A Derm-Approved Nighttime Skincare Routine for Every Skin Type and Budget

Updated 05/18/19

There's a kernel of truth to this whole "beauty rest" thing: During the night, your skin actually absorbs the nutrients in your products better than during the daytime, according to Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, medical doctor at Le Jolie Medi Spa. "Additionally, there aren't environmental stressors at night (like environmental pollution and sun damage) while you sleep; products are able to better penetrate when you're not wearing makeup while you sleep and the skin can breathe," she adds. 

TL;DR: Your night skincare routine is mega important. And while there isn't a one-size-fits-all routine, there is a foundational regimen that everyone should have in place. We went to the experts to see what they recommend for a basic night skincare routine. Keep reading to see their tips.  

Step 1: Remove Your Makeup

Sleeping in your makeup is a cardinal skincare sin, and usually, a cleanser isn't enough to remove everything. Anna Guanche, MD, recommends starting your nighttime routine with a gentle makeup remover. 

SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Cleanser & Waterproof Makeup Remover
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Cleanser & Waterproof Makeup Remover $4
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Micellar water is a French-girl secret for glowy skin—and at $4, this drugstore version is a steal. 

Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover 4.2 oz/ 125 mL
Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover $30 $15
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This cult-favorite makeup remover is a pro at removing even the most stubborn of waterproof mascara. 

Step 2: Use a Gentle Cleanser

No matter your skin type, a gentle cleanser that won't strip your skin of natural oil and disrupt your skin's microbiome (read: cause irritation) is essential, says Carl Thornfeldt, MD, practicing dermatologist and founder of Epionce skincare line.

Hydrating Face Cleanser Face Wash for Normal to Dry Skin
CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser Face Wash for Normal to Dry Skin $15
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Both Thornfeldt and Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology, recommend CeraVe for a solid drugstore cleanser. 

IS Clinical Cleansing Complex $42
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Guanche says this antioxidant-rich cleanser works well for most skin types. 

Step 3: Toner

Toner is probably the most divisive of all skincare steps: People either swear by it, or they think it's totally useless. Rafaeloff is on the yea side of the toner debate. "I recommend using toner, as it helps calibrate the skin—it helps balances pH levels, moisture levels (especially those who are prone to being on the oilier side)," she explains. 

Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic $15
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This Byrdie editor–approved drugstore find boasts an impressive ingredient list that contains vitamin E, aloe vera, and ginseng. 

Renée Rouleau Elderberry Soothing Toner $36
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An alcohol-free toner that's gentle enough for sensitive skin and packed with antioxidant-rich elderberry. 

Step 4: Treatment

This step is where you can customize the routine tailored to your skin concerns, says Thornfeldt, whether that's a serum or prescription product. This is also where you put any spot treatments on.

Mudgil recommends a derm-prescribed retinoid product if your skin isn't too sensitive. You could also try a brightening serum or hydrating serum, depending on the needs of your skin. 

Hydroboost Hydrating Serum
Neutrogena Hydroboost Hydrating Serum $20
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This hyaluronic acid–rich serum absorbs quickly and is a best-selling option at Ulta. 

Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL
Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum $95
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Red algae and hyaluronic acid are the superstar hydrating ingredients in this serum. (It's also infused with 23-karat gold, which is ultra fancy and also makes your skin glow.)

Step 5: Eye Cream

Eye creams aren't totally bogus—when used as a form of preventative care, they're beneficial because they provide the thin skin around your eyes with a targeted treatment. Look for one with peptides, which are super hydrating. 

Intense Hydration Eye Cream
Burt's Bees Intense Hydration Eye Cream $18
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We love what's in the formula of this product (probiotics and clary sage) as well as what's left out (parabens, phthalates, and petrolatum). 

Wrinkle Release Eye Cream with Peptides 0.5 oz/ 15 mL
Skin Laundry Wrinkle Release Eye Cream wWth Peptides $30
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Lightweight and nourishing, this eye cream is fortified with peptides to help prevent the signs of aging. 

Step 6: Moisturize

Last up: Thornfeldt recommends a "skin barrier–repairing moisturizer to help rejuvenate the health of the skin." In other words, choose something hydrating that won't clog your pores. We're fans of products that contain hyaluronic acid because it helps your skin retain moisture. 

Facial Hydrating Lotion
Cetaphil Facial Hydrating Lotion $16
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Formulated with hyaluronic acid and strong humectants, this gentle noncomedogenic lotion provides intense hydration without irritating your skin.

Avène Hydrance Light Hydrating Cream $32
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Another Guanche-approved pick, this moisturizer is hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic. 

Optional: Mask

If you have the time and like to indulge, consider applying a mask once or twice a week after cleansing and before your other nighttime routine steps. If your skin is on the dry side, consider using a hydrating mask, or if your skin is oily, use a clay mask. There's a mask out there for about every skin concern.

Opening Image: Lolita Says So

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