The Skincare You Should Be Applying In The Day Vs. At Night (2023)

Between shelfie-worthy packaging, beckoning sites brimming with the latest product launches, rules and myths being circulated in Facebook groups and new 'It'-ingredients waltzing into town every second day, picking your skincare for smooth skin and healthy skin is a task in and of itself—never mind which ones deserve starring roles in your daytime routine, and which at night.

That said, help is at hand. To break down which beauty products prefer to salute the sun and which ones like to play night owl, we consultedDr. Michele Squire, a PhD-qualified skincare scientist and founder of personalised skincare consultancyQR8, for everything there is to know.

Consider this your guide to the best antioxidants (think vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin B3), ingredients and products to give you a stronger skin barrier, and smooth skin, day or night.

Which Skincare Products Do You Use In The Day Vs. Night?

When it comes to your core skincare lineup there are only two hard and fast rules, according to Dr. Squire.

"SPF is for daytime (obvi!) and over the counter retinols and prescription tretinoin is for night-time, because it degrades in UV light," she said.

"Other than that, it’s all down to your individual preferences for texture and choosing layers that play nicely with makeup and sunscreen."


Which Active Ingredients Should You Use In The Day And Which At Night?

Here's where it gets a little more complicated. When it comes to your concentrated vitamin serums and exfoliating actives, some of them are best relegated to nocturnal status, while others belong in the early bird camp.

So, to simplify things, check out Dr. Squire's guide to deciphering which active skincare ingredients to use in the morning, and which to leave for nighttime:



Yes, we know it's a no-brainer, but it's arguably the most important product in your skincare routine, it's coming in right at the top. That said, it's worth noting there's no issue with using an SPF moisturiser at night now and then, in case your go-to cream runs out.

"It isn’t harmful to use your SPF moisturiser at night every now and then, but also not necessary," Dr. Squire says.

Vitamin C

Day (With One Exception)

(Video) What is the Perfect Nighttime Skin Care Routine? - Dr. Anthony Youn

One of the best antioxidants, vitamin C helps to strength the skin’s barrier, and reduce the oxidative damage caused by external stressors (that means you can say goodbye to pigmentation and rough skin texture, and hello to smooth skin that also has that signature vitamin C glow).

"Vitamin C is a topical antioxidant that can boost your protection against UV damage so it makes sense to wear it during the day," Dr. Squire tellsmarie claire Australia.

"There have been several studies showing that UV exposure during the day can cause continued DNA damage at night, but it is via a different biochemical pathway to the oxidative damage that is quenched by antioxidants like topical vitamin C. So, I would stick to vitamin C in the daytime for now."

One exception?

"Some anhydrous vitamin C formulations (non water-based solutions) use silicones, which make those serums cosmetically unappealing and not ideal for use during the day with makeup/sunscreen," Dr. Squire adds.

Vitamin B (Niacinamide)

Day or Night

We always knew we likedvitamin B3for a reason (you know, besides its pigmentation fighting prowess and ability to strengthen our skin barriers to maintain moisture)! Turns out, vitamin B3 is quite happy to make friends with both your day and night skincare routines.

"No rules about this. Topical B3 has been tested as safe and nonirritating up to 20% concentration in human skin, although it’s effective range is 2-5%," Dr. Squire explains.

"This is a good thing because you can find it in lots of different products!"

Vitamin E

Day or Night

Vitamin E is a shortcut to smoother, healthier skin, as the antioxidant guards the skin’s barrier and improves hydration. It also protects from free radicals in the environment, with moisturising benefits that help reduce rough skin texture for softer, smoother skin.

"This is often combined with vitamin C, and is present in small amounts as a formulation antioxidant in many products. So day or night use is fine," Dr. Squire says.

A powerful trio of the best antioxidants

The Skincare You Should Be Applying In The Day Vs. At Night (1)


(Video) Skincare Basics: Morning & Night Routine! | Dr. Shereene Idriss

For a powerful boost of antioxidants, use products that contain all three of these skincare superhero vitamins. Olay’s Regenerist Antioxidant (Vitamin B3, C & E) Serum is made with Olay’s most active and scientifically advanced formula, combining vitamin B3, vitamin C and vitamin E to strengthen the skin barrier for smoother skin.

