Marisa HillmanUpdated: Jul. 13, 2023
Give your skin a much needed boost of overnight hydration with the best night cream for every type of skin, and budget.
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Put beauty stores like Ulta or Sephora aside for just a second. If you walk into any drugstore, department store or big box store like Target or Walmart, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the hundreds of beauty products available. Everything from the best night cream to anti-aging eye creams to face serums to moisturizers line the shelves, all promising to solve your most pressing skin concerns. Whether you’re in need of an affordable face serum, moisturizer for oily skin, moisturizer with SPF or just a tub of Vaseline to try TikTok’s viral slugging trend, you’ll find it along with countless other products that you absolutely have to incorporate into your skincare routine. Or do you?
There’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to skincare. Whether your routine includes seven different products or a simple three-step system like Proven Skincare, there’s one product that dermatologists agree you shouldn’t skip, and that’s night cream. We reached out to the experts in order to better understand how night cream differs from everyday moisturizer, why it’s important and what to look for when shopping for the best night cream. They dish on their top recommendations for every type of skin, with options for every budget.
What is the difference between night cream and everyday moisturizer?
New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman explains that night creams are typically formulated with more hydrating ingredients to improve skin’s hydration while you sleep. “Night creams usually contain active ingredients such as retinol or vitamin C in high concentrations, which generally makes them more nourishing than a daytime moisturizer,” she says. And since night creams tend to be heavier than daytime moisturizers, she notes they are especially beneficial for those who have very dry skin.
So why use them at night? According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Associate Professor and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research for the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, “the skin undergoes natural circadian rhythms, where specific activities occur in the morning and others occur in the evening.” The evening is a time of rest and repair. And since skin hydration levels start to decline in the afternoon, evenings are the ideal time to use a heavier, more moisturizing cream.
What to look for when buying night cream
Dr. Jaliman recommends looking for creams that contain the following ingredients:
- Hyaluronic acid, which binds water molecules to skin.
- Glycerin, which is a humectant and works to moisturize the skin by drawing water from the air into the skin’s outer layer.
- Shea butter works as an emollient. It’s extremely moisturizing due to its natural vitamins and fatty acids.
- Ceramides: These form a protective layer on the surface of the skin and help prevent moisture loss.
- Retinol stimulates a quicker renewal of skin cells. When someone uses a retinol serum or cream, the outer layer of the skin is sloughed off. Retinol, which also treats acne, reduces the appearance of fine lines. It also helps with skin discoloration by fading dark spots.
Best overall night cream
CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream
According to Dr. Jaliman, CeraVe’s Skin Renewing Cream is an excellent face cream at an amazing price point. It has a non-comedogenic light formulation and contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which helps bind water molecules, she explains. It also has niacinamide, which helps even out skin color. “It’s a good moisturizer for when the weather starts getting cold and your skin starts losing moisture,” she adds. Now that you’ve found the best night cream to finish your evening skincare routine, be sure you’re starting with the best face wash.
- Dermatologist recommended
- Won’t leave skin feeling greasy
- Easy to find in drug stores and big box stores
- Only available in one size
Best value night cream
Olay Night of Olay Firming Night Cream
A quality night cream doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. When it comes to affordable drugstore picks, Dr. Jaliman recommends this Olay night cream. “It contains glycerin, which is very moisturizing without clogging pores,” she explains. Better yet, this rich night cream won’t leave skin greasy, and is formulated for all skin types. And speaking of value, if you love affordable skincare products, then you’ll definitely want to try this top-rated clay mask.
- Under $10
- Contains glycerin to keep skin moisturized
- Doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy
- Does not contain any collagen-stimulating ingredients such as retinol, hyaluronic acid or niacinamide
Another great pick? The Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Moisturizer.
Best splurge night cream
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream
From her Pillow Talk collection to the always sold out highlighter, Charlotte Tilbury has more than just a few cult-favorite products under her belt. Add her Magic Night Cream to the list, too. Like its name suggests, this cream is like magic for your complexion. It contains time-released retinol to visibly firm and plump skin. Plus, Winter Daphne stem cell extract, which smooths, tones and firms.
It’s also infused with red-algae marigel, castor seed and olus oils, which infuse extra moisture and softness to dry skin. At $145, it’s definitely an investment, but the best night creams are worth the splurge. Once finished, save some money on your next batch by purchasing a refill instead of a brand new jar. Looking for another splurge-worthy skincare product? You won’t regret treating yourself to the Foreo Luna Mini 2.
