We love the idea and promised ease of night-time skincare: wake up in the morning with glowing skin, having put in minimal effort. They’re not always as transformative as the marketing might suggest, but a good night cream is like a soft, pillowy treat for your skin.
The best bit, particularly for those with dry skin, is that with a night cream you don’t have to worry about how they look on the skin or whether they make a good base for make-up, so you can choose a heavier, more cushioning cream than you might for the day.
You also don’t need to worry about them including sun protection, so they can include ingredients that make skin temporarily more sensitive to UV damage, such as retinol.
Personally, we like to apply a good layer of a heavy-feeling product to feel like we’re getting the most out of our skincare, but we’ve got picks for those who want to take a lighter approach too. For simple, nourishing power, look for ingredients that support the skin’s natural barrier, such as ceramides, vitamin E, algae and omegas, as well as the classic hyaluronic acid for water-based moisturisation, or oils for something a little heavier.
Some of our favourites also include hero ingredients such as anti-ageing retinol and vitamin C for brightness and antioxidant protection. They don’t produce miraculous overnight transformation, but with consistent use, all our testers saw positive changes in their skin texture and condition.
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The best night creams 2021
Best for dry skin: Charlotte Tilbury magic night cream: £100, Charlottetilbury.com
Best for combination skin: Kiehl’s ultra facial cream: £28, Kiehls.co.uk
Best for oily skin: Murad retinol youth renewal night cream: £70, Murad.co.uk
Best for dehydrated skin: REN evercalm overnight recovery balm: £42, Renskincare.com
Best for on a budget: CeraVe moisturising cream: £16, Lookfantastic.com
Dermalogica pure night
Best for: Brightening
The ingredient list of pure night reads like a list of the brightest and best in skincare: peptides, vitamin C, niacinamide and zinc. Throw in pumpkin enzyme to smooth and improve texture and cranberry and raspberry seed oils to lock in moisture, and you get a rich, brightening, smoothing, hydrating, protecting, restorative night cream. It’s the closest thing we’ve found to an overnight facial.
Charlotte Tilbury magic night cream
Best for: Dry skin
We don’t just love this one for its dressing table-worthy tub, though it helps. This is a good, heavy-duty moisturiser that has an almost balm-like texture; it’s what we reach for during very cold weather. It contains vitamin E to help restore the skin’s natural barrier, co-enzyme Q10, an antioxidant, and retinol, which is one of the few proven anti-ageing ingredients.
CeraVe moisturising cream
Best for: On a budget
This isn’t marketed as a night cream, but while we find it too heavy to use as a base during the day, we love to slather it on at night. It’s a really simple, low-key and affordable, thick moisturiser that contains ceramides to help protect and repair the skin’s natural barrier as well as the all-important hyaluronic acid, which acts as a humectant to bind water to the skin.
Sisley Paris night cream
Best for: Supple skin
At the other end of the spending spectrum is luxury skincare brand Sisley’s night cream, which is creamy in consistency but sinks in beautifully, leaving no sticky residue on the skin. It combines soluble collagen with softening woodmallow to leave skin feeling plump and silky in the morning. A little goes a long way, especially if you warm it between your fingers before applying.
REN evercalm overnight recovery balm
Best for: Dehydrated skin
This sits somewhere between a night cream and an oil. It is a balm, which melts on to the skin, so it has much of the application experience of a heavy cream, but contains a rich blend of olive, almond, linseed, jojoba and sunflower seed oils to deeply nourish the skin. The result is none of the messiness of applying an oil, but all of the illuminating effects. Our skin still felt hydrated well into the next day.
Elemis pro-collagen oxygenating night cream
Best for: Anti ageing
One of the lightest feeling night creams we tried, this will go down well with anyone who doesn’t want the feel of a heavy product sitting on their skin. It contains three kinds of algae, which are known to improve skin function, suppleness, elasticity and moisturisation, as well as sesame and avocado oils for a nourishing finish. We’d particularly recommend this for those with more mature skin; our tester saw significant improvement in plumpness and some fine lines.
Kate Somerville retinol vitamin C moisturiser
Best for: Using in your 30s
This isn’t sold as a night cream but we recommend it as such because it’s best to use retinol at night time, to give your skin some downtime before sun exposure. It combines two of the skincare greats – vitamin C and retinol – for softer, smoother, plumper and brighter skin, and anyone above the age of 25 will appreciate its effects. We also love the pump-top pot, which avoids the unsanitary business of dunking your fingers in the tub.
Murad retinol youth renewal night cream
Best for: Oily skin
Murad’s products have long been some of the best retinols on the market, and this is no different. It’s a lightweight cream that sinks in immediately, leaving skin feeling nourished but not tacky; ideal for those who don’t like the feeling of a product sitting on the skin. But it’s the texture-improving and line-reducing effects that really shine here; skin is visibly improved with long-lasting effects after a few weeks of use.
Kiehl’s ultra facial cream
Best for: Combination skin
This is a long-standing favourite of ours. It combines glycerin, water and squalane with olive, apricot and avocado oils into a super-moisturising cream. It also contains a glycoprotein derived from glaciers that thrives in extreme climates, providing deep hydration and defence for colder climes. It can be used day or night, on even the most sensitive skin, and we like to ladle it on at night for its soothing, nourishing effect.
Votary intense overnight mask
Best for: Dull skin
We’re slightly cheating here as this is technically marketed as a mask rather than a cream, but we’d happily slather it on nightly. It’s thick in the tub but melts into skin beautifully, leaving only a silky softness and a gorgeous herb-y scent. It combines water, aloe vera and moisturising glycerin with more nourishing oils than we can list here. We especially recommend it for dry or dehydrated skin; use it a few nights a week to complement a lighter moisturiser, or every night, if your skin needs it.
The verdict: Night creams
Just the ingredient list alone has us sold on Dermalogica’s pure night and it gives baby soft, glowing skin the next morning. For something a little lower in price, Kiehl’s’s long-time bestseller, ultra facial cream, will suit everyone.
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