In fact, after just two weeks of use, 89 per cent of users had smoother skin*and up to 40 per cent stronger skin barrier against external environmental stressors**.

The best part? It comes in a moisturiser and serum form, so you can slot the antioxidant-rich range into any part of your skincare routine, day or night.

Hyaluronic Acid

Day or Night

Another one that's happy to tag along with both the morning and night crews,hyaluronic acidis perfectly poised to lend its moisture-boosting properties on both occasions—all while giving us a stronger skin barrier.

"No rules about this. Hyaluronic acid mostly sits on top of skin where it forms a protective layer of hydration, so it is removed when you cleanse. [It] can be applied whenever you like, although some are stickier than others, so it will depend on how it plays with makeup etc.," Dr. Squire explains.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 30ml, $12.90 atAdore Beauty

Retinoids/Vitamin A

Night (With a Few Exceptions)

When it comes to vitamin A-based products, that fight rough skin texture for smooth skin by promoting skin renewal and enhancing collagen production, it gets a little trickier. The general 'rule' is to avoid wearing vitamin A during the day because it compromises the efficacy of the product.

"Over the counter vitamin A products (retinol, retinal, retinyl palmitate/acetate) and some retinoids (like tretinoin, available on prescription) break down in UV light," Dr. Squire tellsmarie claire.

(Video) How To Layer Skincare - What Order, Waiting Times, Morning Or Night?! ✖ James Welsh

As far as your acne-specific, prescription retinoids go, it's actually perfectly fine use them during the day.

"Retinoids specific for acne (tazarotene, adapalene) are photostable though, so they can be used in the day as well as night. There is also a stabilised form of tretinoin (using microspheres) that is UV photostable, but not yet available in Australia," she adds.

Glycolic Acid

Night (or Day With Strong SPF)

One of the commonly used alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), glycolic acid's exfoliating excellence (think: no more rough skin texture) is generally employed at nighttime.

"Glycolic acid can increase your chances of getting a sunburn after a shorter time in the sun, whilst you are using it in your routine (not whilst it is actually on your skin!). This effect ceases around one week after you stop using it," Dr Squire notes.

That said, it can be used during the day, especially as it's often incorporated into products like toners, but must be followed up by a high SPF sunscreen.

Lactic Acid

Night (or Day With Strong SPF)

Also a popular AHA for smooth and healthy skin, particularly for sensitive skin,lactic acidcan also be used day or night, but arguably best relegated to nighttime.

"The same studies haven’t been performed with lactic acid [as glycolic acid] but using glycolic acid as the reference molecule, we assume the same is true for lactic acid. So you can use AHAs day or night, but take extra care with sun protection," Dr. Squire advises.

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $184 atMECCA

Salicylic Acid

Day or Night

One of the most popular Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), salicylic acid is an ultra-common ingredient in many acne fighting products, and is well-suited for both day and night.

"BHA, along with the newerpolyhydroxyacids (e.g. gluconolactone), do not result in increased photosensitivity, so day or night use is fine but don’t stop using your sunscreen!" says Dr. Squire.

(Video) HOW TO LAYER SKINCARE! What Order, Morning or Night?! Glass Skin

Benzoyl Peroxide

Day or Night (With One Exception)

Often found spot treatments and acne-focused skincare products that give us smooth skin that is also healthy skin, benzoyl peroxide is generally okay to use either in the morning or night, with one exception.

"Benzoyl peroxide can be used during the daytime, but is often combined into formulations with other acne-fighting retinoids. So, if it is combined with tretinoin, then it’s nighttime use only," Dr. Squire says.


Day or Night (With One Exception)

Considered one of the best ingredients for pigmentation on the market, hydroquinone can be used both day and night, with one caveat.

"When used on its own, hydroquinone is safe to use during the daytime, and is often prescribed for twice daily use," Dr. Squire explains.

"When used as part of the ‘triple therapy’ combination of tretinoin, hydroquinone, steroid, it can only be used at night."

