One question we as beauty editors get asked all the time is: “Which order should I apply my products?” Another common one: “What do I use at night versus daytime?” Also, deciphering which products to use in the first place can be a challenge—do they really live up to the claims written all over the bottle? Here, we share the before-bed skin-care routines and favorite products of dermatologists who know skin—literally—inside and out, so you can get a better idea as to whether or not what you’re doing—and using—in your own nighttime regimen is on par with the pros.
Bay Harbor Islands, FL dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD
“I gently wash my face with Revision Brightening Facial Wash. I then pat-dry my skin and put one to two drops of Biologique Recherche P50 lotion onto my Brightening Pads by Diane Walder MD by Riverchase that contain arbutin, kojic acid and 4 percent hydroquinone. I lightly make one pass on my face. I have mild melasma, so I do this treatment only when I need it.
I gently pat a small amount of Alastin Restorative Eye Treatment under my eyes, and put a pea-size amount of Obagi Tretinoin on my face. I then follow with the DefenAge Barrier Balance Cream and 8-in-1 BioSerum, which is packed with antioxidants, defensins and emollients to lock in all of the essential ingredients. I top it off with Revision Nectifirm Advanced, which I rub on my neck and décolleté. It seems like a lot, but each product has a specific purpose, and it takes me no more than two minutes!”
Fresno, CA dermatologist Kathleen Behr, MD
“My days are so busy that it is best for me to apply my nighttime routine as soon as I’m home for the evening. Otherwise, this ever-ready bunny runs out of gas. Plus, it feels great to get a clean face after a long day.
I start by pulling my hair back with a headband. With warm water, ZO Hydrating Cleanser and my vibrating FOREO brush, I gently cleanse my entire face and neck and then dry with a soft towel. Once my face and neck are completely dry, I apply Neocutis Lumiere Firm Eye Cream with growth factors and peptides to my eye area, and a pea-size amount of retinol to my face and neck. Next I apply SkinMedica Lumivive Night antioxidant—it’s part of a day/night system—to recharge my skin, and finally Neocutis Bio Serum Firm with growth factors and peptides in a moisturizing base.”
Dallas dermatologist Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD
“Here is my current p.m. regimen: I am using the Glytone Enhance Brightening Cleansing Powder, which is a wonderful waterless cleanser that you add water to so you can make it like a polish or more foamy. I love that it has glycolic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid and niacinamide in it too, and it’s so great for dewy skin. I then spritz with Avene Eau Thermale Spring Water, which is my favorite year-round for my sensitive skin!
Next, I’m loving Augustinus Bader The Cream—it is very hydrating and soothing for my face overall. For eye cream, Neolastin has Nuflex technology that stimulates collagen and elastin production to improve skin’s elasticity, as well as hyaluronic acid.
New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD
“Every night I remove my makeup with Revision Skincare’s Papaya Enzyme Cleanser. Sometimes on the weekends, I do a double cleanse with Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil and then the Phelityl Cleansing Bar. I don’t do this every night; it’s an indulgence and it’s enough to do this a couple of times a week. After washing my face, I gently pat my skin dry—I don’t dry it up or rub on it. Then I gently exfoliate with our Russak Dermatology Brighten RX Peel Pads.
I apply SkinCeuticals Metacell Renewal in the summertime; it contains niacinamide that helps restore the natural barrier and pH of the skin. After that, every other night, I apply SkinMedica 0.25 Retinol. I always use Revision’s Revox 7 under my eyes, and D.E.J Eye Cream both under and above my eyes, as well as Nectifirm on my neck, chest and upper arms. Then it’s time to sleep—always on a silk pillowcase!”
Baton Rouge, LA dermatologist Ann Zedlitz, MD
“I believe less is more when it comes to your daily skin-care routine. If there are too many steps, in my experience, patients will not stick to it. My ABCs of skin care are a physical sunscreen SPF 30+, tretinoin—Renova is my go-to—and a well-formulated vitamin C serum.
At night, I wash with Revitalizing Cleanser made for normal-to-dry skin only using the pads of my fingers, and pat-dry with a soft cloth. Cleansing brushes and scrubs cause microscopic tears to the skin and can lead to inflammation over time. Your cleanser should work well enough to remove all impurities on the skin.
