The best night cream will supercharge your beauty sleep. More than just your average moisturiser, these overnight formulas are designed to support the skin’s nocturnal repair process so you wake up to healthy, hydrated skin in the morning.
A solid skincare routine should include a good cleanser, SPF protection using one of the best sunscreens for your face (opens in new tab), a trusty facial oil (opens in new tab) and moisturiser. But what about night cream? Do you even need a sleep-specific formula, or will the best moisturisers for skin (opens in new tab) be enough to support skin overnight? Your skin behaves differently from day to night, and your face cream should be tailored towards its changing needs, beyond simply adding moisture. During the day, your skin is focused on defence, protecting itself from UV exposure, pollution and other environmental aggressors. As we sleep, it’s all about rest and renewal, and the best night cream will maximise your beauty sleep and support the skin’s natural repair process.
“The first thing you should consider when looking for a night cream is your skin type, needs and concerns then you can start to consider certain ingredients that will address these concerns,” explains Dr Sonia Khorana (opens in new tab), Clinical Dermatology GP and Expert for Olay. “One popular ingredient that works well in a night cream is Retinol, as it increases surface cell renewal by working with the skin’s natural rejuvenation process while you sleep – which is more active at night than during day.” Whether you want to max out on moisture or smooth wrinkles, our selection of the best night creams will improve skin health and enhance its appearance as you sleep so you wake up to brighter, smoother, more radiant skin by morning.
What to consider when looking for the best night cream
- Star rating: Our in-house star-rating system is based on peer reviews. They’ve tried and tested the best night creams and awarded stars based on factors such as formula, active ingredients, customer feedback, awards and value for money. Products that have received a 5 star status are rare and considered exceptional, going above and beyond our reviewer’s expectations.
- Active ingredients: The ingredients in a night cream should enhance the skin’s own repair process to improve its overall health and appearance. The best night serums contain potent active ingredients, such as antioxidants, peptides and even gentle skincare acids that help to speed up skin renewal. Retinol is one of the most effective actives designed for evening application, supporting the skin’s repair process and stimulating collagen production.
- Cruelty-free: More and more beauty brands have realised that testing on animals is not a humane or sustainable practice. We’re keen to select products from brands that follow this ethos – such as Skin Proud, Lumene, Green People and Medik8. Some of the other brands included cannot claim the cruelty-free certfication as they are sold in regions where governments still mandate animal testing.
- Packaging: Night creams usually come in tubs or jars so you can scoop out just the right amount for the area you need. It also means you can ensure every last drop of cream is used, as opposed to squeeze bottles that always retain some product. Sustainability is a serious concern too – we’ll always strive to include products that are at least in part recyclable.
Which is the best night cream for glowing skin?
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The skin barrier is crucial to healthy, smooth, comfortable-feeling skin. If this is compromised then you may start to notice your skin becomes dry, sensitive and rough. This cream piles on the hydration with superstar skin quencher, Hyaluronic acid, as well as ceramides, which help repair the skin barrier. The result? It has a visible effect on fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, dullness and loss of firmness.
This night cream has made such a noticeable improvement to my skin. f you’ve been turned off by heavy, occlusive moisturisers in the past, this will be the formula to get you back on the night cream wagon. It is light and springy, more like a gel than a traditional cream, and has a spa-like scent that really puts your mind in the sleep zone. In a couple of weeks, it had taken my dry skin from flaky and rough to smooth and springy. That has a lot to do with the MemoryBounce Technology, which not only prevents the cream from transferring on to your pillow (because who wants to waste good product?!) but also locks in all the skincare you’ve applied before so your skin is maxed out on moisture.
Retinol absorbs deep into the skin and works at a cellular level to increase elastin and collagen production, creating a smoother, plumped-up effect. It also unclogs pores and revs up cell turnover to fade pigmentation and brighten the complexion. Niacinamide is an ingredient that plays really well with retinol, landing a one-two punch against dull skin and fine lines. It’s a beautiful night cream to apply – silky and sweet-smelling – with visible results, reducing wrinkles in 10 nights.
Senior Beauty Editor Rhiannon Derbyshire (opens in new tab) loves this cream. Here are her thoughts. “We all know and love retinol for its plumping, skin-refining, and wrinkle-busting abilities, but it comes with the downside of dryness and sensitivity. This isn’t the case with this night cream. That’s thanks to its blending with skin-soothing Niacinamide plus Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin, which balances out any potential fall-out from the potent retinol. I always wake up with smooth, glowing skin after using this, and my sensitive skin never negatively reacts to it. I also love the airless pump dispenser, which keeps the ingredients airtight – which is essential when it comes to active ingredients. The push-applicator is pretty pleasing too – one press gives the perfect dose, every time.”
