At the end of a long day, completing a multistep skin-care routine may be the last thing you want to do — but after washing your face, there are some very compelling reasons to go for a night cream. According to dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, “Nighttime is the restorative time for your skin, so you should give your skin the extra TLC by using a night cream.” She says night creams “address different concerns than daytime moisturizers. Typically, they provide intense hydration and concentrated ingredients to fight signs of aging and other issues.” We heard similar things from Dr. Noelani González, the director of cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai West, who points out that night creams tend to be thicker than daytime moisturizers, use exfoliators to improve skin texture, and contain more hydrators to replenish moisture lost during the day (so you wake up looking less tired and puffy). They also contain retinol, which shouldn’t be used during the day.
We asked 11 dermatologists and facialists for their recommendations: the night creams that are worth the money, the ones that fight acne, and the ones that might help slow down early signs of aging. Here are the best picks.
What we’re looking for
Because your skin does so much reparative work while you sleep, the ingredients you go for are key. Generally speaking, González suggests looking for a night cream with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides for hydration; retinol as an acne fighter and anti-ager; or antioxidants such as resveratrol for protecting against environmental stress. “Glycolic acid also helps exfoliate and renew, and niacinamide helps with redness for those with conditions like rosacea and acne.” We’ve noted the standout ingredients in each formula as well as the concentration when available.
Depending on your skin type, some consistencies might be better for your skin than others. Lightweight creams are ideal if you have oily skin, while richer, thicker formulations are great if you struggle with dryness. Then there are those middle-of-the-road ones, which could go either way.
Night creams range widely in price (our most expensive pick is over $150, and our cheapest is under $20), so we’ve noted the cost per ounce.
Best overall night cream
Active ingredients: Ceramides, peptides, hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Rich cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $8 per ounce)
González and Dr. Debra Jaliman, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, both suggest this drugstore CeraVe night cream, which Jaliman says delivers comparable results to much more expensive options. Dr. Britt Craiglow calls out the ceramides and hyaluronic acid in it for being excellent hydrators and says the niacinamide is a trusted redness reducer that also helps “replenish the skin’s barrier.” Facialist Jordana Mattioli names the cream as a favorite, too. “For normal to combination skin, this cream has a nongreasy texture with brightening niacinamide and skin-restoring ceramides,” she says. Plus it’s one of the more affordable night creams on this list.
Best night cream for sensitive skin
Active ingredients: Rice protein peptides, vitamin E, niacinamide | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $23 per ounce)
Dr. Georgina Ferzli of Sadick Dermatology in New York City appreciates how “hydrating and soothing” this EltaMD moisturizer is despite having a much thinner texture than many other heavy-duty creams. She points out that it contains “antioxidant and rice protein peptides to promote collagen renewal” but warns that while it is “noncomedogenic,” the inclusion of the antioxidant vitamin E can easily break people out if they are acne prone. Still, “I tend to recommend this product for patients with sensitive, non-acne-prone skin that are looking for a rejuvenating moisturizer,” she says.
Best (less expensive) night cream for sensitive skin
Active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Gel cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $12 per ounce)
“This is one of my all-time favorites and can be tolerated by those with very sensitive skin,” says Dr. Anna Karp, dermatologist at the Skin Institute New York. “It has a cool-on-contact feel and contains hyaluronic acid, which provides extra moisturization (due to its ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water).” She also notes that the gel formula helps the cream sink into skin quickly. This cream is something of a cult-dermatologist favorite: It’s made appearances on our lists of the best moisturizers for dry skin, best moisturizer for mature skin, and best moisturizers for oily skin. Craiglow calls it a truly “versatile” (and affordable) night cream that would work for a lot of skin types — including sensitive skin, because it’s fragrance free and gentle.
Best night cream for ultrasensitive, compromised skin
Active ingredients: Heparan-sulfate analog, green-tea extract, sodium hyaluronate | Consistency: Rich cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $96 per ounce)
If you’ve accidentally overexfoliated with acids or physical scrubs that compromised your moisture barrier, or if you’ve recently undergone chemical or laser treatments, celebrity facialist Candace Marino recommends that you use this night cream from Senté. “It hits heavy with moisture without the weight you feel with most creams,” she says. Its biggest draw is its use of heparan sulfate, a sugar molecule that occurs naturally in the skin and is important for maintaining its health. “It promotes deep hydration, decreases inflammation, and stimulates collagen and elastin production,” she says, adding that it’s also noncomedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores).
