Here's a skin fact that you probably already knew: Your skin does most of its recovery at night. As with the rest of your body, the time you spend asleep is your skin's prime time to heal after long hours spent in makeup and enduring everything from pollution to UV rays. The best night creams—considered one of the best anti-aging products in your entire skincare arsenal—not only speed up that healing, but use some choice ingredients (retinol, hyaluronic acid) to hydrate your skin and make sure you wake up glowing. But the best night cream for you will be based on your specific needs, lifestyle, and skin type—so team Marie Claire broke down the top options for you to shop.
What is a night cream?
Night creams typically contain three components: occlusives, humectants, and emollients. “Occlusives are ingredients (think: petrolatum or dimethicone) which form a protective seal over the skin to prevent water loss, '' says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a board-certified dermatologist. “Humectants, like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, act like sponges and grab onto water to hydrate the other skin layer. Emollients are ingredients that soften rough cells on the skin surface and fill in cracks. Common emollients used in skin care products are natural oils and fatty alcohols.”
Generally, you want your night creams to be on the thicker side, at least when compared to your favorite day moisturizer. If you have dry skin, that means looking for something that can, in some cases, border on a balm-like texture. You can even top things off with a nourishing face oil to really trap in moisturizer provided by the cream. But if you have acne-prone or oily skin, a lightweight or whipped night cream might work best for you.
What’s the difference between a day moisturizer and a night cream?
The difference between the day moisturizer and a night cream is usually the consistency of the product and whether it protects you from the sun. Most AM moisturizers provide both hydration benefits and sunscreen to block UV rays.
“Generally speaking, but not as a complete rule, morning moisturizers tend to be lighter in consistency,” says Zeichner. “The skin undergoes daily circadian rhythms, where specific activities occur in the morning and others at night. We know that skin hydration levels start to decline in the afternoon and into the evening, which is why an evening moisturizer is important. These products tend to be thicker in consistency to address the dryness of the skin in the evening.”
When trying to figure out which one is for you, think about what your skin specifically needs. If your skin is super dry and flaky, for example, a retinol cream might not work for you until your skin is back on track.
Do I need an expensive night cream?
No, not necessarily. There are a ton of great night creams and moisturizers that are available at the drugstore. That said, there are also some pretty incredible night creams that retail for well over $100. Both types of creams are on this list. It's all about doing your research—if you're not sure which one is for you, a trip to the dermatologist might be in order. In any case, read on to check out a bunch of grade-A night creams to fall in love with in 2023.
The Best Night Creams
The Best Night Cream-Mask Hybrid
This overnight mask is designed for all skin types, but it also works on the driest of skin types as a night cream. It's packed with vitamin C to brighten, hyaluronic acid, and squalane. You'll wake up with visibly brighter, plumper skin.
The Best Classic Night Cream
This under-$20 night cream from CeraVe will make your skin look less tired while you try to catch some Zzs all night long. It's made with encapsulated retinol with time-release technology that keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay alongside bomimetic peptides to make skin look and feel fresh in the morning.
The Best Affordable Night Cream With Retinol
Say goodbye to deep-set wrinkles in 12 weeks thanks to this night cream from RoC. There's a reason that the brand's retinol has been voted best in America—it's that good.
The Best Day and Night Cream
This moisturizer is designed to protect your skin barrier, so it's packed with ceramides and collagen to make your skin look better over time. Say goodbye to redness and dryness and welcome in a new era of healthy, clear, skin.
The Best Night Cream With Vitamin A
Yes, this cream is pricey, but it's 100 percent worth it. After my skin went into a bit of tailspin after a hectic month, this cream made it look great again. Vitamin A boosts cell renewal, while carrot oil soothes.
The Best Fragrance-Free Night Cream
This option from Olay's top-selling Regenerist range is here to deliver moisture deep into your skin—like 10 layers deep. It includes glycerin on its ingredient list, which is hygroscopic. That's just a fancy way of saying that it actually draws in moisture in the air to hydrate your dry winter skin.
The Best Fast-Absorbing Night Cream
Want something that you can slather on right before bed without worrying that it'll get all over your pillowcase? Pick up this cream from Cetaphil. It's great for normal and dry skin types because it includes hyaluronic acid.
