the overnight formulas that really work

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  • Searching for the best night cream to add to your evening skincare routine? Look no further…

    So, you’ve done your homework on the correct skincare routine. You know exactly what to apply and when. You’ve bought a good cleanser, a serum that meets your skin’s needs and found the best facial sunscreen that you gladly use every day – now you need the best night cream for your skin type.

    This last step of your nighttime routine is arguably one of the most important, so it’s vital that you find the right cream to suit your skin’s needs. We recommend that you start using one from your twenties onwards. Trust us, your skin will thank you for it.

    The best night creams: as tried and tested by our beauty editor

    Finding a good night cream is tricky and difficult to do. Our Beauty Editor has rigorously trialled and tested many, many in her time to try and give you a comprehensive round-up of the best night creams to suit you and your skin’s needs.

    1. Best drugstore buy: Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturiser

    Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturiser, £15.73 | Amazon
    If your main concerns are fine lines and uneven skin tone, then this little pot of joy promises to take away those worries. We all know that retinol is one powerful anti-ageing ingredient, and when that’s combined with vitamin B3 (also known as niacinamide) you’ve got an all guns blazing formula. The retinol takes care of those pesky lines, whilst vitamin B3 improves skin tone with every use.
    ‘This is such a brilliant and affordable night cream,’ says Katie Thomas, Senior Beauty Editor. ‘Skin looks and feels more youthful and I guarantee that you’ll end up buying quite a few more pots.’

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    2. Best night cream for oily skin: The Inkey List C-50 Night Treatment

    The Inkey List C-50 Night Treatment, £14.49 | Cult Beauty
    Cult skincare brand The Inkey List is loved both for its straightforward approach to skincare and the purse-friendly price tags. The C-50 Night Treatment is a two-pronged attack against blemishes: sodium ascorbyl phosphate (AKA a form of vitamin C) works to reduce the visibility of blemishes, while salicylic acid helps to decongest pores and reduce oil production. It’s just as important to use a night cream specifically for your skin type, as it is using the best moisturiser for oily skin.

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    3. Best night serum: Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair

    Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair, £60 | Lookfantastic
    Yes, yes, we know – *technically* this is a serum, but seeing as this wonder nighttime product is one of the best-loved in existence and sells 10 per minute around the world, it’s deserving of a mention. Enriched with super hydrator hyaluronic acid and non pore-clogging, you’ll wake to smoother fine lines and plumper skin.
    ‘I couldn’t put together a list of best night products and not include ANR,’ says Katie. ‘Why does it have such a cult following? Well because it really does work. It’s like a magic potion that tackles uneven skin tone, firmness, hydration, lines and radiance. I love it.’

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    4. Best for pigmentation: Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream

    Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream, £35 | Space NK
    Skin pigmentation is a common issue for many people in the UK. This is why so many night creams contain glycolic acid, as it’s the ideal overnight exfoliator. It’s the smallest AHA molecule, so is able to penetrate deep into the skin and encourage cell turnover for a smooth finish.
    ‘I have a few areas of pigmentation, but nothing that worries me too much,’ Katie says. ‘I love using this because of how soft my skin feels when I wake up the next morning. Baby’s bottoms spring to mind.’

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    5. Best for plumping and smoothing: Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream

    6. Best for dehydrated skin: L’Oréal Paris Dermo Expertise Triple Active Hydrating Night Moisturiser

    L’Oréal Paris Dermo Expertise Triple Active Hydrating Night Moisturiser, £7.49 | Lookfantastic
    If skin is eternally parched, there are three key ingredients that can reverse the situation: glycerin, which is deeply moisturising, plus omegas 3 and 6 to calm and help improve skin texture. You’ll find them all in this non-greasy gel/cream.

