How should I care for my skin at night?

Your routine at night will take a minute longer than in the morning, because now you’ve got your makeup and all the dirt and residue buildup from the day to take off. But this doesn’t have to be laborious. If you washed your face in the morning, you can use the same mild cleanser such as Cetaphil liquid or a Dove bar at night so long as it removes your makeup efficiently. It helps to use a separate eye-makeup remover on both your eyes and lips (especially if you’ve been wearing a heavy-duty, long-lasting lipstick). One to try (and that you can pick up in just about any drugstore) is Almay Eye Makeup Remover Pads. If you’ve got oily skin, a foaming cleaner may be best. Cleansers with hydroxy acids (such as glycolic or salicylic acid) can help exfoliate your skin and help reduce the appearance of fine lines but again, you may not want to exfoliate every day; this is a treatment you’ll want to do weekly, biweekly or once every few days based on your personal skin needs. If you must use one to get that cool, refreshing feeling, find a gentle alcohol free toner that won’t exacerbate any dryness (one to try: Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner).

Use lukewarm water and be sure to work your cleanser all over: above the browline, into the hairline and down past your jawline. Use your hands rather than a washcloth; washcloths can actually transfer pore-clogging bacteria to your face after a few uses. Pat your skin dry with a soft, clean towel. No rubbing! Then, it’s time to put on your night creams and any anti-aging formulas that should be applied at night, such as retinols or prescription retinoids. When your body unwinds and relaxes during sleep, certain parts of you go into power-saving mode, while other parts turn on and go to work repairing and rejuvenating your cells. Your body’s cellular (and skin!) renewal team has the night shift, so this is when want to equip your skin with as many nutrients and hydrating ingredients it needs to do a fine job.

Apply your anti-aging products first, then your moisturizer last, unless your anti-aging product doubles as a good moisturizer. You can choose to put on a heavier cream at night if you’d like, and you do not need a separate eye cream unless you find your regular moisturizer irritating to that area. Pull your hair away from your face before hitting the pillow.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

Dr. Doris Day, MD
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Before bed do the following:

  • Use your cleanser again just as you did in the morning. If you wear contact lenses, remove them before cleansing, and try to get the hang of taking each lens out directly from your eye rather than pulling the skin around your eye taut, unless otherwise instructed by your eye doctor. Repeated rubbing or pulling day after day is not good for the delicate, easily wrinkled skin in that area, and can leave it crepy with dark circles, so don’t touch this area more than you have to, and even when you apply product to the under eye area, it should be by gentle patting motion rather than rubbing.
  • Apply a rich moisturizer designed for use on the face. Unless the oily areas of your face are very oily, you should use a creamier moisturizer at night than in the morning. Your skin goes through essential repair and rejuvenation processes and it loses more water while you sleep than while you’re awake. Apply the moisturizer about half an hour before putting your face on the pillow. This gives the moisturizer time to be absorbed so it won’t end up on your pillowcase. Also, invest in soft, high-thread-count pillow cases to baby your face while you sleep. Be sure to launder them weekly with a mild soap, not a harsh detergent.

How you care for your skin at night depends on your skin type, so I do think it's a good idea to talk with your dermatologist about an individualized plan. In general, you want to wash your face with a gentle cleanser, and, depending on the sensitivity of your skin, you may use an exfoliant and finish with a moisturizer. If you wash your face and do not apply moisturizer afterward, you may risk drying out your skin, so moisturizer is a really important step. Regardless of your skincare routine, taking a few minutes at the end of the day to take care of your skin can make a big difference in the long run.

Mr. James M.. Wilmott
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

Products intended for nighttime use must contain agents that help repair the damage to which the skin is subjected during the day. It must wisely use the energy that has been created by the enhanced metabolic activity of daytime exposure to the environment. The key is to look for products that:

  • Soothe and pacify inflamed skin,
  • Rebuild the skin's dermal matrix including collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid production,
  • Remove the toxins that accumulate from stressed metabolic activity due to daytime exposure,
  • Inhibit the reactions that can lead to pigment formation,
  • Deeply moisturize the skin and repair its natural moisturizing barrier.

Look for products that have these claims.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.