From energy levels to general mood, everything is better after a good night’s sleep – including the skin. At night is when the skin (along with the rest of the body) shifts into repair and restore mode, so making the most of the time you spend asleep – around eight hours if you’re getting enough – is a simple way to encourage healthier, happier skin come morning.
Is a night skincare routine important?
In a nutshell, yes. Since nighttime is when the skin shifts into repair mode, it’s helpful to use formulas that support and enhance this process, and help skin cells on their way. “It’s also the perfect time to undo the day’s free radical damage,” says Hind Sebti, the founder of skincare brand Whind. Said damage occurs as a result of exposure to everything from pollution to sunlight. Plus, it’s also really important to cleanse away the day’s make-up and surface grime, to prevent clogged pores, congestion and irritation.
What is the best night skincare routine?
“The most effective nighttime skincare routine should be focused on regeneration, because at night the skin isn’t using precious resources to defend itself against UV, so there’s lots of bandwidth for repair,” explains dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. It is also better able to absorb topically-applied ingredients, so if the aim of daytime skincare is to protect, at night it’s all about treating your skin concerns. The skin also suffers increased transepidermal water loss – or dehydration – during the night, so at the very least it’s important to prevent this by locking in hydration.
How to create the ideal nighttime skincare routine? Here, a run-down of the five key steps that can be adapted based upon your skin’s needs – plus how to effectively layer all of your skincare before bed.
First step: cleanse. Whether you wear make-up or not, cleansing away the the day’s accumulated grime, surface pollution and so on is key for healthy skin. A gentle cleanser which won’t disrupt the skin barrier (too much – all of them do to some degree), is your best bet, especially if two cleanses are required to thoroughly remove make-up and then clean the skin.
2. Toner or essence
Toner may have dropped out of your skincare routine in recent years, but according to celebrity facialist Joanna Czech, it is important to use a balancing formula post-cleanse to reset the skin pH (which should sit between 4.7 and 5.75). When we cleanse and use water, the skin’s natural pH – and barrier – is impacted. Just ensure the toner you opt for doesn’t contain alcohol. Essences are another option to balance, hydrate and prepare the skin for any formulas to come.
3. Eye Cream
If your work involves long days spent staring at a screen, you’ll be familiar with the concept of eye strain. Since the evening allows us a little more time to perform a more thorough skincare routine, pair your night eye cream with gentle massage, to ease out any tension and work the product into skin.
4. Retinoid or other serum
Here’s where you make a choice based on your specific skin concerns and the products you enjoy using. As many of us know, at night is the ideal time for using retinoid products, mainly because the majority don’t marry well with sunlight. It is at this point in your routine that you would apply one, whether retinol or tretinoin. “Retinoids do so much – the term ‘gold standard’ is well deserved,” explains Dr Bunting. “And there’s one for every skin type.”
After you’ve found the right one for you, it’s important to apply it consistently for the best results. “Ingredients like retinoids stimulate the production of key structural proteins, such as collagen, and this takes time – so expect really major benefits, like fewer fine lines, from six weeks and beyond,” she says, adding that using a retinoid as a single power step (followed by a barrier repair hydrator) at night is enough for super healthy skin.
If you don’t get on with retinoids, apply another serum at this point in your routine. “Exfoliating acids are a great way to boost cell turnover in sync with the skin’s regenerative cycle,” says Sebti, although depending on your skin type, they might be best used once every couple of days to maintain the integrity of the skin barrier. Meanwhile, if your skin is often irritated or sensitive, it might be wise to incorporate a soothing serum – containing calming ingredients such as niacinamide, CBD or aloe vera, for example – to help it. Whatever your skin issue is, seek out formulas that work to improve it.
Whatever you do with your nighttime serum, the expert advice is always the same: always introduce one active ingredient at a time – it helps reduce the risk of irritation and boosts the efficacy of your skincare products.
5. Moisturizer, face oil or overnight mask
The final step is to lock it all in using an occlusive formula. Moisturizer, face oil or overnight mask, just pick what’s best for your skin type – the important thing about this step is to lock in your treatment step and ensure the skin stays hydrated overnight, so if you want to use more than one product here, that’s up to you.
The best night cream for the job won’t necessarily be specifically labelled as a night cream, either. You can use the same moisturizer you use for day (if it doesn’t contain SPF), although mostly it’s wise to opt for a slightly thicker formula come evening to support the skin barrier and ensure you wake up glowing. Ingredients to look out for? “You want a good occlusive formula,” says Dr Bunting, “I love shea butter, squalane and niacinamide for that.”
Retinol night creams can also be useful here, since many help buffer its impact upon the skin, while still achieving results. And for those in need of a little extra oomph, overnight masks can help to deeply nourish and hydrate the skin.
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk