Why you feel like your medicine cabinet is near overflowing with products, many of which you use on a daily basis, welcome to the club. If you’re really into skin-care, your daily routine might involve eight, nine, or sometimes even 10 steps. Add in the fact that some products are meant for morning, while others are meant for nighttime, and you’re basically facing an avalanche of product twice a day.
But do you really need to use a whole different set of skin-care products at night from what you use during the day? As it turns out, yes, you do.
“Skin uses nighttime to repair itself, reversing all the damage that was caused by sun exposure, stress, and pollution during the day,” Austin-based dermatologist Ted Lain, M.D., tells SELF. “Dermatologists attempt to take advantage of this natural process by augmenting it with products that facilitate the repair and regrowth process, for example, products that include growth factors, stem cell stimulators, retinol, and DNA-repairing enzymes.”
In contrast, we focus on protection with our morning skin-care routine. Many daytime products contain free-radical-fighting antioxidants, such as Simply Pure Beauty Day Cream, which come in handy when we’re outdoors. These products also tend to be lighter in consistency—think serums or lotions—to layer easily under makeup and sunscreen. “Heavier creams and moisturizers would not be aesthetically pleasing to wear out during the day and virtually impossible to layer under makeup,” explains Marnie B. Nussbaum, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist.
Some ingredients can be useful no matter what time of day you put them on, while others do their jobs more effectively when used at the proper times. “Retinoids are best used at night”—when your skin is in its repair phase—“in order to accelerate the skin regeneration process and encourage skin cell turnover,” says Dr. Nussbaum. What’s more, these skin-smoothing vitamin A derivatives break down in sunlight, so putting them on in the morning diminishes their efficacy (and may increase irritation, too).
On the other hand, Dr. Nussbaum says, “Antioxidants, which protect against sun damage and also repair the skin's daily stress, may be used both morning and night.”
OK, I’m convinced that it is worth the time, energy, and money to establish a different skin routine for nighttime than we use during the day (psst that routine can be just a few steps long, by the way). So we asked derms for the top-rated products they recommend for nighttime use.