If You Have To Choose 1 Skin Care Step Before Bed, Make It This One

Experts reveal their personal opinions on the most impactful way to make the most of the overnight hours.

There’s so much that your body does to reset and refresh while you’re sleeping, and your skin is no exception.

“Just like our entire body, the skin has a circadian rhythm,” said dermatologist Dr. Helen M. Torok. “It repairs at night and protects during the day. The skin works hard to renew itself from the damage done throughout the day. Your skin cells regenerate at night, recovering from high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, that can wreak havoc on your body during the day.”

As such, it’s important to make the most of the money you’re spending on skin care during the overnight hours, when it can work its magic most effectively. Essentially, it’s your chance to undo everything that you did to your skin throughout the previous day.

“The repair of damage from UV exposure, pollution and other environmental stressors occurs at night, when the skin’s blood flow increases,” said dermatologist Dr. Sonia Badreshia. “This is also when collagen production is boosted and harmful free radicals are neutralized.” Dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose added, “It’s believed that the rate of skin renewal doubles at night.”

Your skin absorbs products better when you’re sleeping.

As productive as the skin is at night, you can make it even more so with the application of products it can really drink in and use. “If you aren’t doing targeted nighttime care, you’re missing the opportunity to support skin’s natural repair mechanisms,” Badreshia said.

“Your nighttime skin care routine should facilitate repairs and regeneration,” Murphy-Rose said. “The nighttime skin care product you apply can boost the skin’s hydration overnight or target cell turnover while you rest,” dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky said.

There’s one thing you MUST do at night.

Each of the experts revealed what they believe to be the biggest non-negotiable for nighttime skin care.

Murphy-Rose insists on using an eye cream. “Our skin undergoes significant water loss through the skin at night if we don’t take measures to prevent it,” Murphy-Rose said. “While some will tell you that an eye cream is unnecessary, the truth is that an undereye cream, which is typically richer than your facial moisturizer, can help to prevent water loss through this very thin skin while sleeping. Dehydrated eyes are more tired-appearing eyes, so I do recommend applying an undereye cream before bedtime.”

Skip the 12-step routine.
Aja Koska via Getty Images
Skip the 12-step routine.

Wolinsky suggests using your most potent products at night. “Night is a good time to use any products that may have a slight odor, or may bleach clothing, like benzoyl peroxide, or which may be deactivated by the daytime UV rays, like tretinoin and some other retinoids,” Wolinsky said.

Retinol gets another vote: “My opinion is that with the exception of people with rosacea or overly sensitive skin, everyone should be using a retinol, and they’re ideal for nighttime use,” said dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman. “The benefits are numerous and unparalleled and are arguably the most important step that you can take for overall skin health and anti-aging after sun protection factor. Retinols regulate cell turnover, promote effective exfoliation, prevent acne, even discoloration, control oil, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, unclog pores and so much more.”

And if you can’t even with the idea of slathering something on, at least wash the dirt off, experts said. “The biggest mistake people make is not washing their faces,” Hartman said. “The one thing you must do is wash your face at night before you go to sleep. You want to remove makeup, oil and other impurities that are “stuck” to the face from the day. If you go to bed with your face unwashed, you are asking for a breakout, or oily skin.”

KISS = Keep it simple, skin.

If the thought of caring for your skin is the last thing you want to do most nights, know that these dermatologists understand the struggle is real. One way to ensure that you’ll follow through is to simplify this one part of your life. “The majority of patients tell me that they are more consistent with their morning routine versus their nighttime routine, as a result of being tired from the day and just wanting to crawl into bed out of sheer exhaustion,” Torok said. “Others find their nighttime routine overwhelming and are not confident on how to layer their nighttime skin care routine.”

“Patients tend to overdo skin care and add unnecessary steps,” Wolinsky chimed in. “My recommendation is to cleanse the skin with a gentle cleanser and then follow with a small amount of a retinoid if tolerated and a hydrating thicker moisturizer. If skipping retinoid that evening, then just moisturize.”

“Consistency is key,” Badreshia said. “The benefits of nighttime skin care accumulate over time, and a consistent, targeted approach can lead to significant improvements in skin health and appearance. Listening to your skin and adjusting your routine as needed can also help address emerging issues before they become more significant concerns.

Want to up your nighttime skin care game? Check out these highly rated moisturizers.

