Here’s Exactly When to Use Certain Skin-Care Ingredients

By ·
Here’s Exactly When to Use Certain Skin-Care Ingredients featured image
Ali Essa S/Getty Images
This article first appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

There are plenty of ingredients that are good to use any time of the day, but not all ingredients are alike. Some simply function better when used at a certain time, while others can be risky if used at the wrong time. Align the following with the sun or moon for the best skin all day long.


01: SPF

The point of SPF is to prevent the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin, explains Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD, which makes it a non-negotiable in a morning routine. However, not only is wearing SPF at night “superfluous and wasteful,” according to Dr. Blyumin-Karasik, but it can also have adverse effects. Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby warns that “sleeping in SPF can clog pores and dry out the skin.” In the morning and throughout the day, use a product that has SPF 30 or higher and is broad-spectrum to protect against skin damage, sunburn and skin cancer.

02: Vitamin C

Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties make it ideal for layering beneath sunscreen before facing the day. “Vitamin C is one of the strongest antioxidants we have,” New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD says. It helps combat free radicals in the environment that our skin is bound to encounter during the day, including smog, smoke, radiation from the sun, and pollution, explains Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. Because exposure to these sources is more prevalent during the daytime, vitamin C is recommended for use in the morning. If you use it at night, you’ll be missing this key perk, but you can still reap its brightening and skin-improving benefits.

03: Vitamin E

Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E also boasts excellent antioxidant properties. Dr. Allenby notes that vitamin E “inhibits acute and chronic ultraviolet damage, such as photoaging and skin cancer.” She adds that applying vitamin E in the morning rather than the evening “helps bolster these defenses.” Plus, vitamins C and E work synergistically, amplifying the potency of one another, explains Dr. Blyumin-Karasik, noting that you’ll likely see these two ingredients combined in products, which can help streamline a morning routine.


04: Retinol

Sun exposure and retinol are like oil and water— they just don’t mix well. Retinol is known to make skin more sensitive to the sun, says New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD. “If you are using retinol daily, your skin will be sensitive to the sun no matter what time you apply it,” so it’s essential to apply sunscreen in the morning even if you used retinol at night. Dr. Allenby warns that applying retinol in the morning without wearing sunscreen can result in increased redness, itching, peeling, burning, and dryness.

Additionally, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik explains that most retinols are degraded with sun exposure, causing a drop in efficacy. By using retinol at night, “you are tapping into its full potential.”

05: Alpha + Beta Hydroxy Acids

Alpha and betahydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid, are great for exfoliating skin, but some can be a bit harsh, making the skin more sensitive, notes Dr. Peredo. Therefore, they lend themselves more readily to evening use. Dr. Allenby says these acids can cause skin sensitivity and irritation when they come in contact with ultraviolet rays. “Alphahydroxy and betahydroxy acids will chemically exfoliate your skin, revealing newer, fresher and healthier cells underneath, and these new cells will be much more sun sensitive,” adds Dr. Russak. “Using these acids during the day exposes those new cells to more UV radiation, makes the skin more sensitive and can potentially burn the skin.”

06: Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide can be incredibly beneficial for those with acne-prone or oily skin, but using it in the morning can lead to a whole new set of skin concerns. Dr. Allenby says that the daytime use of benzoyl peroxide can result in skin sensitivity to sunlight and may increase hyperpigmentation. Additionally, the benefits of benzoyl peroxide are best suited for the evening when it’s time to “de-grime and cleanse the pores,” adds Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. The exception to this rule is if you are using both retinol and benzoyl peroxide, in which case you should use retinol at night and benzoyl peroxide in the morning with ample sunscreen, says Dr. Peredo. In addition to irritation, Dr. Blyumin- Karasik says “combining retinol and benzoyl peroxide at the same time can degrade the effects of retinol if not formulated properly.”

Related Posts

Find a Doctor

Find a NewBeauty "Top Beauty Doctor" Near you

Give the Gift of Luxury

NewBeauty uses cookies for various reasons, including to analyze and improve its content and advertising. Please review our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for more about how we use this data. By continuing to use this site, you agree to these policies.