12 Top Dermatologists Share Their Nighttime Skin Care Routines

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Skin care regimens can be a tricky thing. That feeling when your product lineup keeps growing and you’re thinking, “Wait, what order do I apply these in?” Also, deciphering which products to use in the first place can be a challenge—do they really do what they say they will on the label? 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 regimen is actually effective. 

You May Also Like: 9 Things Your Dermatologist Wants You to Know Before Booking Your Appointment

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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

Any skin care ritual should be SIMPLE. If not, there is a chance you’ll skip it too frequently. Basically wash and moisturize. Leave yourself with a smile in the mirror; it ensures sweet dreams. Want to go over the top? Silk sheets and pillow cases. They are oh so soft and less abrasive to your skin.

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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.

I like this regimen because it gives a wash with a bit of exfoliation, a retinoid, an antioxidant and moisture. You don’t have to wait between one application to apply the next product. You also don’t need an SPF at night, so I like that none of the products have SPF in them. I find this regimen works for both oily and dry skin types (maybe change up the moisturizer to something more light if you tend to have oily skin). 

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New York dermatologist Hooman Khorasani, MD

I use a gentle cleanser at nighttime, such as Dove soap or Éminence Organic Stone Crop Gel Wash and a Clarisonic brush twice a week for extra exfoliation. For moisturizer, I like using Chanel Hydra Beauty Crème.

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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.

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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 smooth and brighter skin.)

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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-65Nutrafol 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! 

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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!

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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.

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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. 

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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. I usually end with some type of moisturizer or serum, such as NeoCutis Bio-Cream or Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum. Once a week I may also use an exfoliating brush with a clarifying mask. 

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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.)

Finally I apply a moisturizer with anti-aging ingredients: Topix Replenix Enriched Nighttime Bio-Therapy and Dr. Ron Moy DNA Night Renewal are two that I highly recommend. 

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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.

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