How Important Is a Nighttime Beauty Routine?

If you're doing 12 steps in the morning but ignoring skincare at night, we have some news for you

Since the K-beauty boom in the mid 2010s, the entire skincare-loving world has levelled up their routines, taking their steps into the double digits with cleansers, toners, mists, essences, waters, serums, oils, creams, gels…the list goes on. 

And while that multi-step routine has its doubters, the fact remains: Executing a beauty routine is some quality self-care that makes a lot of people feel good. Of course, there is also science behind it, and the benefits of those products you’re massaging into your face are aplenty. If you need more non-science (but equally as valuable) arguments for a quality skincare routine, Rihanna just blessed us with the release of a Fenty Beauty night cream.

If you’re still mostly focused on your morning, pre-Zoom makeup routine and simply quickly cleansing and applying whatever cream is within reach before you crash, or—shudder—doing nothing at all in the evening, we have some news for you: Your nighttime skincare routine is arguably more important that what you do in the morning. So, we consulted two skincare experts to get all the details on what you can do to get some serious beauty sleep.

What happens to my skin at night?

Your circadian rhythm, AKA your body clock, is the 24-hour cycle of physiological and behavioural changes driven by the light and darkness around you. While you sleep, it moves your skin cells into peak regeneration mode, and they do their best to undo the day’s damage from things like pollution and UV rays. “You’re in protection mode during the day and you’re in recovery mode at night,” says Janice James, Estée Lauder’s Education Lead in Toronto. 

While your skin is in that nighttime recovery mode, that’s also when it’s at its most permeable. So, whatever products you’re applying will absorb better than they would during the day. “There’s no wind, and no hands or masks touching your face,” says Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of Beyond Soap. “You are typically also warmer in bed, which causes dilation of blood vessels and better potential penetration of actives.”

But: Your skin also faces some challenges at night. Although it isn’t facing all those daytime external aggressors, it is experiencing more moisture loss. “Between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., that’s when your skin is losing the most moisture. And as you get older, that increases even more,” says James. Thanks to that aforementioned body clock, your sebum production is at its lowest while you sleep, too. Without that protective barrier of natural oils on your skin, even more moisture can escape. 

Annoying. What can I do?

Develop a solid routine, and stick with it. James recommends cleansing to remove dirt, makeup and oil, followed by a serum to repair, restore and renew skin, then a moisturizing treatment to nourish, and an eye cream for good measure. “Even if you protect your skin as much as you can during the day, there’s so much damage that’s coming from the environment,” she says. “When you go to bed, your skin is trying to recover from all of that damage, and as you get older you’re just not able to do that as effectively as you could before. [The right products] set your skin up so it can do its job while you’re sleeping at night.”

Dr. Skotnicki offers some suggestions for exactly what ingredients you should be looking for in those nighttime products. “At night, you should cleanse, apply a serum with retinol or peptides, and then use a moisturizer with more retinol or peptides,” she says. Retinol, or vitamin A, activates your skin’s natural repairing abilities, fending off wrinkles and uneven skin tone. That, along with the fact that it makes your skin more susceptible to UV rays (so, you don’t want to use it during the day), makes it ideal for nighttime use. Peptides are amino acids that trigger your skin’s natural collagen and elastin production, making it appear firmer, and they also help hydrate skin.

If you’re under 30 and prone to breakouts, Dr. Skotnicki also recommends a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) nighttime product twice weekly. Those acids will chemically exfoliate dead skin cells and help with natural cell turnover.

What kind of nighttime moisturizer should I use?

In case you haven’t yet realized, moisturizing is essentially the cornerstone of a solid nighttime skincare routine. Thus, Dr. Skotnicki recommends hydrating and barrier repairing ingredients, like ceramides, natural seed oils, lipids and hyaluronic acid. 

James also highlights hyaluronic acid, which happens to be one of the star ingredients in Estée Lauder’s newly-reformulated cult classic, Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex. In 1982, Advanced Night Repair was the first serum created specifically for nighttime use, and now, new developments have made it an even more effective overnight treatment.

“We’ve added high levels of hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture for 72 hours, which helps create an environment for repair to happen in,” says James. Another addition to the previous Advanced Night Repair formula is Chronolux Power Signal Technology. That technology is powered by a combo of yeast extract and peptides that increases the natural renewal of skin cells and the production of collagen. “When you use it every night, it reduces the look of advanced aging, lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dehydration, pore minimizing and firmness,” says James.

What can I leave out of my routine?

Fragrance. “I think fragrance is unnecessary in skincare and it can lead to irritation, which you certainly don’t need at night. If you want a little scent in your skincare, use it in the morning,” says Dr. Skotnicki.  She also suggests limiting exfoliation to just one night a week. “Your skin is [exfoliating] already on its own, so a product or mask that helps this process can be done once a week, but you shouldn’t ever do it nightly.”

What should I definitely not skip?

Cleansing! “You need to take all of that makeup off so your skin can breathe and focus on what it should be doing,” says James. “I always double-cleanse at night, once to remove all the makeup and another to clean the skin. It’s a pampering experience I really love, and it makes me feel good before I start applying everything else.” 

Looking to amp up your nighttime skincare routine? Scroll for some prods that will have you looking super fresh come morning.

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