If you’re following a foundational skincare regimen, then you’re moisturizing twice a day, at a minimum — morning and night. However, these two hydration sessions should target different things. That’s because what you need in a daytime moisturizer—like sun protection, extra pollution defense, possible blue-light blockage, and invigorating ingredients to ‘wake up’ the skin — well, those aren’t all as needed for your night cream. So what does the best night cream do?
Nighttime moisturizers are often more heavily concentrated than their daytime counterparts. That’s because they’re more proactive and restorative in nature. They sync with your sleep cycle (and thus, with your body’s regenerative and reparative cycle) to promote the healthy turnover of skin cells, and to keep your complexion bright, smooth, and clear. It’s a terrific time to add an even more active ingredient to the mix, too, like age-reversing retinoids/retinol, resurfacing hydroxy acids, firming eye serums, and the likes. In the short term, it can often be the difference between looking like a puffy panda in the morning, or looking spry and refreshed. And in the long term, consistent use of a proactive night cream ensures you have more youthful, radiant skin.
So, given that this step is so valuable (even in a minimal skincare regimen), here are the best night creams to pair with a full night’s sleep.
Best Overall Night Cream: Clark’s Botanicals Retinol Rescue Overnight Cream
If you want a lightweight but impactful dosage of retinol (without getting a prescription from your dermatologist), then Clark’s overnight cream is an optimal source. It soothes skin with colloidal oatmeal, counters dullness with Vitamin C, minimizes pore appearance with red clover flower extract, while Vitamin E and jasmine oil help shield skin from toxins while giving you a fresh-faced, fully nourished mug in the morningtime. It has everything you should seek out in a night cream, and at a reasonable price given its regenerative potency.
Best Upgrade Night Cream: Augustinus Bader The Cream
This one is powered by a proprietary blend of amino acids, shea butters, aloe vera, nourishing oils, and Vitamins A, B, C, and E. Augustinus Bader promises to restore tired-looking skin in as little as a week, while also giving you softer, more alert skin every morning. In the long haul, its highly concentrated formula can reverse signs of aging (hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, rough patches…). “The Cream” is especially suited for more oily skin types. However, they have a similar separate cream (called The Rich Cream) targeted at drier skin types, featuring a higher concentration of oils and butters.
Best Affordable Night Cream: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream
If I’m traveling and need a hydration boost in a hurry (without breaking the bank), then Neutrogena is my low-cost savior. It’s fueled by moisture-absorbing and -retaining hyaluronic acid, and ensures that my skin feels hydrated and plump by the time I wake. It’s a terrific top layer for a powerful serum, or to deploy on the few occasions when your oily skin gets overly parched (while being a great nightly staple for routinely dry skin). It absorbs fast, wears light, but delivers on its promises — no frills, no bullshit.
Cardon 3-in-1 Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizer
Cardon’s moisturizer hits the sweet spot between “night cream for all” and “day cream for dry skin”. Use it as you will, no matter your skin type, but know that it delivers a soothing (cactus-extract-powered) and smoothing (niacinamide powered) recharge. (The 3-in-1 in its name refers to its hydrating, soothing, and reparative functions.) If you are someone who insists on using the same product for day and night, then this one passes the test—so long as you apply a lightweight SPF layer over it all in the daytime. You can even use this one as a soothing aftershave, applied after a skin-toning splash of witch hazel.
Herbivore Bakuchiol Smoothing Serum (Retinol Alternative)
Some people find retinol too irritating for their skin, no matter its dosage. (Others, meanwhile, can tolerate high-concentration prescription doses without any issues.) If you want to take a natural approach to your anti-aging regimen, or if you simply cannot tolerate retinol on your skin, then remember this word: bakuchiol. It’s derived from the babchi plant, and has the same complexion-clearing, pore-refining, texture-smoothing benefits of retinol. Herbivore’s excellent night serum makes this list for that reason, plus another: If you want incredible overnight benefits from your regimen, another way to get it is through a proactive serum, layered with a less expensive but dense moisturizer. So, you could combine something like this, with the Cardon or Neutrogena hydrators above, and get all the same benefits from your bedtime regimen. It’s totally OK to mix and match, to layer a nighttime serum under a moisturizer. So long as you’re getting those regenerative benefits one way or the other.
Verso Super Eye Serum
Verso’s entire assortment is built in a utilitarian way, for the person who wants to innovate his or her regimen without confusing the purpose of any products. Two perfect examples (in addition to the brand’s own excellent retinol-powered night cream) are its retinol eye serum and dark spot fix. Apply them both at bedtime for magnified benefits, to help expedite the turnover of pesky dark spots, and to ensure smoother, firmer skin around the eyes (and preventing sagging, puffing, wrinkling, and dark circles, all in one). You’re playing a long game with both, hence why Verso has designed an entire numbered regimen with its products. Stick to it, and you’ll have the best complexion of your life, in addition to brighter and firmer skin come morning.
Sisley Paris Velvet Sleeping Mask
Night masks and night creams are often interchangeable, but the primary difference is that you can reserve your masks for a 1-2x weekly use (or whenever your skin needs a super hydration boost, or if you know you’re going to look groggy/hungover come morning). The mask is even more concentrated than the night creams, typically, and it’s a bit wasteful to use it every night (since your skin doesn’t need a vitamin overdose on the daily). It’s great to have one in rotation, though, for those emergency cases, and Sisley Paris’ aptly named velvet sleeping mask ensures that you wake with smooth, luscious skin, especially if you’re prone to dryness or dehydration (perfect for those cold months, in particular). Between the shea butter, indica seed butter, macadamia/jojoba/cottonseed oils, honey, and more, it’s loaded with nourishing, rejuvenating, ultra-hydrating ingredients, so you know you’ll wake up looking brand new.