Then I apply a pea-size amount of the Renova tretinoin 0.02% to my face and neck. After that is all rubbed in, what is left on my fingers I swipe across my eyes. We do not want to miss the eye area, but that skin is more sensitive, so applying it this way will ensure that skin won’t become irritated. If you want to go that extra 10 percent, I recommend a great eye cream, and my favorite is the Light Diffusing Eye Cream with Vitamins.”
Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD
“At the end of every night, I like to gently cleanse with an oil cleanser, as this helps to cleanse makeup and grime, and I then apply a vitamin B3 serum using several drops and making sure to reach all areas of my face, including my lower and upper eyelids. If my skin feels dry, I will moisturize, otherwise I will finish off with a few drops of a facial oil.”
New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD
“I gently remove any waterproof mascara with eye makeup remover first. Then, using warm water, I wash my face with Skinfluence Alpha Cleanser, which I gently massage it into my skin, up into my hairline, ear to ear, and down my neck. I pat my skin dry with a soft towel. Next I apply a nice combo serum like SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, which combines growth factors with potent antioxidants and peptides to rejuvenate my skin and add in an eye cream such as Revision Skincare’s D.E.J., and its neck moisturizer Nectifirm.”
Seattle dermatologist Jennifer Reichel, MD
“I wash with SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser and use Retin-A (tretinoin) every other night. Make sure to wash your face the next day, even if it’s just with water. On the other nights that I am not using Retin-A, I put on SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E. Then I apply face cream—I alternate between SkinCeuticals Face Cream and Triple Lipid Restore. I also use SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Eye Complex every night.”
New York dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD
“I follow a double-cleansing ritual. I use an oil-based cleanser first, like Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Replenishing Cleansing Oil, and then an exfoliating cleanser like Cure Natural Aqua Gel, which is a water-based chemical peel. It’s gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Then I move on to my serum, NuGene’s Universal Serum, which has adipose (fat)-derived stem cell–cultured media, antioxidants and growth factors that help prevent and correct fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture and tone.
I follow with SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 or a prescription retinoid—these vitamin A derivatives are the ultimate multitasker. They help build collagen, correct fine lines and wrinkles, improve discoloration and reverse sun-induced damage. Skin can lose a lot of water while you sleep, so I like to use hydrating products that are specifically formulated for overnight use like Derm-Institute Anti-Oxidant Hydration Gel Masque.”
Greenwich, CT, dermatologist Kim Nichols, MD
“First, makeup-remover wipes. I take off all my makeup before applying my products. Then I wash my face for 30 seconds with lukewarm water, and apply a gentle cleanser all over my face and neck. (As a tip, leave your face wash on for 30 seconds, too. People are quick to wash their cleanser off, but by leaving the product on a few extra seconds, the ingredients will ideally be absorbed into the skin even after washing it off.)
I use retinol lotion every other night. Retinol enhances tone, texture and resiliency of the skin. Then I use SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum. This is one of my favorite all-in-one anti-aging solutions for myself and my clients because of the 12 antioxidants that are in the product that help prevent free-radical damage.
I also use a night moisturizer. While you’re asleep, your skin is rejuvenating itself, and part of the rejuvenation process is keeping your skin hydrated. Applying a moisturizer is the solution to nighttime skin dehydration. That way, you wake up to smoother and brighter skin.”
New York dermatologist, Doris Day, MD
“First I wipe with a pre-moistened makeup removal cloth and then I cleanse with gentle cleanser and cleansing brush. (Pat dry, don’t rub.) I use SkinCeuticals Equalizing Toner and apply SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum to my entire face, including my upper and lower eyelids, as well as my neck. After that I use Esteem (my brand) Retinol 3 and Epionce moisturizer.
Then eye cream. I use a variety including Biopelle Tensage Eye Contour Cream, my own peptide eye cream and SkinMedica eye cream. I also take nutraceuticals: TA-65, Nutrafol about an hour before bedtime and Glisodin, an anti-aging pill also at least an hour before bedtime. It sounds like a lot, but it all takes me less than 5 minutes!”
