We expect our moisturizers to do a lot for us: hydrate, brighten, soothe, mattify, plump, smooth, tighten…the list goes on. When it comes to the difference between our morning and evening lotions, however, we can't help but hesitate. Sure, the benefits of each 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 to Los Angeles-based 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. As a member of the American Academy of Dermatology as well as the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, Wu has provided care to the Hollywood elite and teaches at the University of Southern California.
Scroll through to find out if you really need two different kinds of moisturizers, along with Wu’s best moisturizer picks!
Wu says there are two key characteristics that separate day and 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.
Now, the moment of truth: do you need two different moisturizers for day and night, or can you opt for one multi-purpose product? Dr.Wu suggests (drum-roll please) that you use two! “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 most significant purpose is 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," Dr. Wu reminds us.
Based on Dr. Wu's intel, we've rounded up our favorite nighttime and daytime moisturizes. Keep scrolling for our full list!
Like splashing your face with warm water, you'll feel instantly refreshed. The light, oil-free cream is packed with Japanese nutrients and powerful botanicals, including wild rose for smoother texture and leopard lily for oil and pore control, resulting in balanced, bright skin.
An excellent choice for those with dry skin. This deeply nourishing cream is rich with calendula extract, which works as an anti-inflammatory, while reducing redness and stimulates natural collagen production. It also contains borage seed oil to soothe and soften.
This drugstore favorite has become quite the online sensation, with rave reviews confirming genuine results. This cloud-like cream is quick-absorbing and fragrance-free, and works to regenerate skin surface cells and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It works well as a repair or preventative cream, and will help you maintain healthy, supple skin.
An ideal antidote for dull skin in need of a reboot. The super lotus works to hydrate and deliver antioxidant protection, while the peach-leaf extract helps the skin refresh and recover from stress (yup, they've even done user testing to prove it). If you're looking to get back that rosy, healthy glow, this cream may be able to help.
Straight from the source herself! Dr. Wu's silky smooth evening moisturizer contains hyaluronic acid to reduce wrinkles and fine lines while retaining moisture, leaving your skin with a delightfully dewy finish.
While the formula feels rich and thick, it applies smooth and is perfectly buildable for makeup application or to wear on it's own. It contains nourishing shea butter and vitamin E, and is great for sensitive skin types.
This oil-free formula will not only protect you from daily rays, but it's Total Soy Complex formula evens your skin tone and texture, while reducing dark spots. For a relatively modest price, this drugstore favorite will work overtime to keep your skin safe while repairing areas that have been damaged by the sun.
This moisturizer is a critical darling, and we'd like to add even more praise! Honoring it's namesake, this goopy, whipped formula protects from UV rays and city smog, keeping your skins hydration and natural glow intact. Equipped with blue-green algae that's bursting with antioxidants, this SPF superstar will become your daily must-have.
A total triple threat. This tinted moisture offers light coverage, contains SPF 30, and hydrates with macadamia and kukui seed oils. While some tinted moisturizers can dry you out, this formula contains tamarind Seed Extract to lock in moisture, so you'll have even, nourished, and protected skin.
For those of you who get burnt by just looking outside: this SPF moisturizer is for you. This oil-free primer and moisturizer contains SPF 50, and soothing and hydrating ingredients like Vitamin E, Moringa and Edelweiss. This formula applies like a thin, cool gel and dries almost instantly, so you can begin your daily make-up routine.
At the end of the day (and, well, throughout the night) moisturizing and caring for our skin is the best way to stay protected from sun damage, dryness from long winter months, stress-induced breakouts and more. While you're skin always needs moisture and balance, it needs protection during the day and repair in the evening. While it's always nice to simplify our daily routines, keeping two moisturizers is worth making room for.
National Library of Medicine. Compound Summary: Glycolic acid. Updated February 27, 2021.
Shanbhag S, Nayak A, Narayan R, Nayak UY. Anti-aging and Sunscreens: Paradigm Shift in Cosmetics. Adv Pharm Bull. 2019;9(3):348-359. doi:10.15171/apb.2019.042