Our skincare routine after a long day at work can best be described in one word—fast. We save our indulgent primping and pampering for the weekend, when we can unwind with a glass (or bottle) of vino, an episode of Love, and a sheet mask that stays put. During the week, it’s another story—one that involves us collapsing into bed as soon as possible, please and thanks. To ensure this longed-for beauty sleep is actually beautifying, there’s one main thing to keep top of mind: your serum. Here’s the thing about this skincare staple—not all serums are created equal, and certain serums contain ingredients that actually work better at night. Suffice to say, we should use those serums.
We got the details from dermatologist and skincare line–founder Dr. Dennis Gross, who schooled us on the exact ingredients to look for, as well as why certain serums work better when we’re getting some much-needed shut-eye. Does your favorite p.m. serum fit the bill? You’ll have to keep scrolling to find out.
In order to understand why some serums work better at night, you have to understand your body clock. “Much like a body clock, the skin also has a circadian rhythm, which affects dermal functions such as barrier recovery, sebum secretion, hydration levels, and cell renewal,” Gross says. In layman’s terms: Just like your body is programmed to operate at full function during the day and recovers while you sleep, the same goes for your skin. Gross explains that during the day, your skin is in a protective state and warding off elements like sun damage or oxidation. At night, your skin goes into repair mode, regenerating new skin cells and cycling oxygen and nutrients.
So what does this mean for your skincare routine? Namely, that you should be paying attention to your trusty serum. “Certain ingredients, such as vitamin C, retinol, and niacinamide, are best for nighttime use when the skin is in a regenerative state and these ingredients can perform their powerful functions best,” Gross says. “If the cells of the skin are regenerating at night, we should give them the vitamins they need—this is what I called ‘nutrification.’” Your skin cells need its vitamins in order to reproduce, so you’re essentially feeding them and allowing them to do so. Gross created his line’s new Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum ($88) with this in mind; the serum promises to smooth wrinkles and treat your skin with essential nourishing ingredients while cell mitosis is at its highest. For example, niacinamide, in particular, facilitates your skin’s ability to repair its own moisture barrier, as does vitamin A, B, and C. “They’re all designed to be there when your skin needs them most—overnight,” says Gross. Other serums that assist your cells’ regenerative properties at night include SkinCeuticals Resveratrol BE ($152), Stemology Cell Revive Serum Complete ($189), and a budget favorite, CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum ($17), which is mostly an amazing hydrator but also contains a small amount of retinol.
The plus side is that you can use these potent nighttime serums during the day, too—no need to buy a separate serum, unless you have different skincare concerns you want to target during the day. One thing to remember, however: Always, always apply sunscreen afterward. One study found that retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A/retinol, might speed the development of skin tumors when applied in the presence of sunlight. Plus, sunscreen should just always be part of your morning beauty routine. Treat; then protect!
Keep scrolling to shop some standout serums that are perfect for nighttime.