The Final Word on Whether There’s a Difference Between Day & Night Moisturizers

Mar 25, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. ET
Image: ImaxTree

Although I love my ridiculously extra skin care collection, the truth is my daytime routine doesn’t really differ from the nighttime one except when I need to spot-treat a blemish or treat myself to a mask. And whenever a transitional season arrives, I obsessively list everything in my possession and wonder, “Do I really need that?”

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The short answer is no, but I can’t deny the benefits of all the serums, eye creams and weird-looking tools that have kept my skin pretty damn glorious, give or take a teeny pimple. Now, moisturizer is something that I believe everyone should have in their arsenal because our skin needs nourishment to look healthy from the inside out. Also, ashiness is a no-no in my skin care book.

But I can’t help but wonder (like Carrie Bradshaw), have we all been tricked by the beauty industry? Do I truly need two different moisturizers for day and night, or can I do some spring-cleaning this month? According to Dr. Harold Lancer, founder of Lancer Skincare, and Christinah Nicolaisen, cofounder of Eleni & Chris, my obsession with collecting creams, gels and everything in between is totally warranted. Read ahead to find out why.

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The daytime stuff

The biggest indicators of a daytime moisturizer are sun protection and lighter-weight ingredients. The reason for the latter, according to Lancer, is it will typically be made for more frequent application and applied over/under cosmetics.

“The vehicle is lighter, the concentrations of active ingredients are lighter, and usually there are no agents that are photosensitizing,” he says. “The product composition and consistency will also be different from your nighttime product.”

Nicolaisen adds that both day and night creams can also have similar ingredients, but again, lightweight ones, like her Hydrating Day Cream, “allow compatibility with other products such as sunscreens, primer and colored cosmetics.”

Also keep in mind that a moisturizer made with SPF is obviously beneficial, but shouldn’t be relied on as your only source of sun protection. Lancer says, “when you have multipurpose products plus sunscreen, there’s a chance the sunscreen benefit components have been reduced, which can give a false sense of security.”

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The nighttime stuff

On the other hand, your nighttime moisturizer should have denser active ingredients to restore skin affected by the environment throughout the day. For instance, Nicolaisen’s Eleni & Chris night creams “include ingredients such as emollients and shea butter to reconstruct the skin’s lipid bilayer.” This, in turn, locks in moisture, making it easier for the active ingredients to penetrate into the skin overnight.

Lancer also adds that you can think of your nighttime moisturizer as a sort of stay-on mask since they tend to have more potent concentrations of anti-inflammatory agents. “They’re going to be thicker and more intensely infused with active ingredients at a higher concentration.”

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Moisture vs. nourishment

All in all, both day and night treatments protect the skin, just in different ways. At the same time, it’s also important to distinguish between something that’s moisturizing vs. nourishing. We tend to define them almost identically, but Lancer says they aren’t exactly the same.

“A moisturizer may add moisture, but it can also block water evaporation. So instead of a moisturizer, we might opt to talk about nourishing products, which not only prevent dehydration by loss of water through evaporation, but they’re also trying to add ingredients that have an anti-inflammatory component,” he says.

So, perhaps the key to finding both a day and nighttime moisturizer, like the Lancer Nourish product, is ensuring they’re adding to instead of simply maintaining your skin’s hydration levels.

The moral of the story is: Two products may just be better than one, and if your vanity is as crowded as mine, rest easy knowing that your moisturizer collection isn’t as crazy as it looks.

Originally posted on StyleCaster.

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