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You know you need to wear either a moisturizer with SPF or proper sunscreen during the day, but what should you apply before bed? "For most people, moisturization is the main endpoint in a night cream," says board-certified dermatologist and Stryke Club co-founder Sheilagh Maguiness, MD.
And as Dr. Maguiness notes, "You don't need to spend a lot of money for a night cream to do its job—you just need to know what job you want the cream to do." In other words, in addition to hydrating the skin, evening moisturizers can address various concerns, like fine lines, hyperpigmentation, breakouts, or a damaged skin barrier.
Claire Wolinsky, MD, a New York dermatologist specializing in facial rejuvenation, says your evening skincare routine is a good time to use retinoids as sun exposure could make them less effective. "These anti-aging powerhouses prevent fine lines and increase collagen production while you sleep," she tells Byrdie.
Looking for an affordable, widely available formula to add to your arsenal? Luckily, Dr. Maguiness says, "There are actually many great drugstore night creams." We compiled expert recs and checked our own medicine cabinets to bring you the crème de la crème of, well, night cream.
Scroll down for the best drugstore night creams currently available.
Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Replenishes skin barrier
Slightly gritty texture
Both dermatologists we interviewed stand behind this French pharmacy find, and we can see why. "La Roche Posay Double Repair is a hydrating yet non-pore-clogging over-the-counter moisturizer containing ceramides and glycerin that is safe for even the most sensitive skin," says Dr. Wolinsky. "I recommend it often."
Thanks to niacinamide (vitamin B3) and mineral-rich thermal spring water, this all-star night cream works to soothe stressed complexions, smooth fine lines, replenish the skin barrier, and deliver a plumper look.
"I truly love the entire LaRoche Posay Toleriane line," Dr. Maguiness tells Byrdie. "I think they have a great range of products and are available at most drugstores."
Active Ingredients: Thermal spring water, niacinamide, ceramides, glycerin | Size: 2.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Budget: Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Overnight Moisturizer
Helps prevent breakouts
If you don't want to spend more than a few bucks, your best bet is Yes to Tomatoes. This overnight cream calls on salicylic acid and fruit enzymes to exfoliate, clear pores, and prevent breakouts, while aloe vera, avocado oil, and shea butter moisturize and soothe.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, aloe, fruit enzymes, avocado oil, shea butter | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best With Retinol: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
Diminishes fine lines
A favorite among dermatologists and skincare aficionados alike, RoC Retinol Correxion is undoubtedly one of the choicest drugstore options. As its name suggests, this night cream contains retinol, a researched-backed anti-ager that tackles everything from fine lines and crow's feet to dark spots and crepiness.
Active Ingredients: Retinol, vitamin E, shea butter | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"Overall, I was very happy with RoC’s Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream. On top of being affordable, it didn’t irritate my skin, and I noticed a reduction in fine lines within a week." — Leigh Weingus, Product Tester
Best for Sensitive Skin: Differin Restorative Night Moisturizer
May not be ideal for oily skin
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air), giving them a plumping effect.
You might know Differin for its once-prescription and now over-the-counter retinoid acne treatment, but the brand actually has a few notable retinol-free products. We're big fans of the Restorative Night Moisturizer, an exceptionally gentle cream that hydrates with humectants and emollients like hyaluronic acid, allantoin, and essential ceramides.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, allantoin, ceramides, shea butter | Size: 2.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Mature Skin: Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Face Moisturizer
Diminishes fine lines
Those looking to combat fine lines, dark spots, or loss of elasticity may want to consider a formula with retinol, like this sleek cream from Olay. A go-to for Byrdie senior editor Lindsey Metrus, it also contains niacinamide to smooth, hydrate, and restore the skin barrier.
Active Ingredients: Retinol, niacinamide, glycerin | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Stryke Club Calm Down Moisturizer
Dr. Maguiness recommends this "affordable, lightweight face moisturizer" from Stryke Club. Formulated for acne-prone complexions, it contains calming vitamin E as well as anti-inflammatory olive oil and non-comedogenic sunflower seed oil to prevent dryness and irritation.
Active Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, rice bran extract, vitamin E, olive oil | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Oily Skin: CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM
Not as hydrating as other options
Ceramides are a part of a complex family of fats or lipids called a sphingolipid. They work to restore the skin barrier and lock in moisture.
"I'm also a huge fan of CeraVe," Dr. Maguiness tells Byrdie. Unlike some thicker creams, this oil-free, non-comedogenic formula is exceptionally lightweight, never greasy, and won't clog your pores. Even so, it's packed with hydrating, soothing, and barrier-boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide | Size: 3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Generally speaking, lotions are generally a better bet for oily skin than thicker creams.
Best for Dry Skin: Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream with Hyaluronic Acid
"If you have dry skin and need a lot of moisture, remember this rule of thumb: The thicker the cream, the better it will lock moisture in," says Dr. Maguiness. With this in mind, we recommend this ultra-rich (but not at all greasy) formula from Cetaphil, which delivers much-needed moisture with olive oil and hyaluronic acid while calming the skin with vitamin E.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, olive oil, vitamin E | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Eczema-Prone Skin: Eucerin Redness Relief Night Creme
For the eczema-prone set, Eucerin is the name of the game. It contains natural anti-inflammatory panthenol (vitamin B3) to minimize redness, along with skin-loving squalane and supremely soothing and radiance-boosting licorice root extract.