Stress isn’t just bad for your mind, it will take its toll on skin too, and accelerate the ageing process. Coming to the rescue (and tackling the outward effects of stress on the skin) is smart drone technology, which admittedly sounds like some sort of Star Wars plot device. In this dream cream, it’s used with peptides to target specific areas of the face, where stress shows the most. Peptides are made of amino acid chains, and act like little messengers, signalling to skin cells to carry out certain functions, like producing more collagen and elastin, thereby smoothing deep wrinkles. The cutting edge technology clearly works – Overnight Matrix scored a perfect 100% in Independent User Trials. All 30 people agreed the product dramatically improved the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over 4 weeks.
“If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit the Elemis spa, or even check-in for a pampering Elemis facial, you’ll know how divine the products smell,” says Sarah Cooper-White (opens in new tab), Beauty Director. “This is amazing and I LOVE the smell. It’s a luxurious cream, with a luxurious price tag to match, but the formula certainly feels justifiably opulent. It glazes over skin with a silky-softness that makes you want to repeatedly stroke your face. I call this my holiday in a jar cream – it gives a relaxed, rested look to my skin, even when I feel anything but.”
Retinol is the anti-ageing ingredient recommended by dermatologists. Why? It’s ability to rev up collagen production to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps to optimise cell turnover, making it the perfect ingredient to take advantage of the skin’s overnight renewal process. This in turn means that skin looks smoother in texture and tone, with a healthy glow.
“Retinol helps to lessen the signs of ageing and brighten your skin to improve your complexion,” explains dermatologist Dr Sonia Khorana. “Another great ingredient to look for is Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) as this can help improve the skin’s protective barrier and works to prevent water loss, by increasing the skin’s ability to maintain hydration. Olay Retinol24 night cream contains these powerful ingredients, so makes a great choice for a night cream.”
I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up seeing bottles of Olay (or Oil of Ulay as it was known back then) on my mother’s dressing table, but it’s always a brand I trust. If you don’t like the sometimes-heavy, tacky feel of a rich night cream, Regnerist Retinol 24’s quick-to-absorb formula will be a welcome change. It leaves the skin with a velvety, matte texture, as if you’ve got nothing on. My skin feels SO much softer.
If you want more bang for your beauty buck, this two-in-oner is a bedtime hero. Apply a light layer as the last step of your routine and you’ve got a light and silky night cream. Or use as a treatment mask when skin feels dry and tight. Slather on a generous layer across the face, sit back and relax for 15 minutes then rinse off. It’s brimming with antioxidants to help reinforce the skin barrier and protect cells from ageing free radical damage.
First of all, this looks and feels a lot more expensive than the price suggests. I really rate Skin Proud products. This one smells like yoghurt, or a Cupcake Doll (if anyone remembers those?), so might not be everyone’s cup of tea. As a night cream, it’s beautifully light but still does an impressive job of quenching skin so everything looks plump, fresh and bouncy by morning. The mask aspect is where this comes into its own for me. When my skin looks particularly dull and lifeless, a quick 15 minute sesh under a thick layer really livens everything up.
Skin cell turnover speeds up at night, which is why, if you have dull, rough, uneven skin, it’s the perfect time to incorporate gentle exfoliants. Here, pineapple extract is used to break down the bonds that hold on to dead skin cells to refine pores, gradually reduce pigmentation and reveal younger-looking skin. It’s not all slough, slough, slough though. Nourishing Rosehip oil helps skin regenerate and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It’s this all-rounder hero status that has helped Fruitful Nights rack up almost 500 5* reviews.
“If you’re someone with combination or oily skin, I would 100% recommend this,” says Beauty Editor, Jess Beech (opens in new tab). “It has a beautiful velvety texture that spreads easily over the face so you can use it sparingly – better for your skin and wallet! My skin looks more refined and even in tone, without the slightest inkling of feeling stripped or tight.”
If you really want to get the most of your beauty sleep, look no further than Kiehl’s iconic Midnight Recovery range. This light-and-airy whipped cream is infused with Omega-rich fatty acids that help to support the skin barrier, the layer responsible for keeping moisture locked in (hello plump, dewy skin), and irritants locked out. By reinforcing the lipid barrier, this night cream targets fine lines and dull skin, visibly plumping skin in seven days.
Cloud by name, cloud by nature – it is a dreamy blue, fluffy whip that melts into skin like cumulus droplets. It is a spa in a jar cream, with the most dreamy herbal, lavender fragrance. Because of the airy texture, it is on the lighter side of the night cream spectrum so if your skin is chronically dry and tight, this may not be enough to quench your skin’s appetite for hydration. For me, it does a solid job of smoothing my skin so it looks brighter by morning.
