Updated 05/19/21. “Should I occasionally skip night cream to give my skin a break?” This is a question I get asked a lot, and my answer is always the same—no, you should never avoid using moisturizer in an effort to give your skin a break or let your skin breathe. In this post, I’ll explain why the consistent use of night cream is critical to healthy, happy, and hydrated skin.
Reasons Why You Should Never Skip Using A Moisturizer At Night
There are multiple reasons why you should never skip night moisturizer. Keep scrolling to see all five.
Reason #1: The idea that your skin “breathes” is a myth
Your skin doesn’t perform the function of respiration, so the idea that your can “breathe” is false. I realize that the word “breathe” means different things to different people, and I’m using it in the literal sense. When some people talk about skin breathing, they’re actually referring to whether or not the skin is occluded, meaning they don’t want something blocking their pores. In this case, the easiest way to avoid occlusion is by using a lightweight moisturizer. It’s all about choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type (more on that in a bit).
Reason #2: Skin cells are like fish in that they need water to live
Without water, your skin cells become dehydrated and the health of the skin is severely compromised. In fact, dehydration can set off a response that can lead to irritation, redness, and sensitivity. The consistent use of night cream is an effective way to add water to the skin.
Reason #3: Sebum production is lowest at nighttime
Sebum is the natural oily substance the body produces to moisturize the skin. Sebum levels fluctuate at 8-hour increments. They’re highest in the early afternoon and lowest at nighttime. When your skin has low sebum, the rate of transepidermal water loss increases, which disrupts your skin barrier. The skin barrier is critical to skin health. When it’s disrupted, it can lead to all sorts of skin concerns, including things like redness, tightness, itchiness, flaking, and atopic dermatitis. A good night cream can provide much-needed moisture to protect the skin barrier and prevent transepidermal water loss.
Reason #4: Nighttime is the best time to introduce actives to the skin
At night, your body goes into repair mode. Using active ingredients such as retinol, acid, and antioxidants can help the skin’s natural cellular repair and turnover processes. Plus, if you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, you’re allowing these active ingredients plenty of time to penetrate within the skin for maximum efficacy.
Reason #5: Skin permeability is highest at night
Yes, you read that right. Skin permeability changes according to your skin’s circadian rhythm (yes, your skin has a circadian rhythm just like you!). It’s highest in the evening, which means a moisturizer can penetrate deep within the skin.
My Tips for Choosing the Right Nighttime Moisturizer
Here are some guidelines to follow when choosing a nighttime moisturizer for your skin.
Select a Moisturizer Based on Your Specific Skin Type
Choosing a nighttime moisturizer for the basic skin types—dry, normal, and oily—won’t get you very far, especially if you have additional skin concerns such as clogged pores, breakouts, or rosacea. Take the skin type quiz to find out which products will work best for you and your specific goals and concerns.
Never Use a Nighttime Moisturizer that Contains Sunscreen
Some people use one moisturizer both morning and night. If you’re one of these people, and your moisturizer has sunscreen in it, it’s not going to get your very far while you sleep. You see, your skin’s needs are different at night than they are during the day, so you need to use the correct ingredients. Typically, moisturizers that contain sunscreen don’t contain the same active ingredients that other nighttime moisturizers do, which means it’s not doing as much to assist with your skin’s natural reparative processes.
Don’t Be Afraid of Oil In a Moisturizer
If you have an oily skin type, and you see an ingredient with the word “oil” in it in your nighttime moisturizer, you might hesitate to use it. I often hear people say, “I can only use oil-free products.” However, it’s important to know that virtually all creams and lotions use some form of oil or emollient to make the product slip across the skin. What’s more, not all oils are comedogenic and pore-clogging. This explains why moisturizers don’t directly cause breakouts. Breakouts occur when the cells that line the inner pores fail to shed properly, causing the pore to become clogged. This happens whether or not you use oil-free products. Ultimately, choosing the right products for your skin type is what will guarantee the best results.
In summary, you should never avoid using moisturizer at night thinking that you’re doing something helpful for your skin. Your skin needs moisture and protection at night, too! Just be sure to always cleanse your skin before applying moisturizer. I know it’s the end of the day and you’re tired, but you really need to trust me on this one. Your skin needs tending to. You have a day’s worth of oil, dirt, bacteria, makeup (and who knows what else) on your face. Removing it all before applying your moisturizer is paramount.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”