The Best Pregnancy-Safe Night Cream
This night cream is created with fermented purple tea, which protects against free-radicals thanks to the fact that it has tons of antioxidants already in it. Microalgae protects against the early degradation of collagen in the skin, which means that it will stay bouncy and plump for longer.
The Best Night Cream Balm
Speaking of balm-level moisturizers, meet Glossier's latest launch, the After Baume. It's designed for the most sensitive skin out there (and was awarded the National Eczema Association's Seal of Acceptance to prove it). Despite how rich it is, it won't clog your pores. Apply it liberally to the tender areas around your face (i.e, that area around your nose that flakes every winter) to added protection.
The Best Whipped Night Cream
If you're looking for a lightweight cream (as in, your skin doesn't require a balm-level cream) this one is for you. Squalane and peptides make the skin stronger from the inside out while still feeling airy thanks to the dreamy whipped texture.
The Best Night Cream For Dry, Sensitive Skin
If your regular moisturizer isn't cutting it for your dry skin, swap it for this incredibly rich one. It uses aloe, chamomile, evening primrose extract, and a 10 percent hydroxy acid complex to smooth rough patches and flakes in a flash.
The Best Night Cream For Youthful-Looking Skin
The bouncy, whipped texture will make you want to slather this cream all over your skin. And you can be reassured that you won't wake up with it all over your pillow, thanks to its transfer-resistant texture. It's made with a "rest and restore" technology which will smooth fine lines, hydrate dry patches, and more overnight.
The Best Night Cream For Uneven, Sensitive Skin
If your skin hasn't been looking its brightest and freshest lately, try this restorative night balm. It is jam-packed with natural brightening actives like moringa oil, shea butter, and neroli oil that work in harmony to moisturize and brighten sensitive skin, leaving it with a even toned, firm feel.
The Best Night Cream For Aging Skin
Real-life issues like pollution, UV exposure, environmental stressors, and so on cause our skin to age faster than we'd like, which is why it's essential for you to try at least one high-powered moisturizer in your life to see what all the hype is about. This moisturizer is no joke when it comes to extending the life of your skin's cells and advancing its natural repair process. Basically, it's youth in a shiny jar...and it's calling your name.
The Best Night Cream For Fatigued Skin
We underestimate how much we put our skin through on a day-to-day basis. Simply stepping outside is putting our skin through hell. When your face feels way too over-exposed to environmental stressors, slather this lightweight, lotus plant-filled moisturizer all over for ultimate restoration. You'll wake up with rested skin.
The Best Night Cream For Sagging Skin
Get acquainted with alguronic acid: an under-the-radar natural ingredient that speeds up your skin's cell turnover rate. This will essentially revive your complexion overnight with time and give you supple, smooth, firm skin.
The Best Night Cream For Dry, Flaky Skin
Waking up with tight, scaly skin should be a damn crime. If your skin can't seem to retain moisturizer overnight no matter how elaborate your nighttime routine is, try this ultra-hydrating blend of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and allantoin. This triple threat helps bind water to your skin's natural lipid barrier for hours on end.
The Best Night Cream For Finely Lined Skin
Hey, there's nothing wrong with aging (wisdom!), but if you're not into your new fine lines and wrinkles, try a night cream that's packed with retinol, like this favorite from Murad. The light, creamy formula blends three retinols to smooth lines and brighten skin with consistent use.
The Best Non-Greasy Night Cream
Zeichner reports this cream can be used across all skin types, including people who are sensitive. As a bonus, it also rubs in without leaving your skin feeling too heavy or greasy.
Deena Campbell is the Beauty Director of Marie Claire where she oversees beauty and health content on all platforms. Deena joined Marie Claire after a decade-long career as an editor in print and digital media. Before joining the brand, she managed editorial content for L’Oréal owned Makeup.com and Skincare.com. In 2015, she launched Essence.com’s hair channel where she received Time Inc.'s Henry R. Luce Award, shortly before joining Allure.com’s staff as Senior Beauty Editor. Along with her editorial positions, she also consulted on content and marketing strategies for beauty companies including DevaCurl and Dove, and has appeared at various speaking events and live television segments.
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