Melbourne-based skincare junkie and pharmaceutical scientist Hannah English shares her bedtime beauty secrets with Body+Soul beauty editor Kelsey Ferencak.
Hello and welcome to our new editorial series Bedtime Beauty Stories. It’s a space for talented individuals to share how they get ready for slumber, including ways to wind down, nighttime beauty rituals and go-to remedies for falling asleep. We catch up with two of Australia’s most in-demand skin experts, Jocelyn Petroni and Melanie Grant, natural beauty enthusiasts Belinda Hughes and Clare McGrowdie and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and acupuncturist Elizabeth Cullen.
Hannah English is a self-described skincare junky with a background in pharmaceutical science who uses her Instagram to help spread skincare awareness and debunk myths. If there’s one thing she knows – it’s skin. But she’s also a gun at mastering makeup palettes. Here’s how she get’s ready for bed…
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What’s the first thing you do to wind down before bed?
It’s kind of an all-day thing. I take ADHD medication in the morning and at lunch, so I have a hard stop at 1:30pm or else I can’t take it… if I want to sleep on time. After dinner I like to watch TV without absently scrolling, so it needs to be something involved. That way I can disconnect from my day of work and my interactions with people. I’m rewatching Mad Men at the moment, it’s perfect. It gets better every time you watch it.
And the last thing you do before you go to sleep?
I watch YouTube or read something light – lifestyle or fashion content, nothing heavy. Increasingly, reading about beauty feels like work so… no beauty content either. I probably remind my fiance to do his skincare, too. He’s quite good with skincare, I think he just indulges me. Angel.
Talk us through your night time beauty routine…
For my hair, I just braid it and secure with a Slip Silk Scrunchie ($50 for 3, at Mecca). I’ll never use anything else – they’re so soft. If I don’t braid it then I’ll end up pulling my own hair as I roll over in the night. It’s really long!
My PM skincare changes often because of my job, but it’s surprisingly low-key. I’m a lot more of a morning person, I have my shower in the morning, too, so by night time I cannot be bothered deciding on many skincare steps.
I always cleanse with an oil or balm cleanser – they break up sunscreen and makeup the best. Right now I love the Elemis AHA Glow Cleansing Butter because it exfoliates as well, I don’t have to exfoliate in a separate step. I remove that with a washcloth, my favourites are from these Reusable Makeup Removing Towels, ($49.95 for 4, at Press Beauty) because they’re huge and they don’t stain. Then I cleanse again with a milky cleanser, to be sure all of the day’s dirt and oil and air pollution are gone. My skin can get quite dehydrated, so nothing too stripping. My all-time favourite is the Allies of Skin Molecular Silk Amino Hydrating Cleanser($56, at Sephora) but it’s out of stock so I’m using the Reset Cleanser from their sister brand, PSA Skin.
Next, I do NIOD Fractionated Eye Contour Concentrate ($100, at NIOD) and their Superoxide Dismutase Saccharide Mist ($75, at NIOD). I LOVE Deciem products. I could go on for hours, but the eye serum is tightening and brightening, and the mist is calming for skin. From here, I’ll use a night cream and call it a night. Most nights it’s Youth To The People’s Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream, ($87, at Sephora) but two nights a week I use the Bespoke Skin Technology Complete Night Shield ($260, at Bespoke). That’s my retinol night! Complete Night Shield is jam-packed with fab ingredients – retinaldehyde (my favourite retinoid), resveratrol, DNA repair enzymes (exciting and Nobel-Prize-winning tech), and of course hydrating glycerin, squalane, hyaluronic acid. I’m obsessed. Sometimes I’ll use both creams just to buffer the retinol a bit.
Do you take any supplements or sleep-aids?
Every night at 8:30pm I take melatonin. I used to have really bad insomnia, it impacted my life and mental health so my GP prescribed melatonin in about 2013. Taking melatonin has been life changing for me. It’s our body’s natural sleep hormone, so it’s a very gentle sleep onset and I wake up fresh, not drowsy. It’s also metabolised into serotonin, so I like to think it keeps me happy, too.
What do you sleep on?
I have this thing for white bed linen like Sheridan 500tc Egyptian Cotton Twill Sheet Set (from $259, at Sheridan) – the relaxed-look, crinkly cotton kind. Then I have a white Slip silk pillowcase. I know people get nervous about white linen and furniture because it can show dirt, but that’s *exactly* why I like it. I want to see it, so I can wash it.
My hair’s quite frizzy and tangly so a silk pillowcase makes a huge difference.
What’s your stance on technology before bed?
I don’t have a TV in my room and I never will, it’s just not for me. It’s important to practise good sleep hygiene and that means the bedroom is for sleeping. Not watching TV.
I do have my phone though, and I limit the level of activity. No scrolling on social media, no online shopping, nothing too stimulating. And the brightness is all the way down. I don’t have notifications on for any of my socials anyway – I don’t know how anyone manages it! I don’t do well with interruptions and phone notifications, even on a good day.
I fall asleep watching YouTube though, almost without fail. My favourites are the house tours on Architectural Digest.
Do you have a preferred or go-to late night snack?
I have a really sweet tooth, so ice cream, specifically Connoisseur Macadamia and Spiced Lime. If it’s too cold for ice cream, Pana Chocolate Pineapple and Ginger. And chamomile tea, I like the Apothetea Loose Leaf Organic Chamomile Tea ($15, at Apothetea).
What time do you usually hop into bed?
I take melatonin at 8:30pm, finish my episode of whatever is on, then get into bed at 9:30pm and asleep by 10pm. Ideally. Sometimes it’s more like 10:30pm, but I always regret staying up too late. My brain needs a lot of rest or I’m pretty useless the next day.
What do you do if you can’t drift off or have trouble sleeping – do you have a go-to fix?
This only happens if I have an unresolved emotional situation from the day, or if I’ve been drinking. So if it’s feelings, I journal. I’ve only been journaling since about March, since the stay-at-home order, and I just write down all my thoughts, get them out onto paper, and then I’ve worked through them.
If it’s gin, well… serves me right. I just read until I wind down again. And drink some electrolytes. The wellness choice would be coconut water, but Powerade is good, too.
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