HuffPost and its publishing partners may receive a commission from some purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently curated by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

A clinical ceramide treatment cream
Dr. Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, previously shared with HuffPost some of her favorite anti-aging creams, and this ceramide treatment cream by SkinMedica was among them. Although it was initially formulated to heal post-procedural skin, either from laser or chemical peels, it can also do wonders for extremely dry or compromised skin. It's been formulated with a unique collagen-promoting peptide blend aimed at targeted fine lines and, of course, ceramides, which are the essential building blocks of a healthy and hydrated skin barrier.
An omega-filled bakuchiol moisturizer
The Inkey List's bakuchiol cream was previously suggested by Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist, as a moisturizer for those curious about this natural retinol alternative. According to her, it performs well, and for under $15, it can be a good way to see if you tolerate this ingredient that can promote cellular turnover. The lightweight cream is formulated with 1% bakuchiol to target the appearance of fine lines and loss of elasticity, as well as hydrating squalane and nourishing sacha inchi oil, a plant-derived oil rich in omega-3.
A cooling gel moisturizer for acne-prone skin
Oily skin types or those prone to acne might benefit from a using gel moisturizer over rich cream formulations, and this water gel moisturizer by Neutrogena came at the previous recommendation of board-certified Miami dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez. According to her, this is "a lightweight gel that gives a nice, cooling sensation when applied. It’s free of what people don’t want, such as dyes and fragrance.”

The non-comedogenic and oil-free formula contains purified hyaluronic acid, a beloved humectant that draws moisture into the skin to keep it hydrated.
A rich and protective face cream
Our pick: HuffPost Shopping writer and skin care obsessive Lourdes Avila Uribe has written about Dieux's Instant Angel moisturizer many times. According to her, it's the one product she keeps coming back to because it's perfectly suited for her finicky and acne-prone skin.

"It’s nourishing, soothing, and, miraculously, doesn’t clog my pores. The best part? The longer I use it, the better my skin gets," Uribe said, citing the thoughtfully curated collection of ingredients that aim to protect the skin barrier and promote healthy skin. "A gentle blend of phytosterols, free fatty acids, meadowestolide, ceramides, glycerin, squalane and more do all the heavy lifting so you don’t have to."
A triple-lipid peptide cream
This lipid peptide cream by Skinfix was dermatologist-recommended not once but twice as an optimal solution for anyone with troubled, dry and sensitive skin. It contains a patented triple-lipid complex that restores ceramides in the skin along with the fatty acid levels to support a healthy skin barrier. You can also find a plumping blend of peptides and ultra-hydrating glycerin. I've also used this myself and I really enjoy it during the winter when treating my eczema-inflamed skin.
A regenerating retinol cream
This rapid wrinkle repair cream by Neutrogena was another recommendation from Chang. It uses an accelerated retinol complex to promote cellular turnover — a process that can lead to greater collagen production, better skin texture and a reduced appearance of fine lines. It also contains a hydrating dose of hyaluronic acid and can be suitable in treating crepey skin.

Note that if you're new to retinols, they do have the potential to cause mild flaking and irritation in the first couple weeks of use. They can also cause skin to be more sensitive to the sun, so it's important to wear sunscreen.
A brightening botanical moisturizer
Candace Marino, a Los Angeles-based medical aesthetician, previously touted the benefits of this nourishing and plumping moisturizer by Kora Organics, especially for people who experience dull skin and hyperpigmentation.

"Turmeric is a potent antioxidant that can visibly brighten, calm and protect the skin while the marine micro-algae provides a powerful source of proteins to the skin," Marino said.
A shea-based moisturizer and makeup primer
This multipurpose French pharmacy staple has earned itself quite a reputation here at HuffPost. The Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré was brought to our attention by Los Angeles-based makeup artist Susan Zeytuntsyan, who favors this emollient moisturizer for not just hydrating the skin, but for offering the perfect base for foundation and makeup. As it turns out, the timeless formula, which includes calming aloe vera, protective beeswax, nourishing soy proteins and skin-softening shea butter, has been a longtime secret weapon among makeup artists.
An ultra-soothing repair cream
According to Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist in San Diego, the intense moisturizing capabilities of the Ultra Repair Cream from First Aid Beauty are "a must have for winter! It's a rich cream formulated with colloidal oatmeal which relieves irritation, and shea butter, which protects and maintains our skin barrier. Allantoin also helps calm and soothe the skin. I recommend applying this to damp, clean skin for the ultimate hydration."
A nourishing prebiotic moisturizer
Our pick: Sephora's prebiotic moisturizer is a recurringproduct in myroutine. It’s creamy, fragrance-free and my skin drinks it in like a tall glass of water. The naturally derived prebiotics in this cream work to help deeply hydrate the skin while marula oil strengthens the skin barrier, effectively boosting its ability to fight the elements. Aside from making my skin feel ultra comfy, I love that it doesn’t sit heavy on my face like some other moisturizers intended for dry, sensitive skin.
A comforting basic moisturizer
“This is a moisturizing cream with a modicum of heft that has glycerin and panthenol to hold on to moisture, macadamia seed oil to lightly coat and oat extract to soothe the skin,” Massachusetts-based dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar previously told HuffPost.