- Contains retinol, a night cream’s hero ingredient
- Tones, firms and moisturizes skin
- Comes in a refillable jar
- Pricey at $145 for 1.6-ounces
- Not recommended for oily or acne-prone skin
Best night cream for dry skin
Curel Intensive Moisture Facial Cream
During cold winter months, anyone who battles dry skin knows the importance of finding an effective moisturizer. Dr. Jaliman recommends this Curel intensive moisture facial cream for people with dry skin. It contains both glycerin and ceramides, which prevent moisture loss and protect the outer layer of skin. And here’s a fun fact: This happens to be one of the best-selling face creams in Japan! If global skincare products are your jam, you may also love these Korean beauty products.
- Ideal for dry, sensitive skin and winter weather
- Formulated with ceramides and glycerin, which protect the outer layer of skin and retain moisture
- Lightweight formula won’t leave skin greasy or shiny
- Not easy to find in stores
Best night cream for oily skin
Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, Dr. Jaliman recommends this Paula’s Choice oil-free moisturizer. This cream, which should be used as the last step in your nighttime skincare routine, is oil-free and won’t clog your pores. Additionally, Dr. Jaliman points out that it contains ceramides, which protect the outer barrier of your skin, and provide moisture without causing breakouts.
More ingredients to love: Naturally soothing antioxidants, sourced from pumpkin and blueberry, calm redness. Plus niacinamide, a pore minimizer, improves tone and quenches dryness. Once you’ve added this moisturizer to your cart, don’t check out without a bottle of this tried-and-true Paula’s Choice exfoliant.
- Specially formulated skincare for oily and blemish-prone skin
- Contains pore-minimizing niacinamide
- Dermatologist recommended
- Not available in drug stores
Best night cream for aging skin
Isdin Age Contour Night Cream
If you’re concerned with fine lines, wrinkles and loss of firmness, then you’ll want a night cream that addresses concerns surrounding aging skin. This restorative night cream is specially formulated for the face and neck and is safe for all skin types. It boasts a blend of antioxidants, melatonin and peptides to repair daily damage, calm skin and reduce signs of aging. Hyaluronic acid gives skin an extra boost of hydration. Here are even more anti-aging creams dermatologists trust.
- Formulated for aging skin on the face and neck
- Safe for all skin types, including oily and combination skin
- Contains hyaluronic acid
- More expensive than other brands
Best retinol night cream
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Adding retinol to your skincare routine is a proven way to fight signs of aging. Dr. Zeichner recommends RoC night cream, which contains a stabilized form of retinol in an ultra-hydrating formula. “It can help stimulate collagen production, and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, all in a rich formula that is not irritating, and can be used daily,” he explains. If you’re looking for more retinol options, you may want to try adding this affordable retinol serum into your skincare routine.
- Contains pure RoC Retinol that won’t irritate skin
- Has hydrating glycerin and shea butter
- Dermatologist recommended
- Only offered in a small, 1-ounce tube
Best lightweight night cream
Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Dream Face Cream
Most night creams tend to be richer and thicker than daytime moisturizers. But if you can’t stand the feeling of anything heavy on your skin, then opt for a lightweight cream. This antioxidant-rich night cream contains super lotus, peach leaf extract, vitamin E and shea butter, which work together to minimize signs of aging. These natural ingredients keep skin nourished and hydrated, and also soothe and protect. They also work to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by making the skin look plump.
- Lightweight formula won’t leave skin feeling smothered or greasy
- Contains a blend of antioxidants along with moisturizing shea butter and glycerin
- Has a mild, fresh scent
- Not formulated for oily or acne-prone skin
How we found the best night cream
As shopping experts, our only job is to help you find a winning product. We start with the research and reporting basics—what products are made of, what they look like and how much they cost—to ensure that we’re only recommending the buys that are worth your time and money. Then, we research the features that speak to the product’s quality, taking advice from industry insiders and subject matter experts on what makes a product a smart value (or worthy of a splurge). Finally, we do the work of combing through user reviews to see how real people interact with the product, and if it stands up to the test.
Does night cream actually work?
Yes. As Dr. Jaliman explains: “Your cells regenerate themselves while you sleep. Your skin is most able to absorb topical treatments more efficiently—and DNA repair is boosted—at night.” Additionally, Dr. Zeichner points out that the evening is an ideal time to apply active ingredients, since they can also work to treat other skin issues like breakouts.
Do you have to use night cream every night?
Since your skin undergoes natural circadian rhythms—with nighttime being a time of cell regeneration, it is beneficial to use night cream every night.
How much does night cream cost?
With so many options available, there’s a night cream for every budget. A quality night cream can cost anywhere from under $10 to upwards of $200.
- Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified NYC dermatologist and author of the book,Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, Associate Professor, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
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Originally Published: December 02, 2022
Marisa Hillman is a freelance writer and product expert covering product reviews, gift guides and sales for RD.com. She is a former educator turned professional shopper dedicated to finding the best sales and products on the market. When she's not on deadline, she can be found exploring the East Coast or curled up at home with her nose in a book. She lives in New England with her husband, three children and two dogs.