Murad Rapid Age Spot Correcting Serum, $115 at Sephora


Day or Night

There are no rules when it comes to this anti-ageing wonders!Peptides, which a short-chain amino acids that help boost proteins like collagen, elastin and keratin for smooth skin, are free to perform their anti-ageing missions at any time of the day.

Overwhelmed By Day Vs. Night Skincare? Just Remember...

"There aren’t too many hard and fast rules, and if you’re already practising sun safety then photosensitivity isn’t a big deal. Many of my clients use exactly the same routine morning and night, just adding in sunscreen during the day and a prescription retinoid at night," Dr Squire says.

Brought to you by Olay.

(Video) What is the Perfect Morning Skin Care Routine? - Dr. Anthony Youn

* Consumer agreement study, 98 subjects, UK 2021

** vs. no treatment. Consumer study, Singapore 2021.


Is it better to do your skincare routine in the morning or at night? ›

Skincare is absolutely most effective at night. This is because the skin absorbs and replenishes while you sleep. To get the best benefits, this is when you should use your heavy-lifting skincare.

Should you use the same skincare products day and night? ›

You can use the same set of skincare in the morning and evening, if it suits you and that's what you prefer to do.

Is it best to do a skin care routine at night? ›

Cleansing the skin at night will help avoid bacteria from spreading and causing acne. The skin also repairs itself at night, removing your makeup and washing your face is a necessity for keeping your skin healthy. It requires discipline to keep up with your nighttime skincare routine, but it is always worth it.

What time is best to use skincare? ›

“Studies show that skin repairs itself most effectively between 10 p.m.-midnight so you should apply night creams just before that.

Is it OK to only do skincare in the morning? ›

As far as the time of day goes, skincare routines make the most sense to be completed each morning and evening. However, it's really up to you as to how often you want to practice skincare. Your morning and evening routines don't have to be identical, but they don't have to be completely different by any means.

Is it OK to not do skincare in the morning? ›

A morning skincare routine, however, can help to protect and preserve the skin throughout the day. Skipping your morning skincare routine has the potential to cause a variety of issues, such as clogged pores, acne, and leaving the skin more susceptible to damage caused by pollution and the sun's harsh rays.

Should I use hyaluronic acid day or night? ›

When should I use hyaluronic acid? While some skincare ingredients, like retinol, are best used at night and others, like vitamin C, work their magic in the daytime, hyaluronic acid can be used both morning and night. “I recommend use of an HA serum up to twice daily, depending on your skin's needs,” says Abdulla.

Should you do skincare 2 times a day? ›

Those with oily or combination skin may benefit from twice daily washes (morning and night) while drier skin may be fine with just a nightly wash. Use a gentle but thoroughly cleanser to whisk away dirt, grease and grime without stripping the skin of moisture.

Does the order you apply skincare matter? ›

The order in which you apply skincare products is critical. Not only does order impact efficacy but failing to follow the proper order could result in wasted time and, even worse, wasted money. If you're just starting a skincare routine, avoid the temptation to load up on new products.

Can I use vitamin C serum at night? ›

Like we mentioned before, vitamin C serum benefits include anti-ageing properties as it boosts collagen, improves elasticity and repairs damaged cells. Using it before bed is safer and has far more beauty advantages; thus, we recommend you use it at night, before hitting the sack.

Is it OK to apply moisturizer at night? ›

"Skin's oil production peaks at midday, and there is less oil production at night. Therefore, when you lose that protective layer of natural oils, your skin loses more water, so it's important to replenish the water loss with a moisturizer overnight," says Sobel. "While you are asleep the skin goes into renewal mode.

How should your skin care routine go? ›

Here are the steps for a good skincare regimen:
  1. Wash your face. Morning and night, rinse your face water and rub a small amount of gentle cleanser between clean palms. ...
  2. Apply toner. ...
  3. Apply serum. ...
  4. Apply eye cream. ...
  5. Use spot treatment. ...
  6. Moisturize. ...
  7. Apply retinoid. ...
  8. Apply face oil.
Jun 7, 2021

Why is night skincare routine important? ›

When you go to bed at night, your skin finally gets the chance to repair, rejuvenate, and undo all the daytime damage. Your skin actively produces new skin cells and improves your skin's texture. When your pores are clogged, your skin does not get the chance to breathe and carry out its overnight repair process.

