How to Choose the Best Night Cream

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on August 31, 2021
3 min read

If you’re shopping around for a night cream, consider the following tips to choose the best one for your skin. Choose the right products for your skin's needs, avoid harmful ingredients, and understand how to use a night cream for the best results.

Your skin is made up of several layers. Over time, each layer thins and loses the structure it had when you were younger because collagen, the protein that keeps your skin firm, depletes.‌

While your skin naturally ages with time, exposure to the sun and other environmental factors can speed the appearance of aging. You may begin to notice lines, wrinkles, and sagging. Your skin may get drier as moisture escapes more easily. Luckily, products like night creams can offer protection and healing to your skin while you sleep.

What is the difference between a day cream and a night cream? Why do you need both? A day cream is lightweight and should contain a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF to protect your skin from sun exposure. Day creams also contain vitamin C to offer brightness to your skin and even your skin’s pigment and appearance.‌

A night cream should have different ingredients and consistency than a day cream. Night creams are thicker and contain ingredients designed to moisturize and repair damage to your skin.

When it comes to choosing a night cream, brands and prices aren’t that important. Instead, you should consider your skin care needs and look for ingredients that are best for your skin.‌

Retinols. This anti-aging ingredient comes from vitamin A. It helps to lessen the signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. It also brightens your skin to improve your complexion. If you have sensitive skin, be careful about using too much retinol because it can cause irritation. If your night cream contains retinol, start out using it a few times a week and increase as you learn how your skin tolerates it.‌

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids. These ingredients come from fruit. They help improve your skin’s appearance if it is dull or ashy. These acids also provide gentle exfoliation that helps your night cream reach the deeper layers of your skin.

Hyaluronic acid. This ingredient takes in moisture to your skin and locks it in. It makes your skin appear plump to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. If your night cream contains hyaluronic acid, you should apply it while your skin is still damp to lock in additional moisture and maximize your results.‌

Vitamin E.Antioxidant properties help your skin stay moisturized and improve your complexion.‌

Resveratrol. Another antioxidant, this ingredient helps to reduce the effects of stress on your skin.‌

Ceramides. This protein offers protection to the outer layer of your skin. It locks in moisture and protects your skin from environmental toxins. ‌

Glycerin. This moisturizer helps repair damage. ‌

Lactic acid.This exfoliant helps to remove your outer layer of dead skin cells so that other ingredients can reach your deeper layers of skin. 

Many facial creams contain dangerous ingredients that can cause health problems. Some chemicals are approved for use in very small quantities, but you may still want to avoid them because many are linked to an increased risk of cancer. Toxic chemicals that some states and countries ban from skincare products include: 

  • Formaldehyde – known to be a carcinogen
  • Paraformaldehyde – a subtype of formaldehyde 
  • Methylene glycol – another subtype of formaldehyde
  • Quaternium 15 – releases formaldehyde when applied to your skin
  • Mercury – known to damage your kidneys and nervous system 
  • Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates – interfere with your natural hormones and may damage your reproductive organs 
  • Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens – also known to interfere with natural hormone production and hurt your reproductive system
  • The long-chain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – increase your risk of developing cancer
  • M- and o-phenylenediamine – may irritate your skin, harm your DNA, and increase your risk for cancer‌

Many U.S. retailers have already committed to removing products with toxic ingredients from their shelves. It’s still important to read labels carefully and avoid these ingredients in your night creams and other skincare products.