Best firming night cream: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Night Cream. This ubiquitous night cream consistently makes the cut with beauty editors and beauty junkies alike for very good reason: It provides visibly firming results.What is the best cream for all skin type? ›
- Best Overall – Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Gel Face Moisturizer. ...
- Best Non-Comedogenic – Bioderma Atoderm Creme Ultra-Nourishing Moisturizer. ...
- Best Lightweight – Minimalist 3% Sepicalm With Oats Face Moisturizer Cream. ...
- Best for Combination Skin – Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer with SPF 30.
- Arvesa Collagen and Retinol Firming Cream. ...
- Bio-Oil Skincare Body Oil with Vitamin E. ...
- CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream. ...
- Roc Multi Correxion 5 in 1 Night Cream. ...
- L'Oreal Paris Day and Night Cream. ...
- It Cosmetics Beauty Sleep Night Cream. ...
- Mario Badescu Seaweed Night Cream. ...
- Olay 7-in-1 Night Cream.
Best firming night cream: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Night Cream. This ubiquitous night cream consistently makes the cut with beauty editors and beauty junkies alike for very good reason: It provides visibly firming results.What are the only 3 skincare products you need? ›
It just so happens these products are often overlooked because, well, they aren't all that sexy. We're talking about the holy trinity of beginner skin care: Cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. If you're rolling your eyes thinking yeah, yeah, just give me the serums and peels please, stay with us.Which is no 1 cream? ›
The Lakme peach milk is the best moisturizer cream for the face. It contains milk and peach extracts providing a glow to the skin. Moreover, it is made with SPF formula to save your skin from the sun.Which night cream is best for fine lines and wrinkles? ›
Best Night Cream: EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer, $41. Best for Forehead Lines: Irene Forte Prickly Pear Face Cream, $175. Best for Traveling: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $25. Best Plumping Cream: Isdin Isdinceuticals Age Contour Night Face Moisturizer, $125.Which anti aging cream is best? ›
- Blu Atlas Face Moisturizer. ...
- La Mer Crème de la Mer. ...
- Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Regenerating Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Cream + Hyaluronic Acid. ...
- Ren Clean Skincare Bio Retinoid™ Youth Cream. ...
- Clinique Smart Clinical Repair™ Wrinkle Correcting Cream. ...
- Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream Moisturizer.
Night creams/sleeping packs are usually richer or heavier than a gel cream, and are worn overnight to enrich the skin. Both serve the same purpose of helping to seal in hydration at the end of a skincare routine. Gel creams are usually lighter than a traditional western face cream.Are expensive night creams worth it? ›
Myth: Night cream only works if it is expensive.
Many pricey night potions contain “fragrance” or “perfume” as the first listed ingredient—a sign that you may not be getting the best ingredients for your skin. Don't equate more money with better skincare; always read the label!
- BULGARIAN ROSE OTTO GLOW NIGHT CREAM, 50G. St.Botanica. ...
- NATURE'S VITAMIN C BRIGHTENING FACE NIGHT CREAM, 50G. Oriental Botanics. ...
- PURE RADIANCE NIGHT FACE CREAM, 50G. St.Botanica. ...
- VITAMIN C, E & HYALURONIC ACID BRIGHTENING NIGHT GEL, 50G. St.Botanica. ...
- VITAMIN C, E & HYALURONIC ACID BRIGHTENING NIGHT CREAM, 50G.
Dr. Fahs recommends this Roc Derm Correxion Neck Cream as an affordable, effective option for tightening your skin. Formulated with retinol, hyaluronic acid, and swertiamarin—an anti-stretch mark agent—this neck and face cream claims to reduce wrinkles by 47 percent.What should I put on my face before bed at night? ›
- Nighttime skincare routine steps.
- Step 1: Remove makeup.
- Step 2: Cleanse.
- Step 3: Use toner.
- Step 4: Apply a serum or spot treatment.
- Step 5: Eye cream.
- Step 6: Moisturise.
- FAQs about nighttime skincare routine.
- Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. ...
- CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. ...
- Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch. ...
- Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer With Bamboo Charcoal. ...
- CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.
- Cleanser. Face cleansing should be the first step in any skincare routine, as it clears away impurities and excess oil that can clog pores and dull skin. ...
- Toner. ...
- Serum. ...
- Eye Cream. ...
- Moisturizer. ...
- Sunscreen. ...
- Cleanser. ...
Best Primers For All Skin Types:
Lakme Absolute Blur Perfect Makeup Primer: It is lightweight, easy to blend and blurs fine lines. This primer gives a matte finish and lasts long.
There are four basic types of healthy skin: normal, dry, oily and combination skin.