We all know that moisturizing our skin is essential to keep it healthy and hydrated. But with so many different creams and lotions available in the market, often formulated specifically for daytime or nighttime use, picking the right one that meets your skin’s needs can be a bit confusing.
First things first, what’s the difference between daytime and nighttime moisturizer?
“Most moisturizers can function as both a day cream and a night cream,” says Dr. Muneeb Shah, North Carolina-based dermatologist and skincare influencer. However, there are a few key differences between the two. For instance, a day cream is typically lightweight, making it easy to wear under makeup. It’s also usually formulated with SPF and antioxidants to offer protection from environmental stressors like pollution, dry air and UV exposure.
Night creams, on the other hand, are typically heavier than day creams and contain ingredients like exfoliating acids, retinol and peptides that have anti-aging benefits to renew the skin while you sleep, explains Dr. Shah.
Should you use a different moisturizer for AM and PM?
During the day, your skin is under a tremendous amount of environmental stress when you go outside—so for daytime, look for a hydrator that provides environmental protection, says Dr. Julie Russak, board-certified dermatologist, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and founder of Russak Dermatology Clinic. “Having antioxidants that can absorb oxidative damage during the day along with ingredients that strengthen the protective barrier so allergens and pollutants from the outside do not penetrate into the skin is most important,” she adds.
Meanwhile, “nighttime is the best time to rejuvenate the skin while you sleep,” says Dr. Rita Linkner, board-certified dermatologist and founder of RVL Skincare. So using a thicker moisturizer with more reparative ingredients at night would be the best for replenishing your skin’s needs, she notes.
“When you’re younger, you can get away with using the same moisturizer during the day and night,” says Dr. Russak. However, the understanding is that if you’re using the same moisturizer in your daytime and nighttime routine, you need to use a separate sunscreen during the day since you won’t need a moisturizer with SPF protection at night, adds the skin specialist. Moreover, it’s also important to make sure that you don’t use a moisturizer with potent ingredients like retinol, AHAs and BHAs during the day as they can make your skin photosensitive.
As you get older, it’s advisable to invest in separate hydrators for AM and PM to better meet your skin’s needs, says Dr. Linkner.
“This is the time where you really want to invest in products that can repair the skin during REM sleep—it’s when your body repairs itself,” tells Dr. Russak. “Look for ingredients in night creams that boost collagen production, such as peptides—which also have the added benefit of containing signaling molecules to smooth and relax muscles,” she adds.
The best face moisturizers for 2021
Here are the best moisturizer picks for every skin type:
Dr. Shah recommends this nighttime moisturizer for those who have dry skin. Packed with hyaluronic acid, shea butter, active lipids and peptides, this award-winning cream plumps skin cells with moisture, brightens the complexion and protects the skin from free radical damage.
“It’s a fantastic moisturizer that can be used right when you get out of the shower in the morning,” says Dr. Linkner. “It contains ceramides which is the glue that holds the skin cells together—meaning, if you tend to have dry, itchy skin, this moisturizer can help to re-establish a balance to your skin’s barrier,” explains the skincare expert.
This ultra-light cream is essentially a fluffy, weightless cloud of moisture that quickly sinks into the skin to provide up to 72 hours of hydration. Featuring a cocktail of skin-rejuvenating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, the luxe cream feeds essential moisture to the skin, leaving it soft, smooth and supple. Its non-comedogenic formula makes it ideal for oily skin.
CeraVe’s nighttime moisturizer is pocket-friendly yet as effective as its pricey counterparts. Formulated with hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid, skin-soothing niacinamide as well as peptides, it works overnight to calm irritated skin and repair skin’s natural barrier. Its non-greasy, fragrance-free formula makes it suitable for both oily and sensitive skin types.
Aveeno’s gentle gel moisturizer delivers deep hydration for up to 24 hours. Plus, it contains feverfew and prebiotic oat complex to soothe dry, itchy skin and calm redness. Its fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formula makes it a great pick for sensitive skin.
Dr. Shah recommends this cult-classic moisturizer for those who have normal or combination skin. Enriched with nourishing ingredients like squalane, glycerin and glycoprotein, the ultra-light cream provides lasting hydration for soft and smooth skin.
Infused with skin-nourishing ceramides and hyaluronic acid, this non-comedogenic night cream delivers hydration overnight to soften and firm up the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Infused with niacinamide, ceramides and thermal water, this oil-free moisturizer from La Roche Posay helps fortify skin’s natural barrier while offering broad-spectrum sun protection. Plus, its lightweight formula absorbs quickly into the skin, making it easy to wear under makeup.
Packed with powerful natural antioxidants, this luxe moisturizer works overnight to nourish and heal stressed skin, fight free radical damage, improve elasticity and refine skin texture.