Best night cream for acne-prone skin
Active ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $24 per ounce)
Thanks to how finicky acne-prone skin can be, finding a moisturizer that will heal it instead of contribute to the problem can be tough. And if you’re using strong acne-preventing topicals, you’ll need a strong moisturizer to match. Ferzli says that this night cream is actually paraben free and noncomedogenic, “meaning it’s safe for sensitive skin and acne-prone skin.” And it’s water-based, which, as we’ve mentioned before, is the best option for those struggling with acne. “It’s thick without being occlusive, hydrating, and feels almost whipped and fluffy when going on,” Ferzli says.
Best (less expensive) night cream for acne-prone skin
Active ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Rich cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $9 per ounce)
Green told us this cream from Cetaphil is a safe bet for acne-prone skin — and it also came up when we talked to dermatologists about their recommendations for moisturizers for mature skin. Dr. Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai, says Cetaphil can “hydrate skin without clogging pores,” which would also make it a great pick for those struggling with breakouts.
Best night cream for extremely dry skin
Active ingredients: TFC8, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B5, hydrolyzed rice protein | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $168 per ounce)
For those with hard-to-manage dry skin, Zimmerman recommends Augustinus Bader’s The Cream, which comes in two formulas — one for normal to oily skin and one for dry skin — for “the laziest nights when you don’t have time to slather on a million serums but you still want all the anti-aging benefits.” It’s quite the science-y product with equally high-tech claims: “It taps into epigenetics, which activates the body’s own stem cells to regenerate and repair the skin while you sleep,” says Zimmerman. Aesthetician Joanna Czech is also a fan, calling it “super-repairing,” and noting that it “stimulates skin’s natural process of rejuvenation.” The price tag is high, but as Rio once pointed out, it’s a very coveted cream, and the Cut’s former beauty director, Kathleen Hou, wrote that when she tried the cream it made her skin look “healthier, sort of like there was a good bra holding things up under it.”
Best (less expensive) night cream for extremely dry skin
Active ingredients: Ceramides, vitamin E | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1.6 ounces (Approx. $85 per ounce)
If your skin is looking a little dull, dermatologist Annie Chiu, who is the founder of the Derm Institute in Manhattan Beach, suggests this cream from SkinCeuticals, which “mimics the skin’s natural lipid concentrations, with cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids.” Chiu says that this strengthens the skin barrier and leaves your skin less better moisturized and less likely to lose water. The cream is packed with plenty of glow-enhancing ingredients as well: “Vitamin E, for one, gives the skin a dewy, plumping texture without making it feel too oily,” she says.
Best night cream for combination skin
Active ingredients: Green-tea extract, peptide-B3 complex | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $15 per ounce)
González and New York City–based dermatologist Hadley King — a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University — suggests this one for its hydrating elements. “It has antioxidants, green-tea extract, and a peptide-B3 complex, which helps hydrate and exfoliate skin,” González says. Just like the SkinCeuticals cream, this one will properly hydrate the dry areas of your skin, while the exfoliating properties will keep your oily patches at bay.
Best firming night cream
Active ingredients: Vitamin E, amino acids | Consistency: Balm | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $115 per ounce)
Formulated with royal jelly, which can help with inflammation and wound healing, this night cream is a favorite of dermatologist Jessie Cheung. “It’s lightweight but delivers hydration and repair with amino acids and anti-inflammatories,” she says. It also contains vitamin E, which helps with the skin’s overall firmness and elasticity.
Best (less expensive) firming night cream
Active ingredients: Vitamin C, glycerin, rhamnose | Consistency: Balm | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $24 per ounce)
If the Guerlain night cream is too big of a splurge, Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, owner of Dallas-based practice Houshmand Dermatology, likes this option from Vichy. She calls it great for those “with sensitive skin who are looking for effective anti-aging solutions at a reasonable price point.” As far as the formula goes, it features all the expected ingredients, like vitamin C and glycerin for hydrated, brighter-looking skin. But she says the inclusion of rhamnose, a naturally derived plant sugar, is particularly notable because it plumps and firms the skin extremely well. “With continued use, the cream visibly reduces wrinkles” and gives a more even texture and tone over time, Houshmand adds.