Why morning skincare is important? ›

Your morning skincare routine enables you to prepare your skin for the day ahead and helps to remove any leftover products which you applied the night before that may have an impact on your makeup application.

Why is skin better in the morning? ›

Do you ever feel your skin looks better in the morning? The reason is often attributed to the fact that your skin gets thicker in the morning, as it prepares to protect against stressors throughout the day. And yet, even at its thickest point, our skin is less than a tenth of an inch thick.

Is it OK to not moisturize in the morning? ›

Most skincare professionals suggest moisturizing twice a day: once in the morning and once at night. This ensures your skin's moisture will remain constant both throughout the day and while you sleep, so you can always look forward to supple, healthy skin.

Does your skin look worse in the morning? ›

Peer-reviewed studies have found that your skin is actually thicker in the morning than at night, and wrinkles are less pronounced in the morning as well. While there's no doubt that adequate sleep will make you feel and look less tired, wrinkles can't heal overnight.

Why not wash your face in the morning? ›

By washing your skin well at night and removing all impurities and makeup, you eliminate the need to wash your face in the morning. Your skin repairs itself at night, producing an acid mantle that can serve as a protective barrier during the day.

Should I use retinol day or night? ›

Use Retinol Only at Night and Wear SPF Every Day

"Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight decreases the efficacy of the product," explains Bowe, who instructs patients to only use retinoids at night and be diligent about applying a daily broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher during the day.

Should I use vitamin C serum day or night? ›

Nearly across the board, dermatologists recommend incorporating vitamin C serum into your morning routine (as opposed to using it at night). The reason for this recommendation relates to its ability to protect the skin.

Should I use vitamin C serum morning or night? ›

Generally speaking, the best time to apply vitamin C serum is in the morning, after cleansing and toning your complexion, and before moisturizer and SPF. If you want to maximize the perks, and don't have overly sensitive skin, you can apply it in the morning and evening.

Is it OK to do skincare 3 times a day? ›

"If you're doing a lot of exercise, perhaps you wash your face three times a day, regardless of your skin type," board-certified dermatologist Jeanine Downie, M.D., explains. That is, once in the morning, again post-workout, and again in the evening.

Does not washing your face age you? ›

Washing your face doesn't necessarily speed up the process of aging. However, the way you wash your face and the products that you use may damage your skin. Damaged skin looks dry, unhealthy, and can be prone to fine lines and wrinkles. Over-exfoliating is an example of a good intention gone wrong.

How to get perfect skin? ›

To keep it gentle:
  1. Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. ...
  2. Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. ...
  3. Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. ...
  4. Pat dry. ...
  5. Moisturize dry skin.

How do I know if I am using the right skincare? ›

"Ideally the skin is smooth, supple, and uniform in color," Waldorf said. If your skin feels less bumpy, the size of your pores has been reduced, and you're noticing less marks, acne, and discoloration, your products are likely working.

What happens if you do skincare in the wrong order? ›

The order matters because it determines what ingredients and products are the first to soak into your skin, which can ultimately affect how your skin looks and feels once your routine is complete," explains Shuting Hu, cosmetic chemist and founder of Acaderma.

Why do I get small bumps on my face after using vitamin C serum? ›

Acids, vitamin C serums and retinoids can all cause purging. Purging is an initial acne breakout that can occur when you're starting a new active skincare product—one that causes your skin cells to turn over more quickly. Products that can trigger purging include: Hydroxy acids (AHAs, BHAs and PHAs) and fruit acids.

Is it OK to use vitamin C and retinol together? ›

There's no problem with using both retinol and vitamin C as part of your skincare routine, dermatologists say. In fact, Shirazi calls this combo a "power couple" when it comes to aging well.

Should I moisturize my face at night if I have acne? ›

You should absolutely moisturize your skin even if you have active acne. It's an absolute myth that moisturizing your face will worsen your acne. In fact, moisturizers are necessary to keep acne-prone skin as relaxed as possible.

Why do dermatologists say not to use moisturizer? ›

Aesthetic dermatologists have observed that habitual, daily moisturising over a prolonged period can actually age the skin. This induced ageing occurs because the same fibroblast cells which produce GAGs (the skin's moisturiser) also produce collagen and elastin, which help maintain the skin's elasticity.