Houston dermatologist Paul Friedman, MD
“I begin my nighttime regimen by washing my face with a foaming cleanser (SkinMedica Facial Cleanser) and a Clarisonic device. Next, I apply a topical retinoid (SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.25) to help combat the appearance of fine lines and reverse photoaging. Lastly, I apply SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator to my face, including my upper and lower eyelids—it contains hyaluronic acid and is a great moisturizer.
Products containing alphahydroxy acid or betahydroxy acid may be utilized as part of a nighttime regimen, too, to exfoliate the skin and improve a dull complexion. I try to keep it simple!”
New York dermatologist Estee Williams, MD
“I wash my face with a neem and turmeric face wash to prevent breakouts and follow that with either Lancôme Bi-Facil or Clarins Instant Eye Makeup Remover. I try to apply a retinoid-based product, like Avène RétrinAL (a gentle retinoid), at least twice a week to my whole face because this vitamin A derivative has stronger science backing its skin health benefits than any other ingredient.
I always use an eye cream. NeoStrata Skin Active Intensive Eye Therapy is a good one. When needed, I spot-treat with a salicylic acid–based exfoliant.
I also take 3000 units of vitamin D3 and a Metformin tablet for its potential global anti-aging benefits. And of course, I apply a ton of Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream before I hit the hay.”
Sausalito, CA, dermatologist Ashley Smith, MD
“Step 1: Remove my eye makeup.Then I wash my face with a gentle cleanser. I like to utilize a Smart Profile Clarisonic Brush for the deepest and freshest clean (except when using a cleanser with microbeads, which can be too harsh). I alternate evenings and use a gentle cleanser with the Clarisonic brush one night and then the microbead cleanser on the alternating night. Then I quench my skin with a hyaluronic acid serum.
I apply a small amount of a perfect retinol (I prefer all-trans retinoic acid) or a prescription Retin-A (aka tretinoin) to my face when it’s dry. (If your face is still damp, the cream will penetrate more and increase the chance for irritation.) Then, I apply eye cream. For long and lovely lashes, I apply a thin coat of Latisse to my upper eyelid margin. Then I wrap up with a deeply hydrating cream with stem cells and peptides to allow my skin to recover from the day and become more youthful by morning.”
New York dermatologist Sandra Kopp, MD
“My nighttime regimen starts by washing my face with Revision Skincare Papaya Enzyme Cleanser or Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. (For those who wear heavy makeup, an extra step may be necessary to ensure all makeup is removed before applying any products.) Then I use NeoCutis Lumiere Bio-Restorative Eye Cream under my eyes and apply a pea-size amount of tretinoin cream (prescription) to my whole face and neck.
Kailua-Kona, HI, dermatologist Monica Scheel, MD
“Cleanse with a gentle cleanser and a Clarisonic. Following that, I apply Retin-A or retinol. I like Topix Replenix All-Trans Smoothing Retinol Smoothing Serum, which has hyaluronic acid and green tea in it and is well-tolerated by most patients. (I like to use products with ingredients that repair my skin during sleep. The number-one ingredient that is researched to repair and thicken our collagen is Retin-A or retinol. Newer anti-aging ingredients that are also effective include tetra-peptides, phyto stem cells and DNA repair enzymes.)
Sacramento, CA, dermatologist Suzanne Kilmer, MD
“The first step to my before-bed routine is a double cleanse. A double cleanse is very important because the first cleanse removes makeup, sunscreen and products. The second cleanse, which is done with my Clarisonic Smart Profile Brush, gets into my pores to really clean them out and allows my products to penetrate better.
Next up is retinol, which is crucial for breaking down dead skin cells and improving cell turnover rate. Then I apply serum. The liquid gold of my skin care routine is SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, which consists of vitamins, antioxidants and growth factors all in one. I’ve also recently added SkinMedica’s HA5 to my routine. It consists of five hyaluronic acids and potent antioxidants and improves your skin’s ability to hydrate and replenish its own hyaluronic acid. Hello smooth and hydrated skin!
For eye cream, I love Revision Skincare D.E.J. Eye Cream, which uses peptides and potent antioxidants to improve the appearance of the fine skin around your eyes. Lastly, I apply Revision Skincare Nectifirm to my neck and chest, which reduces the appearance of adipose tissue and helps with fine lines and wrinkles.”