Some night creams target specific skin concerns, whether that’s lack of firmness, wrinkles or a spot of pigmentation, but this dream cream does it all. How? A combination of copper peptides (clever skin messengers) and Nordic biotechnology ingredients, such as antioxidant lingonberry cells and arctic spring water, work with the skin’s sleep cycle to firm, smooth and boost brightness.
Beauty Director, Sarah always recommends it. “I love this bouncy cream for plumping up my skin overnight. It literally feels like a drink of water for your complexion – mine sucks it up leaving it feeling smooth and replenished. Plus it’s packed full of hardy nordic ingredients like lingonberries and cloudberries to increase radiance and smooth lines and wrinkles.”
Medik8 takes a three-pronged approach to healthy, youthful skin – their high-end formulations revolve around the core pillars of vitamin C, sun protection and vitamin A (aka retinol). This night cream acts like a hug for skin post-retinol, counteracting any of the drying side effects. Ceramides help to strengthen the skin barrier – think of them as the mortar holding the ‘bricks’ of the moisture barrier together. Use this night cream as a ‘top coat’ after your evening retinol to optimise results while leaving skin pillow-soft.
“This is designed to be used alongside retinol products, to prevent skin drying out, but I often just use it on its own, for my ‘nights off’ active ingredients,” explains Senior Beauty Editor Rhiannon. “It’s a nice nourishing cream that helps to keep my sensitive skin balanced and content. It includes a cocktail of peptides and ceramides to boost hydration, and – crucially, it’s rich without feeling too heavy. It’s just a great all-rounder.”
Coenzyme Q10 is a nutrient that occurs naturally within the body, credited with boosting energy levels. Its collagen and elastin-producing properties help smooth lines and wrinkles. As an antioxidant, it helps protect skin cells from environmental damage thereby slowing the ageing process, but supplies diminish meaning the skin’s protective mechanisms are weakened. This night cream helps support the skin’s defences and leaves skin feeling firmer.
The online reviews are impressive. As one customer said, “It’s fantastic stuff and all the more so because it’s so cheap. […] The richer night cream is good for me in the cold months as my skin gets really dry. I’ve been using it for a few weeks and I can see the difference: glowing skin, fine lines around my eyes have gone, skin looks a little firmer. […] Well done Boots. This is the best cream of yours I’ve ever used.”
At what age should you start using night cream?
When it comes to beauty, the old adage usually rings true – prevention is always better than cure. With SPF, the best sunscreen will protect against lines, wrinkles and pigmentation. But what about night cream?
“Everyone should start using night creams as early as their 20s, as this is when skin’s collagen production starts to decline,” says Dr Sonia. “This process can then be seen through skin dullness and fine lines. Adding a night cream to your routine is a great way to help prevent these concerns. Prevention is better than cure, so the earlier you start taking care of your skin, the better.”
What order should you put your night cream on?
Whatever you put on your skin first will penetrate the deepest so it’s important to apply your skincare in the right order. Generally speaking, that means putting your night cream on last – as you should start with the lightest formulations and end with the richest concoctions.
“Night cream should be applied at the end of your skincare routine,” advises dermatologist Dr Sonia Khorana. “You should cleanse your skin first, then add your eye cream and serums, and lastly, apply your night cream moisturiser.”
So how much cream should we be scooping out every night? “Apply a pea size amount of night cream to the face and neck. A little does go a long way,” says Dr Sonia. “If your night cream contains retinol, start using it a few times a week and increase as you learn how your skin tolerates it.
“A great way of doing this is with the latest skincare trend, Skin Cycling, which focuses on building in those needed recovery nights after exfoliation and using a retinoid. The key is consistency and not overdoing it with your skincare routine.”
We spoke to the following beauty experts:
Dr Sonia (MBChB MRCGP PGDip Clinical Dermatology) is a GP with Special Interest in Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology, as well as a Clinical Dermatology Expert for Olay.
Rhiannon Derbyshire is the Senior Beauty Editor for Goodto, Woman & Home and other publications. She’s specialised in writing about beauty, fashion, interiors and health – though beauty remains her favourite topic. She lives in south London, and can often be found pootling around the commons while listening to a podcast.
Group Beauty Director Sarah Cooper-White has almost 20 years experience as a beauty journalist. She has written for many well known national magazines, newspapers and brands including Woman & Home, Woman, Woman’s Own, Woman’s Weekly, Boots, Tesco, ELLE, InStyle, The Mirror, The Sun, Prima and Top Sante.
Jess Beech is our Beauty Editor, working across Goodto.com, Woman & Home, Woman, Woman’s Own, Woman’s Weekly and Chat. Joining just after she graduated from the University of East Anglia with a BA in English Literature back in 2013, Jess has been a part of the team for over 8 years.
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