Do You Really Need a Day AND Night Moisturizer? We Asked a Dermatologist

We expect our moisturizers to do quite a lot for us: hydrate, brighten, soothe, mattify, plump, smooth, tighten…the list goes on. When it comes to the difference between our AM and PM lotions, however, we hesitate. Sure, the benefits they promise sound appealing, but is it really necessary to have two (or three, or four…) different types if one can do the job just as well? We spoke with Los Angeles dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu and asked her stance on the great moisturizer debate.

Meet the Expert

Jessica Wu is a Los Angeles dermatologist and founder of her namesake luxury skincare line. Aa a member of the American Academy of Dermatology as well as the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Wu has provided care to members of Hollywood and teaches at the University of Southern California.

Click through the slideshow above to find out if you really need two different kinds of moisturizers, plus Wu’s best moisturizer picks!

Wu says there are two key characteristics that separate day from nighttime moisturizers. “Daytime moisturizers have SPF to protect you from UV rays when you’re walking around outside,” she says. “They also tend to be more lightweight, so you can put makeup on without feeling greasy or looking shiny.”

Other than being richer and not containing SPF, Wu says nighttime moisturizers may include ingredients like retinoids (to plump) and glycolic acid (to polish)—these are usually exclusive to night formulas because they can make your skin sensitive to the sun.

Simply put, yes. “It’s a good idea to wear a product with SPF during the day if you’re going to be outside, or even if you’re indoors but near a window with sunlight streaming through,” says Wu. “Many of my patients prefer using different products for day and night because they want the benefits of different ingredients. For example, someone might choose to use an antioxidant moisturizer in the morning and a product with retinoids at night.”
Wearing a moisturizer with SPF during the day will also help prevent dark spots and skin discoloration, as well as slow down the development of wrinkles. Aesthetic reasons aside, SPF also has another important purpose: protecting you from skin cancer.

Wu says that if you’re adamant about having just one type of moisturizer, choose a moisturizer with SPF for both day and night: “There’s no harm in using SPF at night!”

Keep clicking to see which daytime and nighttime moisturizers Dr. Wu recommends!


Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar Night ($50) contains glycolic acid to unclog pores and exfoliate.

Roc’s Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream ($23) has retinol, which boosts collagen production.

Korres’ Wild Rose 24-Hr Moisturizing & Brightening Cream ($35) is made with wild rose oil, a natural source of Vitamin C.

Boscia’s Self Defense Vital Antioxidant Moisture SPF 30 ($36) features eight antioxidants and is incredibly lightweight.

The soy in Fresh’s Soy Moisturizing Face Cream SPF 20 ($42) will brighten and soothe your skin.

Dr. Jessica Wu's Cosmeceuticals Anti Aging Sun Care ($75) is made with Chinese botanicals and zinc oxide to protect sensitive skin.

Philosophy Hope in a Jar Night $50
Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream $32
Korres Wild Rose 24-Hr Moisturizing & Brightening Cream $35
Boscia Self Defense Vital Antioxidant Moisture SPF 30 $36
Fresh Soy Moisturizing Face Cream SPF 20 $42
Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals Anti Aging Sun Care $75

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