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7 Best Night Creams for Mature Skin + Why You Should Add One to Your Skin Care Routine

Because they actually do work differently than other moisturizers

You likely already know how important it is to moisturize your skin daily. But the second part of that smart skincare habit is actually moisturizing twice daily, more specifically, using a night cream come bedtime. Could you in theory use whatever moisturizer you’re applying in the a.m.? Well, yes, but choosing (and using) a dedicated p.m. product is the best way to address a host of different complexion concerns for mature skin, as well as generally keep your skin healthy and youthful. More on the specifics to come, but basically different things happen in your skin during the day than at night. So opting for a distinct product for each of those timeframes is paramount for supporting your skin in doing what it’s already naturally doing. Keep reading to learn more on why top dermatologists say night cream is so essential, plus they share their picks for the best night creams for mature skin. Beauty sleep, indeed!

What is a night cream?

“Night creams are creams formulated to restore and repair the skin while you sleep,” explains Rebecca Marcus, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Dallas, Texas. “They contain active ingredients that aid in those natural processes, and tend to have a richer texture that helps to nourish and restore the skin barrier.”

In short, you can think of them as thicker, more moisturizing, more active versions of their daytime counterparts. Also worth mentioning: While many are labeled/named as such, there are also good night creams out there that aren’t necessarily called night creams, per se. And you can definitely use them in the morning too, but, because they’re thicker, they may not layer as nicely under makeup. That’s why it’s best to pick lighter moisturizers for daytime use — and bonus points if they contain the addition of your daily dose of SPF.

Related: MDs Share the Best Menopause Skin Care Routine + Products for Women Over 50

Do I need a night cream?

woman holding jar of night cream
Liudmila Chernetska/Getty

In a word, yes. “Most people can benefit from using a night cream because it’s an excellent way to take advantage of the skin’s natural tendency to repair itself overnight,” says Dr. Marcus. (Clipboard that point, because we’ll come back to it shortly.) Adrianna Lombardi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Edison, New Jersey and founder of the Skin Cancer & Cosmetic Surgery Center of New Jersey, adds that they’re especially choice for those dealing with dry skin or trying to target fine lines and wrinkles.

One exception to this universal rule? Those with very oily skin may find that night creams are a bit too heavy, and may prefer to use a more lightweight serum instead. Although, they should still apply it at night, Dr. Lombardi notes. To that point…

What happens to skin overnight?

A lot more than you might think. While you finally catch some ZZZs, your skin gets to work, repairing and undoing damage caused during the day by things such as UV light and pollution, both of which can contribute to inflammation and collagen breakdown, notes Dr. Lombardi. (As a reminder, collagen is a protein responsible for firm, smooth skin.)

mature woman sleeping
Goodboy Picture Company/Getty

And just like we have a Circadian rhythm, so too does our skin, meaning certain processes kick into action during the overnight hours. Cortisol (AKA the stress hormone) decreases, which causes increased blood flow and subsequently more oxygen and nutrients delivered to the skin, says Dr. Lombardi. On the flip side, human growth hormone increases, which helps restore collagen and regenerate cells, kickstarting all of that repair we just mentioned, she adds. And finally, our skin is actually more likely to lose moisture overnight, which is another reason why using a nice, thick cream is key.

To learn more about this topic, watch the below video from YouTuber and medical esthetician Cassandra Bankson.

How to use a night cream

First, cleanse skin because you’ll want to start with a clean slate by removing dirt, makeup, sunscreen and the like. And make a night cream the final step in your routine — it should go on after any serums and/or prescription creams that you may be using, advises Dr. Marcus. Apply a generous layer and let it do its thing. Tip: While you can of course put it on right before bed, doing so slightly earlier in the evening is a good way to give it more time to fully soak into your skin and minimize the likelihood of it rubbing off on your pillowcase.

Related: Here’s the Best Speedy Nighttime Routine for Glowing, Youthful Skin, According to Top Dermatologists

What to look for in a night cream

Generally speaking, focus on ingredients that will target your particular problem area, says Dr. Lombardi. For example, if it’s straight-up hydration you’re after, seek out ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

To smooth out wrinkles and for overall rejuvenation and repair, she recommends retinol, vitamin C, bakuchiol and peptides. Focused on undoing free radical damage from the sun? Look for antioxidants such as resveratrol and vitamin E.

Need a little bit of all of the above? Happily, many of these ingredients do more than one thing, says Dr. Lombardi. Take vitamin C — it not only stimulates collagen production, it’s also a great antioxidant and helps to fade dark spots and brighten the skin tone. Plus, many night cream formulations do combine multiple actives, making for truly multi-tasking formulas.

The 7 best night creams for all skin concerns

There’s certainly no shortage of night creams to choose from. To help you streamline the shopping process of finding the best night creams, we asked the pros to share a few of their favorites.

Best overall night cream

Beauty Pie Youthbomb Breakthrough Repair Cream
Beauty Pie

Beauty Pie Youthbomb Breakthrough Repair Cream

Dr. Marcus is a fan of this option, which truly does a little bit of everything — and then some.  “It contains peptides to smooth the skin, polyglutamic acid for hydration and skin barrier support and niacinamide for brightening,” she says. If that weren’t enough, it also contains bakuchiol, a natural retinol alternative that helps support cell turnover and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

Best moisturizing night cream

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

Dry skin doesn’t stand a chance against this heavy-hitting hydrator, one of Dr. Lombardi’s favorites. She lauds it for being packed with fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides to help restore hydration and keep the skin barrier healthy, too. Plus, it also has vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant to combat free radical damage.

Best night cream with retinol

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream
Charlotte Tilbury/Sephora

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream

Retinol is a beloved ingredient to use at nighttime, especially for mature skin, not only because of its reparative properties, but also because it can make your skin sensitive to the sun. “This contains time-released retinol that works all night to improve cell turnover, as well as plant stem cells, vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 to restore moisture and repair daily damage,” says Dr. Marcus of another one of her favorites.

Related: Sensitive Skin? Here’s How to Use Retinol for a Smoother, Glowing Complexion + Pros’ Top 9 Product Picks

Best night cream for barrier repair

Skinfix barrier+ Strengthening and Moisturizing Triple Lipid-Peptide Refillable Cream

Skinfix barrier+ Strengthening and Moisturizing Triple Lipid-Peptide Refillable Cream

A healthy skin barrier is essential for healthy skin. Enter this pick, one of Dr. Marcus’s recommendations. It boasts a proprietary complex of barrier-strengthening ingredients (featuring ceramides, lipids and more) and is also very hydrating, she notes.

Best night cream for dark spots

Jan Marini Age Intervention Face Cream
Jan Marini/Dermstore

Jan Marini Age Intervention Face Cream

Dr. Lombardi says this is a great choice for anyone targeting hyperpigmentation as well as free radical damage. It contains multiple ingredients (including soy and CoEnzyme Q10, just to name a few) that address issues caused by sun exposure, like spots and discoloration, as well as hormonally-induced skin changes.

Best night cream for sensitive skin

EltaMD PM Restore Moisturizer

EltaMD PM Restore Moisturizer

Both dermatologists we spoke with recommend this pick. “Peptides help to signal collagen stimulation and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Marcus. It also contains niacinamide, which can help soothe redness, and is fragrance-free, too.

Best splurge night cream

SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Cream

SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Cream

“This cream is great for those targeting fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr. Lombardi of another one of her recommendations. “It’s packed with antioxidants and addresses glycation, a process that breaks down collagen,” she explains.

Learn about more skin care secrets and treatments:

Chemical Peel Before and After Photos + Why the Treatment Is Great for Women Over 50

Squalane Skin Benefits: Pros Share Why This Ingredient Works Well for Women Over 50

The Best Eye Creams That Fight Puffiness, Dark Circles, Wrinkles and More to Help You Look Younger

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