Should I moisturize my face at night?

Woman moisturizing skin.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Should this woman be adding a nighttime moisturizer to her daily skin care regimen? See more getting beautiful skin pictures.
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Whether you're browsing the cosmetics counters in your favorite department store or strolling through the aisles at your local pharmacy, the number of facial soaps, creams and moisturizers can be overwhelming. Scores of options -- including many neatly packaged nighttime creams - promise a youthful glow, anti-aging effects and remedies for acne. It can be difficult to distinguish truth from hype.

Many people can get by without using a facial moisturizer at night. If your skin is normal -- it isn't dry or sensitive and you don't have a medical condition -- nighttime creams are superfluous. The most important things you can do to maintain normal, healthy skin is wear sunscreen and wash daily with a mild soap.


Unfortunately, not everyone has naturally perfect skin. If you struggle with dry skin, you'll definitely benefit from a moisturizer tailored to your needs. For example, pairing a nighttime moisturizer with a retinoid product can provide significant anti-aging benefits. Retinoid products help your skin retain collagen, which is lost as we age - and more collagen means fewer wrinkles and dark spots. Retinoid products are derived from vitamin A and are available with a prescription or over the counter. They can dry the skin even as they encourage skin-cell renewal, so it makes sense to use a retinoid product with a moisturizer. Retinoids are well matched with nighttime moisturizers because sunlight can weaken retinoid effects.

People with rosacea or other skin conditions need to exercise care and check with a dermatologist before selecting a nighttime facial moisturizer. A heavy moisturizer can cause acne when used by someone with seborrheic dermatitis, a condition characterized by flakiness or scaliness. People with oily skin or acne should use only noncomedogenic, or water-based, moisturizers to avoid adding more oil to the face. Also, when you're applying moisturizer during the day, you should consider using a product that contains sunscreen.

The bottom line is that many people don't need to use nighttime moisturizers. And if you want to try a night cream, you don't have to go for the most expensive brand. In many cases, you'll be paying for the advertising -- not the benefits. To find out what works best for you, know your skin type, know what you want from a moisturizer and be aware of the effects of different ingredients on existing skin conditions, such as acne and rosacea. Look for the solution that works best with your skin.

For more information on moisturizers and other skin care topics, look over the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Geraghty, Laurel Naversen. "Are Night Creams' Benefits Just a Dream?" New York Times. 9/21/06. (Accessed 9/07/09)
  • Kraft, J.N., and C.W. Lynde, M.D. "Moisturizers: What They Are and a Practical Approach to Product Selection." Skin Therapy Letter. 2005. (Accessed 9/07/09)
  • Krivda, Michael S. "Making the Choice." Skin and Aging. 6/15/04. (Accessed 9/07/09)
  • Monroe, Valerie. "Can I Wear Moisturizer with SPF at Night?" O, the Oprah Magazine. March 2008. (Accessed 9/07/09)
  • Skin Care Guide. "Skin Moisturizers for Different Skin Types." 2005. (Accessed 9/07/09)
  • Wadyka, Sally. "The Thing about Retin-A: It Works." The New York Times. 11/30/06. (Accessed 9/08/09)
  • WebMD. "Understanding Your Skin." 7/29/09. (Accessed 9/14/09)