Best night cream with retinol
Active ingredients: Lactic acid, retinoid | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1 ounce (Approx. $125 per ounce)
Retinol is a pretty well-known anti-aging product, and Green tells us that it’s also useful for those with oily skin. (Along with facilitating cell turnover to unclog your pores, she says, it also tightens them, making oily skin look less shiny.) If you want to try a night cream with retinol, Karp is a fan of Skinbetter Science Intensive AlphaRet Overnight Cream: “I love this because it is a nonirritating retinol … that has glycolic and lactic acid in it, which help lighten dark spots and exfoliate the skin. You can apply a thin layer over your whole face at night,” she says. Mattioli says the cream has “an amazing combo of retinol and glycolic acid in a mix of moisturizing antioxidants, and it’s hydrating enough for almost any skin type … perfect for mature skin to firm and soften wrinkles.” Dr. Jeremy Brauer is a fan as well: “Retinol is key to evening moisturizing,” he says, mentioning that the AlphaRet Overnight Cream works especially well. Marino also likes AlphaRet and says it is as effective as tretinoin without the side effects.
Best (less expensive) night cream with retinol
Active ingredients: Retinol | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1 ounce (Approx. $93 per ounce)
For the person who’s going all in on night creams and has a history of retinol use, González says that this results-oriented option has a little bit of everything: “Retinol for anti-aging, niacinamide (which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory in clinical trials and to enhance the skin’s barrier function), essential oils, and antioxidants to help smooth skin and give it a more rejuvenated look.” Houshmand explains that this product is the strongest percentage of retinol you can buy over the counter, so you must be experienced with retinol products before purchasing. For anyone just starting out, she recommends SkinMedica’s 0.5 percent retinol version in our list of the best retinol products.
Best drugstore night cream with retinol
Active ingredients: Retinol, hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $14 per ounce)
For an even-less-expensive option, Karp recommends Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Cream, which she often suggests to her patients. “It contains retinol, which will help increase skin cell turnover and prevent wrinkles by stimulating collagen formation,” she says. If you’re concerned about the potentially drying effects of retinol, Karp told us that the Neutrogena cream has a built-in defense: “It contains hyaluronic acid, which attracts a thousand times its weight in water and will help trap moisture in the skin. This means, basically, it acts as an antidote to the drying effects of the retinol.” She suggests using the cream every other day “until your skin gets used to it.”
Best night cream for wrinkles (without retinol)
Active ingredients: Pro-xylane, glycerin, shea butter | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $44 per ounce)
If you’d rather not use a retinol — maybe it’s already in your routine or aren’t ready for the commitment that comes with incorporating one — you can still address skin issues like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation with other ingredients. Lal recommends this night cream from La Roche Posay for all of those things. Its main active ingredient is pro-xylane, a sugar-protein hybrid derived from beech trees that helps to support skin and attract moisture. It also contains moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, as well as dimethicone, which also gives it a silky feel.
Best night cream for hyperpigmentation
Active ingredients: Retinol, glycerin, retinol, peptides | Consistency: Cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $19 per ounce)
To take it a step further, add some peptides into your routine. The anti-aging ingredient is oft recommended here at the Strategist because it can help to stimulate collagen. This, paired with retinol, is a powerful combo for fighting fine lines and wrinkles. We like this face cream from Olay, which comes recommended by Dr. Karan Lal and is fairly affordable. “It’s well tolerated by most,” says Lal, noting that it’s also fragrance free. In addition to peptides and retinol, the cream contains niacinamide, a form of vitamin B-3 that helps to protect skin from environmental stressors by minimizing moisture loss and evening out skin tone.
Additional reporting by Lori Keong.
• Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, owner of Dallas-based practice Houshmand Dermatology
• Dr. Jeremy Brauer, dermatologist
• Dr. Jessie Cheung, dermatologist
• Dr. Annie Chiu, dermatologist and founder of the Derm Institute
• Dr. Britt Craiglow, dermatologist at Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut
• Dr. Georgina Ferzli of Sadick Dermatology
• Dr. Francesca Fusco, dermatologist at Mount Sinai
• Dr. Noelani González, director of cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai West
• Dr. Michele Green, dermatologist
• Dr. Debra Jaliman, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine
• Dr. Anna Karp, dermatologist at the Skin Institute New York
• Dr. Hadley King, dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University
• Dr. Karan Lal, dermatologist
• Candace Marino, celebrity facialist
• Jordana Mattioli, facialist
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