day vs night moisturizer difference

I’m a minimalist. When it comes to skincare, that is (books and dresses, I can never have enough of).

I want flawless skin as much as anybody else, but do I really have to use 1001 products to make that happen?

I’m too lazy for a long skincare routine. I’ve already got rid of toner and eye cream.

Next, I’m thinking of doing away with moisturizer.

Well, not doing away with it completely. I’m just wondering, do you really need two moisturizers, one for the day and one for the night? Can’t just the one do?

Is there really a difference between a day cream and a night cream or is this just a clever marketing ploy to make us buy the same thing twice (like eye cream, you know?).

Let’s take a look:

rosehipplus hydrating day cream

Daytime Moisturizers

There are two special things about daytime moisturizers:

1. Daytime Moisturisers Have SPF

The sun is around during the day, so it makes sense to load day creams with SPF. That keep you protected, right?


There are two problems with this:

  1. Lots of these creams have a very low SPF. Like 8 or something. Seriously, if it ain’t at least 15, don’t bother. It won’t protect you that much.
  2. You need to use something crazy like 12 layers to get the SPF stated on the label. Who does that?!

Of course, if you don’t wear sunscreen, a moisturizer with SPF is better than nothing. But then, why aren’t you wearing sunscreen?!

Related: Do Cosmetics With SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

2. Daytime Moisturisers Are More Lightweight

Day creams tend to have a lighter texture because they’re worn them under makeup. If they were richer, they’d turn your face into a greasy and shiny mess!

Best Picks:

  • Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM With SF30 ($17.99): available at Ulta and Walmart
  • La Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30 ($19.99): available at Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF30 ($33.00): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice

Night Moisturisers

Again, there are two things that set them apart from day moisturisers:

1. Night Moisturisers Have A Richer Texture

Duh! Already covered that, Gio!

Yeah, but I just want to mention why. You don’t wear makeup while you sleep (you DON’T, right?), so no one cares if their creams take a bit longer to absorb. As long as it doesn’t take ages and turns their face into a war zone, that is!

skinsense by abi cleeve hydranet night cream

2. Night Moisturisers Have Higher Concentrations Of Anti-Aging Ingredients

Retinol. Vitamin C. Glycolic acid. All that amazing stuff that kicks your wrinkles away. And make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, too (oh, the irony!).

Of course, you can wear them during the day with a good sunscreen, but they’re best used at night. Especially if you’re not religious with your sun protection.

Best picks:

Related: 5 Anti-Aging Superstars You Should Include In Your Skincare Routine

Should You Use Both A Day And A Night Moisturizer?

The case sounds compelling, doesn’t it? They do slightly different things, so you need both.

But… I’m NOT convinced.

I think it depends on your needs.

Take me, for example. Once upon a time, I would never have used a day cream without SPF. But now I know the SPF there doesn’t really work, I don’t care if my moisturizer has it or not. I just put on sunscreen afterwards and that’s it. So, that’s not enough for me to use a separate day cream.

The night cream makes a more compelling case. If my night cream contains retinol, yes, I’ll use it only at night and put on something else in the morning.

But, I prefer to use retinol in serum form these days. Those tend to use a higher concentration and penetrate the skin more easily, so they work better.

When I do that, I use the same moisturiser both in the morning and at night. When you take out SPF and retinol, day and night moisturizers aren’t that different anymore.

For you, it may be different. If you’re getting your retinol or glycolic acid fix from your moisturizer, or if using a day cream with SPF makes you feel better, then use two separate creams.

Skincare is all about knowing the rules and tweaking them to fit your needs.

Related: Why Serum Is The Real Workhorse Of Your Skincare Routine

The Bottom Line

Yes, day and night moisturizers ARE different (most of the time). But whether you should use both or just the one depends on your needs.