermatology Centre in Toronto.

"There are definitely advantages to applying creams at night: They won't wash off [and]won't be diluted by other products like sunscreen and moisturizer, meaning they stay put for a longer time to work on the skin," he says. "There is more potential for them to do more work than creams do in the day given all the other interferences."