Active Ingredients: Panthenol, licorice root extract | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for All Skin Types: Urban Hydration Nourish & Rehydrate Castor & Shea Night Cream
Replenishes skin barrier
Suitable for all skin types
Good for all skin types and tones, this night cream from Urban Hydration is luxuriously rich and creamy yet notably gentle and soothing. Shea butter and castor oil help nourish stressed complexions, vitamin E and aloe calm inflammation, and unsung hero glycerin replenishes the skin barrier.
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, castor oil, vitamin E, aloe, glycerin | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Uneven Texture: Pond's Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream
Can be used on face and body
If you're dealing with uneven texture or dullness, Pond's Rejuveness is your best bet. The star of this night cream is lactic acid, an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) that gently exfoliates while you get your beauty sleep. You can also use it on your body to combat hyperpigmentation.
Active Ingredients: Lactic acid, glycerin, collagen | Size: 7 to 14.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Nourishing: Alaffia Coconut Reishi Night Cream
Replenishes skin barrier
Alaffia's take on night cream is this incredibly rich, extra-nourishing formula. It's got plant-based moisturizers like coconut oil and shea butter, plus reishi mushroom extract to heal and replenish damaged stressed skin.
Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, shea butter, reishi, baobab extract, green tea | Size: 3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Natural: Burt's Bees Sensitive Night Cream
Those partial to earth-sourced formulas should go with Burt's Bees. Formulated with aloe and cotton extract, this calming cream soothes sensitive skin while shea butter and jojoba oil deliver moisture and nourishment.
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, jojoba oil, cotton extract, aloe | Size: 1.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"I rarely turn to drugstore products for my skincare and didn’t foresee any drastic improvements. Welp, I was wrong. The very next morning after using this product my face felt plump, bouncy, soft, and moisturized." — Nicole Kliest, Product Tester
Best Gel: Base Butter Radiate Face Jelly
Balances oil production
Base Butter's beloved Face Jelly boasts a rich yet lightweight gel-like consistency that's never greasy or sticky. Standout ingredients include moisturizing shea butter, redness-reducing aloe, oil-balancing witch hazel, and skin-clearing tea tree oil.
Active Ingredients: Aloe, shea butter, glycerin, witch hazel, tea tree oil | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Treatment: Etude House Moistfull Collagen Sleeping Pack
Replenishes skin barrier
When your complexion craves some TLC, reach for this collagen-infused treatment from the Korean beauty brand Etude House. The leave-on sleeping pack is formulated to hydrate the skin barrier and deliver an elasticity boost while you doze.
Active Ingredients: Collagen, glycerin, baobab oil | Size: 3.38 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer is undoubtedly the best drugstore night cream overall. Containing ceramides and vitamin B3, the dermatologist-recommended formula is light, hydrating, and gentle enough for sensitive skin. However, if you want to keep your budget below $10, your best bet is the Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Overnight Moisturizer (view at Amazon), a skin-clearing night cream that won't dry you out.
What to Look for in a Drugstore Night Cream
The main purpose of any type of face cream is to moisturize the skin, though, as Dr. Wolinsky notes, night creams are often richer than their daytime counterparts. With this in mind, you'll want to look out for formulas containing natural butters like shea, cocoa, or mango seed, along with plant oils, such as avocado, jojoba, squalane, castor, coconut, olive, and sunflower seed.
Additionally, humectants can help your skin retain moisture. A few of the most common include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, aloe vera, fatty acids, panthenol (vitamin B5), and vitamin E.
Dr. Wolinsky tells Byrdie that overnight formulas often "contain important ingredients that work best at night, such as retinol, which can be deactivated by the sun." In addition to this vitamin A derivative, you're wise to look out for drugstore moisturizers containing niacinamide (vitamin B3) and peptides, all of which smooth the skin and help boost collagen production.
Dr. Maguiness recommends unscented formulas to avoid irritation, as some folks are sensitive or even allergic to synthetic fragrance (aka parfum) in skincare products. Added fragrance is generally unnecessary in night creams, and if you have sensitive skin, the last thing you want to do is introduce a potentially reactive substance.
What are the benefits of drugstore night creams?
Besides being budget-friendly and widely available, there are lots of benefits to using drugstore night creams. First, they offer ample hydration after washing your skin. While you should be applying a moisturizer both morning and night, some people like to use richer formulas before bed.
As Dr. Maguiness explains, thicker formulas are often ideal for moisturization "but can sometimes feel heavy during the day." Additionally, night creams can be formulated to address various skin conditions, like fine lines, hyperpigmentation, uneven texture, dullness, inflammation, dark spots, loss of elasticity, and acne.
How do you apply drugstore night creams?
Starting with clean, freshly washed skin, dispense a small amount of cream into your hand (about the size of a blueberry). Next, use your fingertips to dot equal amounts on your forehead, chin, cheeks, and neck. Then gently massage the cream into your skin until it's completely absorbed.
How often should you use drugstore night creams?
Most drugstore night creams can be used every evening. However, if you're using a formula containing retinol or alpha-hydroxy acids (such as lactic acid and glycolic acid), you might want to work your way up to daily use to avoid irritation. Start with once or twice a week, then bump it up to three times when your skin gets acclimated and so on until you're using it nightly.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer and copyeditor specializing in beauty, lifestyle, and wellness. She interviewed two dermatologists for this story, asking for product suggestions and insight into which ingredients are best for nighttime use. She also referenced several peer-reviewed publications and researched various formulations. As a skincare enthusiast, Theresa has tried a handful of products on this list, including La Roche Posay, Olay, Etude House, CeraVe, Cetaphil, and RoC.
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