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    7. Best for tired skin: Formula Sleep & Replenish Ultimate Sleep Cream

    Formula Sleep & Replenish Ultimate Sleep Cream, £22.50 | Marks & Spencer
    This is the night cream that M&S customers have been raving about for years. In a way, it’s like the beauty industry’s hidden little secret. Why is it so brilliant? Well because it’s been labelled eight hours sleep in a pot, for its remarkable ability to basically recharge your skin’s batteries. There are essential peptides and antioxidants in the formula that help to improve your skin’s overall appearance so that you wake up looking like you’ve had your full eight (even if you haven’t).
    ‘I recently moved house and couldn’t find any of my skincare,’ says Katie. ‘I found this at work and brought it home and honestly, I am now hooked. I have a toddler and another baby on the way and this might just be my #1 new mum recommendation.’

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    8. Best all-rounder: Clarins Multi-Active Night Cream, £46 | Boots


    Clarins Multi-Active Night Cream, £45 | Boots
    This being Clarins, expect technology powered by plant extracts. In this case, Golden Poppy has been found to revive skin’s radiance even if you didn’t get much shut-eye. You can also choose between normal to dry skin and normal to combination, which is incredibly handy.

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    9. Best retinol night cream: StriVectin Advanced Retinol Nightly Renewal Moisturizer, £92 | Feelunique

    StriVectin Advanced Retinol Nightly Renewal Moisturizer, £92 | Feelunique
    Here’s our Marie Claire Skin Awards Best Night Cream 2021 winner. It was given the top award by judges, after they applauded it for the best over-the-counter retinol product. It combines both retinal and retinol to help tackle fine lines, as well as skin soothing ingredients to prevent irritation.

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    10. Best for irritated skin: Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream, £50 | Space NK

    Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream, £50 | Space NK
    If you think of your skin as bricks and mortar, ceramides are the mortar that seals in moisture. They are integral for a healthy and balanced skin barrier, which you need intact for happy and glowy skin. You’ll find plenty of these in there – plus marula oil, which is like a tall drink for thirsty, sensitive skin.

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    11. Best for mature skin: Elemis Ultra Smart Pro-Collagen Night Genius, £200 | Space NK

    Elemis Ultra Smart Pro-Collagen Night Genius, £200 | Space NK
    Best for mature skin: This relatively new night-time moisturiser from Elemis is an important all-round restorative addition to your night routine. It helps to boost and repair skin that has been damaged by daily external aggressors. And being ‘Ultra Smart’ helps to build up your skin’s resilience over time.

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    12. Best luxury night cream: Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, £215 | Cult Beauty

    Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, £215 | Cult Beauty
    So skin goes into recovery mode when you’re asleep. Fact. Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream is made up using the brand’s famous patented Trigger Factor Complex (TFC8), which heals skin. Fact. So when you put a healing cream onto the skin that’s repairing, you have a winning combination. A third and final fact.
    ‘Yes, it’s a punchy price and we only recommend you spend this much on beauty if you can,’ Katie says. ‘However, it is a brilliant product and I trust the science completely.’

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    13. Best for dry skin: Lumene Arctic Hydra Care Rich Night Balm, £29 | John Lewis

    Lumene Arctic Hydra Care Rich Night Balm, £29 | John Lewis
    Winter can wreak havoc without skin. Being outside in the bitter cold is aggressive, but then coming in warm central heating is an aggressor itself. You might have incredibly well-behaved skin in summer, but consider investing in a night cream that looks after skin when the climate drops. Lumene’s new night cream reinforces the skin barrier, making for a very happy complexion.

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    14. Best for retinol newbies: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream, £70 | Cult Beauty

    Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream, £70 | Cult Beauty
    Overnight is when you want to use the powerhouse ingredient retinol. Murad’s version releases three different vitamin A derivatives into the skin at different rates to tackle lines, pigmentation and slackness. Algae extracts act as a buffer against dryness and irritation.