I can also report this comforting formula does wonders for my highly sensitive and eczema-prone skin.
U Beauty
A bioactive treatment cream
Our pick: This highly concentrated overnight treatment uses bioactive marine ingredients that promote skin renewal and can soften and strengthen skin. The brand claims that a patent-pending capsule technology is to thank for an effective delivery of active ingredients and a visible difference in the look and feel of the skin.
A lightweight SPF 30 moisturizer
If it's an SPF-based moisturizer you're after, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Brendan Camppreviously suggested this sunscreen lotion by Supergoop for anyone who dislikes the feeling of heavy sunscreen on their skin. This is extremely lightweight, has a silky smooth finish and contains antioxidant-rich ingredients like vitamins E and B5 to help reduce the visible effects of free radicals.
A restorative day cream
This intensive and restorative day cream by Clarins is New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick's pick for anyone with deeply dehydrated and menopausal skin. She said it incorporates organic harungana, which works similar to retinol while also being gentle on the skin.

"It also contains the anti-pollution complex to protect the skin from changes related to pollution and blue light," she said.
A replenishing cellular renewal cream
Lindsay Kastuk, a New York-based makeup artist, previously told us that Augustinus Bader's renowned moisturizer — simply called "The Cream" — is "a makeup artist's holy grail luxury moisturizer." This replenishing emollient formula helps support cellular renewal and improves moisture retention and skin barrier function. We, too, have sworn by The Cream's complexion-boosting capabilities and brand’s patented Trigger Factor Complex, which encompasses over 40 ingredients as the result of decades of research and clinical study.
A luscious cream with age-defying ingredients
Garshick previously suggested Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Cream, which she said "works to boost moisture and improves radiance of the skin, offering both immediate and long-term improvements." It's a luxe formulation of hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamin C and E and more, and according to Garshick it can plump skin and potentially reduce the appearance of fine lines.
A skin barrier-repairing night lotion
CeraVe's moisturizing night lotion was recommended by New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nava Greenfield. She said that it was "basic and affordable and provides the necessary hydration one would need for daily use."

Like all products from the CeraVe line, this evening treatment is formulated with their iconic blend of three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.
An affordable, no-fuss moisturizer
Our pick: I've been a longtime fan of The Ordinary's simplistic, straightforward and accessible approach to skin care, and this moisturizer was one of the products that first sold me on the brand. I love the way it soaks deeply into my parched skin and contains a total of 11 tried-and-true hydrating ingredients like lipid-loving fatty acids, glycerin, barrier-restoring ceramides and hyaluronic acid. If you want a facial cream that will play nice with all of your actives, will actually do a really solid job at hydrating your skin and won't cost an arm and a leg, then you can just stop scrolling now.
A pore-minimizing water cream
A few months ago, we chatted with TikTok star and cosmetic chemist Javon Ford to find out what skin care products he thought were worth purchasing. He said that he enjoys this pore-minimizing and nutrient-rich water cream by Tatcha for its unique texture that's achieved by using an inverted silicone emulsion. Ford explained that most moisturizers are oil dispersed in water, whereas this one is water dispersed in silicone, giving a light moisture boost with a silky feel and blurring effect thanks to the silicone elastomers in the formula.
A plumping whipped gel cream
Our pick: This dewy and lightweight moisturizer is from Glow Recipe, a Korean skin care brand that really knows how to harness the power of fruit. The Plum Plump hyaluronic acid cream made it on our list because of its non-greasy formulation that contains brightening plum extract, polyglutamic acid and multi-weight hyaluronic acid for optimum ingredient penetration. The delightful texture is a whipped gel consistency that is suitable even for oily and acne-prone skin types.
A protective vitamin B5 cream
Products by the iconic French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay often come highly recommended to us by dermatologists, as was the case with this Cicaplast cream, a favorite of Dr. Lauren Penzi, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. This therapeutic and multi-purpose cream instantly addresses visible signs of skin irritation caused by dryness, and contains glycerin, shea butter and vitamin B5.

Popular in the Community


HuffPost Shopping’s Best Finds