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

Updated 11/23/19

Lolita Says So

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.

nighttime skincare routine
Jiaqi Zhou/BYRDIE

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.

SensibioH2O
Bioderma Sensibio H2O $15
Shop

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.

Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover 4.2 oz/ 125 mL
Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover $30
Shop

This cult-favorite makeup remover is known to pros as removing even the most stubborn of waterproof mascara.

nourishing oil cleanser pump action
Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser $82
Shop

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.

Hydrating Face Cleanser Face Wash for Normal to Dry Skin
CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser Face Wash for Normal to Dry Skin $15
Shop

Both Thornfeldt and Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, medical director of Mudgil Dermatology, recommend CeraVe for a solid drugstore cleanser.

IS Clinical Cleansing Complex $42
Shop

Guanche says this antioxidant-rich cleanser works well for most skin types.

cleansing cream anti-pollution face wash
Skin Regimen Cleansing Cream $40
Shop

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.

Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic $30
Shop

This Byrdie editor–approved drugstore find boasts an impressive ingredient list that contains vitamin E, aloe vera, and ginseng.

Key Ingredients

Ginseng is a plant tuber native to eastern Asia and North America. It is credited with various tonic and medicinal properties, such as, reducing puffiness, brightening undereye circles, and preventing wrinkles, among others.

Renée Rouleau Elderberry Soothing Toner $36
Shop

An alcohol-free toner that's gentle enough for sensitive skin and packed with antioxidant-rich elderberry.

hydrating toner
Context Skin Hydrating Toner $35
Shop

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.

Hydroboost Hydrating Serum
Neutrogena Hydroboost Hydrating Serum $24
Shop

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
Shop

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.)

Key Ingredients

Red algae extract (rhodophyta seaweed) is a rich source of trace minerals, sugars, and amino acids derived from seaweed. It contains antioxidants and nutrients that can protect the skin from free-radical damage.

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.

Wrinkle Release Eye Cream with Peptides 0.5 oz/ 15 mL
Skin Laundry Wrinkle Release Eye Cream with Peptides $30
Shop

Lightweight and nourishing, this eye cream is fortified with peptides to help prevent the signs of aging.

eye cream extra nourish in a squeeze tube
Verso Eye Cream Extra Nourish $65
Shop

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.

Sisleÿa L'Intégral Anti-Age Eye & Lip Contour Cream & Massage Tool
Sisley Paris Sisleÿa L'Intégral Anti-Age Eye & Lip Contour Cream & Massage Tool $210
Shop

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.

night shift hydration gel
Eight Saints Night Shift $68
Shop

Peptides aren't just for your eyes! This moisturizer

Facial Hydrating Lotion
Cetaphil Facial Hydrating Lotion $18
Shop

Formulated with hyaluronic acid and strong humectants, this gentle non-comedogenic lotion provides intense hydration without irritating your skin.

Avène Hydrance Light Hydrating Cream $32
Shop

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.

bamboo waterlock hydrating mask in a jar
Erborian Bamboo Waterlock Mask $43
Shop

Erborian's waterlock mask (which can be used overnight or as a rinse-off treatment) is perfect for any and all wintertime dryness.

Deep clearing mud masque glow activator
Orveda Deep Clearing Mud Mask $96
Shop

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

Related Stories