What is good to apply on face at night? ›

  • Step 1: Remove makeup. Going to bed with makeup on is one of the biggest skincare sins. ...
  • Step 2: Cleanse. The next step in your nighttime skincare routine is cleansing. ...
  • Step 3: Use toner. ...
  • Step 4: Apply a serum or spot treatment. ...
  • Step 5: Eye cream. ...
  • Step 6: Moisturise.
Oct 7, 2020

What are the 5 basic of skin care? ›

The Basic Skincare Rules Everyone Should Know
  • Cleanse Once and Then Cleanse Again. Double cleansing requires washing your face not once but twice. ...
  • Always Layer Products in the Right Order. ...
  • Know Your Skin Type. ...
  • Take the Time to Exfoliate. ...
  • Always Wear Sunscreen.
Jan 15, 2020

What skincare should I do in the morning? ›

My 5-Step Morning Skin Care Routine for Glowing Skin
  • Cleanse.
  • Hydrate.
  • Treat.
  • Moisturize.
  • Protect.
Apr 23, 2019

Is Cerave actually good? ›

Without a doubt, yes. If you're ever unsure of what to use on your skin, regardless of your skin type or condition, turn to Cerave. The brand has products that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide for treating acne, SPF for sun protection, retinol and vitamin C for anti-aging, and more.

Should I skip night skin care? ›

So, while it's not catastrophic to miss a night of skincare, it's certainly not ideal. Your skin will thank you if you make it a priority to take care of it nightly. If you skip your skincare one night, you could end up with dryness, breakouts, or dermatitis.

What serums are best for daytime? ›

A facial serum containing vitamin C is best used during the daytime. Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it's capable of protecting your skin from free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage skin cells) and other pollutants while you're out and about.

Can two serums be used together? ›

Yes! It is completely okay to mix two serums together, or even more. However, there are a couple of guidelines to abide by when mixing. Firstly, you need to mix each serum in the palm of your hand before applying to your face.

Is it more important to wash your face in the morning or at night? ›

Both Emer and Zeichner agree that if you're only going to wash your face once a day, nighttime is the best time to do it. "Most dermatologists recommend face-washing twice daily, once in the morning and once before bed," says Zeichner.

Is it better to do skincare once or twice a day? ›

Cleansing twice a day is ideal unless you're noticing your skin getting flaky, dry, or irritated, then it's ok to take a break,” she advises. “Combination skin will need a thicker moisturizer than oily skin, especially in dry winter weather.

Should I moisturize at night? ›

Meanwhile, "nighttime is the best time to rejuvenate the skin while you sleep," says Dr. Rita Linkner, board-certified dermatologist and founder of RVL Skincare. So using a thicker moisturizer with more reparative ingredients at night would be the best for replenishing your skin's needs, she notes.

Is it OK to skip washing your face at night? ›

So, how bad is it to skip washing your face before bed? It's pretty bad. Premature aging, dryness, breakouts, even potential infections can result from failure to wash your face before going to sleep. The good news is that skipping your normal skin care routine for one night probably won't do irreparable damage.

Should I use toner at night or morning? ›

You can use toner in both your morning and evening skincare routines, depending on your skin's needs and ability to accept toner's benefits. It is ideal to incorporate toner into your skincare routine immediately following double cleansing.

What is a proper skin care routine? ›

Three Main Steps
  • Cleansing — Washing your face.
  • Toning — Balancing the skin.
  • Moisturizing — Hydrating and softening the skin.

What are the 7 steps of skincare? ›

Your Daytime Skin Care Routine: A Step-by-Step Guide
  • STEP 1: CLEANSER. ...
  • STEP 2: TONER. ...
  • STEP 4: EYE CREAM. ...
  • Step 7: SUNSCREEN.
Sep 28, 2022

Is it OK to do skincare once a day? ›

Those with oily or combination skin may benefit from twice daily washes (morning and night) while drier skin may be fine with just a nightly wash. Use a gentle but thoroughly cleanser to whisk away dirt, grease and grime without stripping the skin of moisture.


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