There's no denying that night creams are one of the more expensive skincare products out there. Some can even set you back over $100, which some people might deem a worthy investment, and others might freak out at the number. One thing's for certain, though: A night cream is an important beauty product.
"A night cream hydrates the skin," explains board-certified dermatologist Elyse Love, MD, who practices at GlamDerm in New York City. "Nighttime moisturizers are important because we typically use drying ingredients, like retinols, at night. Night creams help restore the skin's balance so that these active ingredients don't dry out the skin."
So, yes, a night cream is an essential skincare step for most, but that doesn't mean you have to splurge on one. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable options out there. And because it's important to do your research before you buy (whether it's a drugstore or "designer" brand), I asked the experts for their tips on how to choose a night cream.
How to Choose a Night Cream
Overall, you're going to want to look at the ingredient label when you're shopping around for a night cream. "For nighttime, I like products that are corrective and restorative," says dermatologist Karen Chinonso Kagha, MD, who looks for ingredients like retinol or retinoids, antioxidants, and gentle acids.
Makeup artist and VaultBeauty app founder Courtney Summers adds that she prefers night creams with ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E; retinol; and AHA, which are perfect for anti-aging and hydration. "Nighttime is when your skin prepares and regenerates itself, so night creams tend to be a richer moisturizer with a higher concentration of anti-aging ingredients," she explains. "The key to flawless makeup is great skin, which should be attended to both day and night."
Night Creams for Specific Skin Types
Your skin type might also factor in to your night cream choices, especially if you have acne-prone or dry skin. For oily or acne-prone skin, Kagha recommends choosing a product that has chemical exfoliants and other corrective active ingredients that target acne. And you'll want to pay attention to the formula. "Acne-prone skin tends to benefit from oil-free and gel-cream formulations, especially in the summer, as these products are hydrating but light," adds Love.
If you're dealing with dry or sensitive skin, you might be better off with heavier creams, according to Love. Look for creams that have ultra-hydrating ingredients since that's probably your main skin concern.
How to Shop for a Drugstore Night Cream
It's possible to find a quality night cream at any price, Summers says, adding that she has drugstore and name brands that she uses daily. The main difference between a cheaper brand and a more expensive option is that the latter might include more good-for-the-skin ingredients. "Typically, more expensive night creams also contain active ingredients such as retinoid and/or AHA in addition to moisturizing ingredients," Love says.
When going down the drugstore aisle, Kagha says to pay attention to what your particular skin needs are. "Always check the active ingredients to see what the product is targeting," she explains. "Avoid products with fragrance or other potential allergens, especially for sensitive skin."
Drugstore Night Creams to Try
Ready to shop for drugstore night creams? See below for some of our editors' and the experts' favorites.
"Nighttime is also a great time to apply a topical retinol or retinoid to help with cell turnover and hyperpigmentation. A drugstore option that has a retinol includes RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Anti-Aging Night Cream," says Kagha.
Love recommends La Roche-Posay's moisturizer, which she says is hydrating and soothing to sensitive skin.
Olay's night cream works to hydrate and plump the skin while you sleep. It has an amino-peptide complex, which also exfoliates and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in addition to moisturizing.
Love says Neutrogena's Hydro Boost gel-cream is ideal for those with oily skin. And Kagha says it's good for drier skin types, too, as it "provides overnight hydration with its hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring component of our skin."
L'Oréal's night cream is formulated with soy seed protein to firm, even skin, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It absorbs quickly and doesn't leave a greasy finish.
Summers recommends CeraVe's night cream, which she always keeps in her kit. She adds that it tends to work for all skin types. The formula contains nourishing ceramides and a peptide complex.
Summers also picks Cetaphil's night cream, which contains hyaluronic acid, olive extract, and a vitamin complex to hydrate the face and strengthen the skin's moisture barrier. It's fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
Formulated for mature skin, this night cream works to reduce fine lines and dark spots and refresh dehydrated skin. It has ingredients like shea butter, peptides, ceramides, and titanium dioxide.
Neutrogena's moisturizer targets wrinkles and uneven skin tone and improves firmness. It contains vitamin C to leave your skin looking radiant and glycerin to hydrate.
For smoother skin, try Vichy's night cream. It works to promote collagen production and cellular turnover. Reviewers say it absorbs quickly and doesn't leave a greasy, oily finish.
With ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, CeraVe's nighttime lotion will give your skin a hydration boost overnight. It's made to slowly release its ingredients over time, which is supposed to keep your skin moisturized for a longer period.
For those with sensitive skin, this night cream might be your best bet since it's allergy-tested. It's fragrance-free and contains rice extracts and aloe, leaving skin calm.
Wake up with a brighter, rejuvenated face thanks to this night cream (which can also be used in the daytime). Lavender, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid firm and hydrate your skin overnight.
This is another pick for sensitive skin because of its gentle formula. The cream soothes, repairs free radical damage, and hydrates thanks to ingredients like thermal spring water, Neurosensine, and vitamin E.
Senior news editor Erin Fitzpatrick's 68-year-old mom is a fan of Aveeno's night cream. "I like to buy its richest cream, Absolutely Ageless Restorative Night Cream," she says. "This is affordable, really moisturizes my dry skin, and since it's Aveeno, you know it's hypoallergenic. It works on lines and wrinkles and really calms my skin if I've been out on a windy day or in the pool or ocean. So it ticks a lot of boxes!"
Sensitive skin types can use this anti-wrinkle night cream. It's fragrance- and alcohol-free and formulated with vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and beta-carotene to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Kagha also recommends adding a retinoid to your nighttime routine. "Over-the-counter retinoids include Differin Gel and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel. If you can tolerate a prescription retinoid, that is my preference, but these are options if you want a drugstore remedy," she says.
Recommended by Kagha, this gel is a prescription-strength retinoid that promotes skin cell turnover and unclogs pores. It's oil- and fragrance-free.