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    15. Best night cream for sensitive skin: Sarah Chapman Skinesis Comfort Cream D-Stress, £68 | Cult Beauty

    Sarah Chapman Skinesis Comfort Cream D-Stress, £68 | Cult Beauty
    Sarah Chapman’s facials are legendary – just ask Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. For those of us not on her books, her product range is the next best thing. Her night cream is one of her heroes, because of how healing it is. Ideal for those with sensitive skin, it reduces inflammations, calms redness and strengthens the skin’s barrier. It also works really nicely on skin that’s suffering in the winter. Comfort, as it says on the pot, is what this cream is all about.
    ‘This is my go-to night cream in winter,’ Katie says. ‘My skin always has a freak out in mid-Winter and this is the only cream that I trust to calm it down and bring it back to life.’

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    16. Best ‘does-it-all’ formula: Decree Treat Tincture, £130 | Cult Beauty

    Decree Treat Tincture, £130 | Cult Beauty
    This brand was created to simplify skincare routines. Which is why there are so many incredible ingredients in just one night serum. A stem cell blend, a retinoid complex and hydrating whizz-kids squalane and hyaluronic acid. Meant to be used every single night, it’s a step you’ll never regret introducing once you start seeing the difference in the plumpness, tone and firmness of your skin.

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    Why is night cream so important?

    Can’t I just use the best moisturiser from my morning skincare routine, we hear you ask? Our skin actually behaves quite differently while we sleep, so your nighttime formula should be tailored to those needs.

    ‘A number of physiological changes occur in the skin overnight,’ explains consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk. Our skin is affected by our circadian rhythm. ‘The skin blood flow rate has been shown to increase in the late afternoon and evening,’ she continues. ‘Higher melatonin levels at night are associated with hair growth, suppression of ultraviolet (UV) damage in skin cells and better wound healing.’

    Essentially, your skin goes into repair mode while you’re catching those all-important eight hours. Dr Kluk elaborates: ‘The repair of skin cells with DNA damage from the sun appears to peak at night. Skin permeability is also higher in the evening than in the morning, leading to increased moisture loss.’

    This is why what we apply to skin before we turn the lights off at night is so important. We need to ensure that the products we apply aid, rather than hinder, this process.

    ‘By understanding the basic principles of the circadian rhythm, including skin changes throughout the day, we can better organise our routines by applying skin care products at optimal times of the day,’ she continues. ‘For example, sunscreen during the day to reduce UV damage, retinol at night for optimised DNA repair and richer moisturisers at night to remedy increased transepidermal moisture loss.’

    What’s the difference between day and night cream?

    So, how different does my night cream need to be, we hear you ask? It’s all about consistency and ingredient type.

    Kate Somerville, Hollywood’s go-to aesthetician, sums it up nicely: ‘Day creams tend to be lightweight and may have an SPF to protect your skin from the sun. They should also be less greasy, which is ideal for make-up application. Night creams tend to be heavier, with no SPF, and include ingredients such as retinol and glycolic acid, which helps polish your skin and promote cell renewal.’

    Facial aesthetics specialist Dr Pamela Benito agrees: ‘A nighttime moisturiser will help to maintain your skin’s health and reduce the signs of ageing. With a thicker and richer consistency, night moisturisers tend to include a larger concentration of ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol and peptides.’

    ‘Night is when cells need nutrients the most and when their anti-ageing benefits have maximum impact,’ she continues. ‘Skin sebum production is lower at night and, when you don’t have a protective layer of natural oils on your skin, you lose more water.’

    What’s more, ‘Due to their slow-absorbing nature, night creams can gradually penetrate the skin throughout the night. This means they’re able to moisturise, repair and rebalance the skin for a clear and healthy complexion.’

    What makes the best night cream… the best?

    Now that you’re well-versed in the importance of night cream, you’re probably now wondering which ingredients to look out for on the label. ‘I look for ingredients such as peptides, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, emollients, antioxidants, retinol – depending on your skin type of course,’ says Somerville.

    ‘Those with dry skin look for something really creamy, while if you have oily skin, I’d recommend an oil-free moisturiser. And for sensitive skin, you should use a product with ceramides.’

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