• Marsha


Updated: May 6

To put it simply, the skin is exposed to different environments during the day and the night. It is more likely to be exposed to pollutants, pathogens, UV rays, and other damaging factors during the day. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the skin "behaves" differently at night or during the day, to adapt to environmental stressors. In other words, our skin goes into protective mode during the day and into repair mode at night. For this reason, understanding when to apply specific skincare ingredients or products is really important in order to maximise the benefits of our skincare products.

What happens to our skin during the day and what products should I use?

Our skin is on "protective mode" during the day, shielding our body from environmental insults. This is characterized by lowest skin barrier permeability, highest skin thickness, highest sebum secretion, and lowest moisture loss. Because of these, it is important that we use skincare products that can enhance the skin's protective functions, by diligently using our sunscreen and good antioxidants for protection against free radical damage. This is why we are commonly advised to apply Vitamin C products in the morning.

Another recent favourite antioxidant product of mine is The Ordinary EUK 134 0.1%. The molecules can uniquely self-regenerate, giving us long-term antioxidant protection. However, bear in mind that you cannot mix EUK 134 serum with acidic products like Vitamin C, as they can deactivate EUK 134.

Courtesy of Brand

The Ordinary

EUK 134 0.1%

However, because our skin barrier is less permeable during the day and sebum secretion is also higher (especially for oily skin), moisture loss is likely to be minimal during the day. Therefore, using a light, non-greasy, moisturizer is perfectly fine. I like to use moisturizers in a gel formula due to my oily skin type. Some of my go-to's are NeoStrata Oil Control Gel or the Bionic Lotion and Aloe Soothing Gel by Benton Cosmetics. Check out all of my current favourite products here for UK customers and here for US/worldwide customers.

So, what happens to our skin at night?

Have you ever wondered why night creams are typically richer than day creams? At night, our skin barrier becomes more permeable, which means higher risk of moisture loss, as well as more frequent itching and skin irritation. This correlates with low skin barrier recovery rate at night. Thus, applying richer creams with higher occlusive properties will help our skin lock in the active ingredients and moisture! My favourite night creams are the Obagi Hydrate and Paula's Choice CALM Restoring moisturizers.

Courtesy of Brand

Obagi Medical

Hydrate Facial Moisturizer

Courtesy of Brand

Paula's Choice

CALM Restoring Moisturizer

Most importantly, our skin switches to repair mode at night. In human epidermis, proliferation of keratinocytes and epidermal stem cells is approximately 30x higher at night than at noon. So skin regeneration is definitely more efficient at night. Highest DNA repair has also been observed at night. Thus, products that can enhance skin repair, i.e. increasing cell turnover, DNA damage repair, boosting collagen production, should be applied at night. These include AHA-based products, like lactic or glycolic acid, or retinol. Check out my favourite AHAs and retinoids here (UK customers) and here (US/worldwide customers).

Our skin has its own "clock", which is definitely an exciting area in research. Aside from good quality products and formulations, I believe that understanding how our skin changes throughout the day, i.e. timing, is very important if we want to maximise the benefits we get from our skin products. Research on this still continues and there is much to be discovered. I will keep you updated through our blog, social media platforms, and/or Youtube channel!

Much love and stay safe,

The Skin Press


Plikus et al. (2015). doi: 10.1177/0748730414563537

Matsui et al. (2016). doi: 10.3390/ijms17060801

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