Day vs Night Moisturizer: Is There Really A Difference?

by Gio
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?

I mean, is there really a difference between them 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. They have SPF

The sun is around during the day, so it makes sense to load day creams with SPF. That keep us 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? Do you like premature wrinkles that much?

Related: Do Cosmetics With SPF Provide Adequate Sun Protection?

2. They’re more lightweight

Day creams tend to have a lighter texture. That’s cos you wear them under makeup. If they were richer, they’d turn your face into a greasy and shiny mess!

Best Picks:

Shop Day Moisturizer

skinsense by abi cleeve hydranet night cream

Night Moisturizer

Again, there are two things that set them apart:

1. They 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!

2. They 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:

Shop Night Moisturizers

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

Yes, day and night moisturizers ARE different. But that doesn't mean you need them both.Click to Tweet

So, 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 moisturizer 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 in 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. I know, easier said than done, right?

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.

Do you use both a day and night cream or does one do for you too? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Ana November 7, 2016 - 5:25 pm

I use different cream because, as you said, the night ones have AHAs or retinol.
During the day I do use Vitamin C, but then I use a dedicated, separate SPF product over it.

Gio November 12, 2016 - 9:16 pm

Ana, love your routine. You’re giving your skin all the nutrients it needs.

Bebe November 7, 2016 - 6:56 pm

I have extremely oily skin so a sunscreen is more than enough for me during the day. At night I use a light moisturizier with AHA.

Barbara November 8, 2016 - 1:46 pm

Sunscreen is another category? I just thought moisturizer with SPF is considered suncreen too. Do you have any recommendations for sunscreen?

Gio November 11, 2016 - 10:01 pm

Barbara, that’s what beauty brands want you to believe. I fell for it too. But yeah sunscreen is in another category. I recommend you look for something with zinc oxide as it protects on its own against the entire UV range and is very gentle. I swear by Sunumbra sunscreens. Keep in mind that zinc oxide is thick and can leave a white residue behind. If that bothers you, you may want to go for a chemical sunscreen with Mexoryl. La Roche Posay is a good brand for that. Hope this helps.

PerthroSupplies November 9, 2016 - 7:04 pm

I’m wondering if I should bother with sunscreen stuff though? It usually makes my skin break out (yay rosacea…?? and sensitive skin?) I don’t get out in the sun much though. Usually walking through a parking lot from one place to another amounts to all the sunlight I see in a day. Will it still matter if I’m using AHAs in the day?

Gio November 11, 2016 - 9:53 pm

Pethrosupplies, yes, it still matters if you’re using AHAs in the day. If you do, definitely put on sunscreen. But, if you get so little sun exposure, I’m actually worried about your vitamin D levels. Are they ok? Half an hour a week of unprotected sun exposure should be enough to produce all the vitamin D you need. If you stay in the sun longer than that, again, use sunscreen.

Mrs.skincare November 19, 2016 - 3:39 pm

Hi Gio! I discovered your blog several days ago I have spent a lot of time reading. Congrats on this amazing page, I really really like it.

I am a doctor from Spain, algo skincare obsessed and I am amazed with how much toughts, routines and tastes we share. You have won a fan.

Gio November 19, 2016 - 8:49 pm

Mrs Skincare, aww thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot. So thrilled to have you here!

Becca October 21, 2017 - 6:59 pm

Hi Gio! I JUST discovered your blog and I. CAN’T. STOP. READING!! I currently use the CeraVe AM and PM moisturizer and have been for a few years now. However, the AM has just recently begun pilling on my face ( I do make sure to dry my face thoroughly and wait for any serums to absorb) and I find it to be extremely heavy and greasy! Once this bottle is done, I am not going to repurchase. The PM feels lightweight enough, has all of the “benefits” that the brand promises and I can put a sunscreen over it for the protection. Any ideas as to why the AM is doing this? Is using the PM an adequate enough moisturizer for day? Thank you for all that you do!

Gio October 28, 2017 - 1:51 pm

Hi Becca, thank you! So glad you’re enjoying my blog. The piling can be due to several reasons. For example, it sometimes happens when you layer incompatible products. Water and oil don’t mix. If you use a water-based serum and then an oil-based moisturiser, you can experience pilling. Did you change anything in your skincare routine recently? You can use the PM lotion in the morning too. Just remember to use sunscreen afterwards!

Brittany October 31, 2017 - 12:08 am

Love your blog! Thank you for sharing your research and findings. To your point about not needing a day/night time moisturizer unless you are getting your SPF/retinol from these sources: then what is your go to dual moisturizer that you build on? Can you please share your picks?

Gio November 5, 2017 - 4:53 pm

Brittany, I’m a big fan of Olay Total Effects moisturiser. I also use Paula’s Choice moisturisers a lot too.

Comments are closed.