Wondering about night creams and what the best night cream for you might be? It’s very common for people to assume that there’s no real difference between night creams and moisturizers meant for day use. The cynics among us go even a bit further, and accuse cosmetics manufacturers of inventing the idea of a separate night cream as just another way to get into our wallets. This is simply not true! Read on to find out the difference between regular moisturizers and night creams, and what to look for in the best night cream.
As a general rule, night creams have a heavier feel than day creams. They don’t contain any sun protection, and they tend to contain greater concentrations of healing, skin repairing ingredients like retinol, Vitamins A and C, and alpha hydroxy acids. Night creams are formulated for some very specific purposes, and there are real benefits to be had from using them.
To understand the special benefits of night creams, think of them as “sleep creams” instead. (If night creams only worked at night, all those people who work the graveyard shift would just be out of luck, right?) During your waking hours, you’re outdoors, exposed to sunlight and environmental toxins, or at work and dealing with unhealthy indoor air and work-related stresses. At these times your skin is under siege from UV radiation, free radicals, and your own responses to stress.
When you sleep and your body and mind are at rest, the metabolic rate of your skin actually increases. This is when your body is better able to produce collagens and rebuild damaged cells. Your circulation also increases during sleep, which allows skin care products to be more readily absorbed.
The two main goals of the best night cream
Night creams are generally formulated to achieve one of two goals: either they are designed specifically to combat the signs of aging, or they are designed to provide an extra boost of deep moisture to overly dry skin. Knowing what your skin care goals are will help you to choose the best night cream for you.
Many people notice their faces becoming dry and sensitive during the cold winter months. Blustery winds and dry, heated indoor air can really take its toll on skin, making it feel tight, easily irritated, and appearing chapped or flaky. If your skin is especially dry, then a restorative night cream may be a good choice for you. Ultra hydrating night creams (sometimes called deep moisturizing or restorative) are specially purposed for nourishing dry skin.
Hydrating night creams are packed full of humectants like alpha hydroxy acids, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea. Humectants draw moisture out of the air and into your skin, and effectively lock the moisture in. The other important component of a good moisturizing cream is an emollient. Emollients fill in the tiny spaces between cells on the surface of your face and keep your skin soft and supple. Commonly used emollients include lanolin, jojoba oil, propylene glycol linoleate, glycerol stearate, and isopropyl palmitate.
Most of us associate aging with wrinkled, loose skin, spider veins, and age spots. But in truth, these are often the effects of photoaging ‒ a result of overexposure to UV radiation from the sun, and cell damage from the attack of free radicals. Photoaging depletes the collagens that keep our skin firm and plump, and destroys the elastin that makes our skin supple.
You’ll find most night creams designed to treat and prevent the effects of photoaging have names that include “firming,” “lifting,” “anti-aging,” or “regenerating.” These products contain ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and retinyl acetate. Most of these are powerful antioxidants, and they help your skin to produce collagen, replace old cells more quickly, and reduce the cell damage created by free radicals.
There’s some great logic in using anti-aging products while you’re sleeping. While retinoids and other Vitamin A derivatives have a proven track record as anti-agers, they also become somewhat unstable in direct sunlight. And some of these can make the skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays ‒ so the best time to take advantage of their healing power is, of course, while you’re sleeping and out of the sun.
Choosing the best night cream
There are a few general guidelines to follow when you’re choosing among the wide variety of night time skin care products available. You’ll want to determine whether your skin is oily or dry, sensitive or resistant to irritation, wrinkled or smooth, and pigmented with dark spots or not.
If your skin is oily, choose an oil-free cream for best results. Sensitive skin will require an anti-inflammatory cream, and you’ll also do well to stay away from products with a high alcohol content and heavy fragrance. Looking to reduce dark spots? Try a product with hydroquinone. Some retinoids will also slow or stop the skin’s production of melanin. And for repairing and preventing wrinkles, you’re best to go with a one-two punch of retinol and antioxidants like Vitamin C.
Age is also a consideration when choosing your perfect product. In your thirties, a good hydrating night cream is probably your best bet ‒ the more hydrated you keep your skin now, the longer it will be before your skin shows signs of damage. A bit later in life, or whenever you begin to see those telltale smile lines and frown wrinkles, it’s time to begin using an anti-aging product.
A quick note about other ingredients
Many skin care products contain additives called parabens. Since the 1990s there have been some concerns that parabens may be harmful, although research has yet to prove this out. If you’re looking to eliminate a possible health concern, find a night cream that is paraben-free.
Additionally, some people prefer to avoid chemical products as much as possible. If you’re one of these people, look for moisturizing creams with honey, avocado, coconut oil, and other botanical moisturizers as an alternative. For natural products with anti-aging properties, try creams containing Vitamins E and C, green tea extracts, pomegranate, and resveratrol, which comes from grape skins.
Protect your skin from damage during the day, and save the night time to rejuvenate, repair, and renew. Once you’ve found the feel and fragrance that you enjoy, your best night cream will keep your skin glowing and beautiful through the years.
Here are our picks for the best night cream on Amazon.com.
Do you use a night cream? What’s the best night cream in your opinion? Let us know your pick on the best night cream in the comments below.