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.
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.
Micellar water is a French-girl secret for glowy skin (turned beauty kit staple)—and at $15, the big bottle of this universally-beloved version is a steal.
This cult-favorite makeup remover is known to pros as removing even the most stubborn of waterproof mascara.
Don't want to use a water-based cleanser? Go for an oil-based one. Eyeliner, liquid lipstick, and mascara don't stand a chance against a product like this one from Tata Harper.
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 the skincare line Epionce.
Both Thornfeldt and Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology, recommend CeraVe for a solid drugstore cleanser.
Guanche says this antioxidant-rich cleanser works well for most skin types.
Skin Regimen's Cleansing Cream is specially formulated for people in cities or other high-pollution environments in order to counteract the toxins we're exposed to on the daily.
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, for what it's worth, is on the positive side of the great 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.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin and an oil often found in anti-oxidant blend topicals or moisturizers. It also help soothe the skin and protects the lipid barrier.
This Byrdie editor–approved drugstore find boasts an impressive ingredient list that contains vitamin E, aloe vera, and ginseng.
An alcohol-free toner that's gentle enough for sensitive skin and packed with antioxidant-rich elderberry.
Green tea is a botanical derived from the leaves and buds of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. The active components of green tea are polyphenols (also called catechins) that are believed to benefit the skin due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This one from clean beauty brand Context takes classic toner ingredients like witch hazel and green tea, combines them, and brings new ingredients like algae extract and japanese knotweed to the table.
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. If your skin isn't too sensitive, try a derm-prescribed retinoid product. You could also use a brightening serum or hydrating serum, depending on the needs of your skin.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
This hyaluronic acid–rich serum absorbs quickly and is a best-selling option at Ulta.
Red algae and hyaluronic acid are the superstar hydrating ingredients in this serum. (It's also infused with 23-karat gold, which feels 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.
When looking for eye creams, check for formulas that have peptides, which boost hydration and help firm the skin to smooth fine lines and wrinkles.
Lightweight and nourishing, this eye cream is fortified with peptides to help prevent the signs of aging.
Verso's minimal design and fancy European ingredients might be what initially attract you to the brand, but you'll stay for the quality formulations and lasting effects.
Yes, the price is steep, but when it comes down to your eyes, do you really want to take any chances? This Sisley Paris cream might be the most luxe thing you use, but it's worth it.
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.
Formulated with hyaluronic acid and strong humectants, this gentle non-comedogenic lotion provides intense hydration without irritating your skin.
Another Guanche-approved pick, this moisturizer is hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic.
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.
Erborian's waterlock mask (which can be used overnight or as a rinse-off treatment) is perfect for any and all wintertime dryness.
Don't worry about this mud mask damaging your skin by drying it out—the bio-fermented mud is actually fairly hydrating, unlike most masks of this kind.
Next Up: The Exact Skincare Routine You Need, Based on Your Skin Type
Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin E and skin health. Updated February, 2012.
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Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: a key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):253-258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923
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